Italy and Scotland Part 3
PART THREE SCOTLAND
MONDAY MAY 20, 2013
Again we woke up early to the sounds of the geese, dogs and doves of the castle and surrounding area. We had another lovely breakfast in the morning room, and delicious cappuccino courtesy of Pierro. With many fond goodbyes and thank yous to the family, we were on the road to Milan. What a lovely drive through the center of the Langhe made very easy by our GPS. The entire drive was punctuated by a castle on each mountain top.
Linate airport in the South area of Milan is small and very easy to find. Then on the plane to Scotland and our friends the Hoggs. The Hoggs met us at the Edinburgh airport. We were late in arriving because of a huge storm in the area and it indeed was pouring rain. Jim and Liz are special people and Callum is wonderfully healthy and happy. We had dinner and talked late into the evening. They live in a touchingly beautiful small town about ten miles from Edinburgh.
Linlithgow has a canal where you can rent a flatboat and float to Glasgow. If we had a month you can bet that we would be floating.
TUESDAY MAY 21
Sightseeing in Scotland. This is so lovely and restful. Finally I can read the street signs but the challenge is driving on the opposite side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side also. Mark did a great job keeping things straight and only a few minor times did we wonder what we were doing.
We walked the dogs up to the moors and delighted at the greenness of Scotland. It was Spring again! How lucky am I to have Spring three times this year, California, Italy and now Scotland? We picked up Elisabeth at the airport. She had traveled over 5 hours just to get to the airport in Milan, then a two hour flight. We were all ready for some Scottish whiskey at that point.
WEDNESDAY MAY 22
We spent the day in Edinburgh walking around town seeing the castle, walking down main streets. We had Indian food for lunch and walked some more. We toured shops and walked around some of the old areas.
Everyone was excited as some member of Royalty was at their home in Edinburgh, as the Royal flag was flying. We never found out who that might be, and they did not call us for tea. Off to a pub for a pint, I had refreshingly good hard cider. My friend Laura has this as her usual afternoon spot of pick me up. Now I really know why. Then off to dinner at Café St. Honoree. This is a place that was recommended by Elisabeth’s friends from Scottish Slow Food. It is a small restaurant with great atmosphere and delicious local fresh food. Then home via train and a short walk up the hill to bed.
THURSDAY MAY 23
We drove from Edinburgh to Glasgow then to Taychreggan Inn near Oban on the West Coast of Scotland.
Check out their web site at www.taychregganhotel.co.uk. The road to Taychreggan is one lane with little tiny passing areas. You have to be patient and give way to oncoming cars. Everyone waves and smiles as you pass by inches. There is much to see long haired, long horned Scottish highland cows.
There are lots of white and black sheep with new babies, some with twins. I could not take enough pictures to do it justice. Just as you have had enough of the tiny road you turn into the driveway of this old drover’s inn, originally from the 18th century, to perfect peace at the side of Lock Awe. The water is crystal clear, the lake flat with the reflections of the old inns on the other side of the loch and the total silence of nature. Our rooms looked out over the lake and with wide open windows you smell forest and water.
In the common rooms tea is served every afternoon, we opted for a unique scotch as we did not have to drive anywhere. Peaty scotch with a lake view at the conclusion of a long drive is perfect.
Dinner was superb served in an impeccable dining room, kind service and extraordinary food. The Chef has a Michelin One Star Rating. All the food is local, fresh, and prepared very well. This Chef has a way of presenting food that is not overly fancy but artistic and soul satisfying. Great flavors, colors and combinations. We concluded dinner with coffee, tea, and some sweets.
FRIDAY MAY 24
We had a typical huge Scottish breakfast, duck eggs, sausages, bacon bread and haggis. Then off to Oban about 20 miles away. We wound our way back through the very tiny road and then directly west toward the ocean. Oban is a tiny fishing village, now packed with tourists from all over. Ferries go in and out as do tourist tours of the nearby islands. We had the obligator fish and chips but not wrapped in a newspaper as they used to do. Just a normal take away carton. Tasty but fried and a little greasy to my taste, but it did not stop us from sampling. We walked the city and watched the ferry boats go in and out. We visited the Oban distillery, took the tour and sampled the whiskey. Great tour, lots of history and information, plenty to purchase. I can highly recommend Oban.
Then back to another very special dinner at Taychreegan Inn. This time we were able to meet the Chef and applaud his talent. He really has a gift.
SATURDAY MAY 25
We had a late breakfast and said goodbyes to the staff with absolute promises to come back. Taychreegan is one of the perfect places in this world to rest and recover and enjoy life. I will definitely try to come back again for a much longer stay. Our friends from LA Hank and Harva are planning a visit with us next Spring. What fun!
We then drove from one side of Scotland to the other; our route takes us through the highland mountains to Inverness. The landscape took us by surprise via huge mountains with waterfalls and high mountain meadows and beautiful Lochs.
We followed the Lochs, Loch Awe, to Loch Linnhe, to Loch Lochy, to Loch Ness and Inverness. We stopped in Fort William at the top end of Lock Lochy. This is a beautiful area for fishing and boating and tourists. We visited Urquhart castle, a historic very old place on Loch Ness. We did not see the elusive Nessie, but tried hard to watch for her as we drove along the way.
