Thursday 24 April 2014

.4 - Milling - 2013

Arran scenery
A week of driving around on Islay was good. Sadly, we missed Ardbeg day because of our boat left before the distillery could legally open their doors, but we managed to get one of the collectible Ardbog festival bottlings, that we opened once we arrived at the self catering house on the Isle of Arran. Make a note that once you leave Islay, the waving needs to stop. It is an Islay thing and people on the main land and the other islands will look at you as if you are an escapee from the local mental institution.

Arran scenery
From the ferry in Kennagraig the only road leading to the ferry to the Isle of Arran is a single lane, leading through a rough terrain to the “terminal” in Claonaig. The small ferry goes very regularly and after about an hour we landed in Lochranza.

Arran scenery
Isle of Arran, a beautiful island with only the one distillery. Could we cope with the lack of more distilleries? The answer to that is easy; yes we could. The distillery got a visit from us on almost every day of the week - true, but we "only" did two tours, the standard tour on one day, and the biggest tour on another. Most other days we had lunch at the excellent bistro, which was many a time followed by a flight of whiskies from the distilleries’ portfolio. That way, we could easily and reasonably affordable taste some of the Arran whiskies that are already no longer available. Remaining time was spend on the island looking for the beautiful and easy to find scenery.

Arran scenery
Driving around the beautiful island is easy, with well-paved roads (although still no Autobahn, still something Islay could learn from), and there are many interesting sights to be seen. Take your walking shoes with you, because many of the (have I said beautiful yet?) sites need a bit of a stroll to get to. 

Arran scenery tour guide
Dinner was most of the time made by ourselves at the little house, although there are some nice restaurants on the island. Lucky for us, we discovered the Stags Pavilion restaurant only on the last day (across the road from the distillery no less); otherwise we would not have left Lochranza anymore and would have dined there every evening.

Arran scenery
When the people of the Arran distillery had enough of our faces, we were hinted to move on to the next location, and since we both think of ourselves as "easy going", we went to the next location on the planned route: Scotland’s book capital - Wigtown. From the ferry out of Arran back to the main land (on the other side of Arran in Brodick) the road lead us via a couple of villages where we actually indulged in another hobby; visiting whisky specialist stores. A good one can be found in the village of Ayr, where one has to take care not blowing one’s budget in one go. Also en route was the A.D. Rattray Whisky Experience, where you can find some special single cask bottlings and a good selection of bottle your owns. We are suckers for those types of bottles...

Arran scenery
We skipped the chance to stop at W.M. Grants’ Girvan grain distillery, because they have a “no visitors” policy. Maybe some day we will see the distillery up close and personal, until then we have something to come back for.

Besides books there is not much to do in Wigtown. There is a pub and there is a restaurant-like place, and some coffee shops that serve (pretty good) food during lunch, but proper dinner is hard to find in the village and one has to drive someplace else to get some food.

The neighbouring village of Bladnoch has a good bar with a nice enough menu and is opposite the distillery with the same name. That is, the closed distillery – as of writing this, in April 2014, the distillery is closed for production and visiting, because the owners cannot agree on the right future of the place. A real shame, because the distillery is pretty as a postcard and delivers a good dram.

Bladnoch distillery, as seen from their garden

Next; we'll go mashing, leading up to our trip to the Spirit of Speyside festival...

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