We arrived at Culloden house in the late afternoon. Stunning is hardly the word, huge front lawn, long drive way and a history to the 1400’s. The Georgian Mansion was built in 1788. Please take a look at www.cullodenhouse.co.uk. As we have been involved with both Taychreggan and Culloden house for years, we were greeted with warm handshakes and Scottish hospitality. Each night the guests were piped to dinner each by a kilt clad bagpiper, very romantic. His bagpipes announce dinner and the evening activities. It made for a special introduction to the history of Culloden house and Scotland. Dinner is served by gregarious Scotsman who are always happy and make you feel very welcome even in these very formal dining rooms. I had a traditional Scottish dinner with haggis and venison and blood pudding. Mark had pigeon; a wild game bird done in a wine sauce, Elisabeth had fresh caught scallops. This was quite a lovely meal to remember. We had a wee nip of scotch before bed and slept again with windows wide open.
SUNDAY MAY 26
Up early to a Scottish breakfast with farm fresh eggs and local sausage, toast always on the table for jams and sweet cream butter. Great coffee and teas. We took a walk in the walled garden of Culloden, five acres of manicured flowers and trees. After having spring in California, we had another two weeks of spring in Italy and now being so far north another Spring in Scotland. The tulips were gorgeous, and the fruit trees just beginning to bloom. We drove North and stopped at a sweet farm shop to have tea and sandwiches.
It was hard not to buy every plant and seed in the place. I found a lovely tree with pink and green leaves; I will have to locate it at home. We then drove on to visit the Black Isle Brewery, with a super tour and a great tasting. They bottle 50 thousand bottles of beer each month and are growing fast. They have a cow, chickens for eggs, and a herd of black sheep that all had little woolly black babies. Each pasture had many tiny kids or twins bleating for their mom’s and dinner. So very beautiful.
We had dinner by the River Ness and took a long walk to the castle and then back to Culloden. Still quite light at 11 pm as we are so far North.
MONDAY MAY 27
We visited Fort George the current home of Black Watch. It is right on the River Ness as it runs into the Firth of Forth then into the ocean. The currents are strong and there are often dolphins playing in the changing tide. We unfortunately did not see any today, but wasn’t for the lack of looking. On the way back we stopped at a sign that said CHEESE! Of course we would. We drove up a tiny road, barely a one lane hoping that we could make it to the cheese place before their farm tractor heading our way blocked our way into nirvana. This is the home of Connage Highland Dairy, fully organic, with their own herd of Holstein and Guernsey cows. Owners Callum and Cameron are master cheese makers and dairy farmers. This cheese shop makes their own and ages for themselves and other local dairy farms. They were just finishing making cheese in their impeccably clean cheese production plant. In the shop they had just installed an aging area with a wide assortment of lovely local cheese. We purchased their crowdie a soft cheese for spreading. On the wall in their tasting room is a picture of a huge cheese wedding cake they had just delivered. This wedding cake was beautiful, and according to the owners many people have ordered this “cake” instead of the traditional wedding cake. What a marvelous idea. View them at www.connagehighlanddairy.co.uk.
Back to Culloden House for a rest and then our last dinner in Scotland, being piped to dinner again, magnificent!
TUESDAY MAY 28
We sadely leave Inverness, drive three hours back to Edinburgh and then on to Paris to stay overnight and catch the Air France flight home to San Francisco. The drive from Inverness down to Edinburgh is green with huge mountains and more castles. Time is our limiting factor but we explore some of the small towns. Unfortunately we did not have time to tour the Dalwhinny Distillery, one of my favorite whiskeys. It is situated in a deep green valley next to a river for their water source. The buildings are painted pure white, I presume white washed with black lettering. Check out their web site and by all means try their product which is available here in the US.
So off to Paris, Elisabeth is staying in Edinburgh on a few more days to meet with friends from Slow Food. She will have friends all over the world because of her study at the University of Gastronomic Science. We landed in Paris at Charles de Gaulle airport and only my bag arrived. So off we went to lost luggage to track Marks bag. Everyone was very nice since we were not yelling at them as some people were doing. They have put a tracking number out and will call us at the hotel. We stayed at the Golden Tulip just outside of the airport with free transport by the CGD Black transit bus. Very easy! We were up early in the morning, but still no bag. We walked around the small French town surrounding the string of hotels that are hosts to all the world travelers using CDG. Ah France, I wish we could stay here longer. We went to the airport early to find the bag which had been located at the airport and just had it put on the plane to San Francisco.
Or so we thought.
Upon boarding I happened to look out the window only to see Marks bag sitting on the tarmac with 5 French baggage handlers looking suspiciously at the bag. We contacted the Air France steward who ran down to the group and explained to them that we identified the bag from the plane and they needed to put it on the plane. A very French discussion took place, airport security was called, and the bag was screened again, and finally put on the plane. This bag held our gifts of Scotch whiskey and we were not going to let anybody loose it! Many thanks to the steward and we took off with the bag safely on board.
WEDNESDAY MAY 29
Home arrival safely only to realize how lucky we are to have been able to travel to such wonderful places and meet such wonderful people. Now back to work on the farm and the business of growing olives and making oil.