When we arrived all of 18 days ago, we were given directions to the lodges where we are working. These directions mostly involved repetition of the phase, “Follow directions to the distillery!” “Turn left at the distillery!” “You can’t miss the distillery!” “Drive through the distillery car park to the lane at the back!”. Although after the distillery the lane twists and turns a bit for about half a mile to the lodges but, we are, in fact situated directly above it and can see the pagoda roof and chimney through the trees.
The man himself, John Dewar, was born about three miles from the distillery in a place called Dull (more on that to follow). He built the distillery in 1898 and, apart from the renowned single malt whisky production, has a visitor centre with cafe, bar, shop and museum.
Clutching our 2 or 1 voucher we managed to get onto the last tour of the day. The tour was great and didn’t involved too much jargon. Interestingly their water source is from a fresh water spring called Pitilie Burn that runs down through the hillside alongside our lodges. The tour finished up in the warehouse which is now unbonded and just holds empty barrels. A nice touch is that some of the barrels in the warehouse have the names of the individual members of permanent staff who have worked on the site.
The whisky is taken in tankers by road to Glasgow where it is put in various types of barrel, each one having a different affect on the final aromas and taste of the finished article. The warehouse in Glasgow staggeringly holds over a million maturing barrels and it is not going to be long before they run out of space.
Our ticket included a whisky tasting experience. Stupidly we had arrived by car on our way home from the town so rather than abandon the car, I got a take-away goodie bag with miniature bottle of Dewar’s and some tips on mixing etc. The drink drive laws are much stricter than in England and I was impressed that they offered this alternative. Jon, however, had a private full on lesson on how to rotate, smell and taste the whisky. The chap was so patient with Jonno the Sassanach but I don’t think it rates as highly as a stein of Augustiner in his forthcoming “Top 10 alcoholic drinks” blog post.
The Birks of Aberfeldy
To clear our heads we decided a walk was in order so we headed off to see The Birks of Aberfeldy. No, not a band playing in the local pub but a place originally called the Dens of Moness overlooking the Falls of Moness It was renamed Birks (Scots for birch trees) after a certain Robert Burns visited them and penned The Birks O’Aberfeldie in 1787.
It was a lovely sunny walk up to the top of the gorge and the falls thundered down. The second part of the circular walk was even better with more views, access to the pools of water and smaller falls.
How could I resist a refreshing Birks foot spa?
Breakfast with a view
You may be wondering if we ever do any work with all this whisky tasting, walking and paddling. The answer is, OF COURSE!! The regular day starts with a hearty breakfast around 8am and after a quick look at emails we start doing what is needed. It could be cleaning one of the lodges, painting or gardening – all of which need us to be mindful of other guests who are on their jollidays and may want a lay-in. Although we haven’t had the crazy temperatures that England has encountered we have managed breakfast al fresco a couple of times. Not a bad view to accompany your Rice Krispies.
A couple of times we have had an early drive the half an hour or so through the lanes to Foss. The parents of our hosts, Tina and Norman, own a large 5 bedroomed, 4 bathroomed house there and it is let out to families for the week or weekends. So when the guests leave a clean up is required – a job for jcleaners.
It is a large house full of antique furniture that takes quite a bit of cleaning but it is in a great location. In one corner of the garden they have added decking and a large hot tub and it is a short walk down to the Loch Tummel to use the kayaks. Despite the full on cleaning, Jon loves being able to upgrade his strimmer, MacDuff, for a sit on mower.
On the way back to our little lodge, we decided to get a bird’s eye view of the whole Loch. There is famous viewpoint called Queen’s View. Queen Victoria visited this spot in 1866 and had assumed, like most things in that era, that the viewpoint had been named after her. Wrong!! It had been named 500 years earlier after Queen Isabella, the wife of Robert the Bruce. Queen Victoria will just have to be satisfied with the other million and one things named after, or for, her. It was a bit of a grey day but it will give you an idea of the landscape.
Pitlochry and a Ladder for Fish
The homeward route took us through Pitlochry. This is where our train had arrived 18 days ago but we didn’t get to see the town at all before being whisked off to our hosts home. We passed this irrevocable proof of the infamous Highland dish ….
Pitlochry is a busy little town. Among other things, it seems to be a coach stop for the tours of the Perthshire Highlands. Lots of people heading off to the coffee shops and gift shops. It is the centre for lots of outdoor activities and, of course, there is the Fish Ladder. The “ladder” is next to the power station in Pitlochry on the River Tummel and it allows the salmon to swim up stream during the breeding season. The power station’s dam would otherwise make the river impassable for the salmon. It looked quite bland out of season but I expect it is quite lively during the breeding season.
How do the fish get their fins on the rungs I hear you ask? No silly, it is a series 36 of pools built in 1951. Each pool is a couple of feet higher than the previous one and there is a 3 foot gap at the bottom of the adjoining wall to the next pool to allow the fish to swim through – onwards and upwards as it were. Basically a lock system just for fish. There are even a few large fish resting pools along the way – a bit like motorway services – Tiredness can kill!
A circular walk to the Fish Ladder and back over the Tummel Suspension Bridge that links Port na Craig with Pitlochry is a great 2o minute walk.
Hopefully that has given you a flavour of our local area. We hope to do another jaunt further a field in a few day’s time. Will it be Never, Eat, Shreddied or Wheat? (My childhood way of remembering the points of the compass.) Oops nearly forgot to mention the village of Dull.
Dull and Boring
As mentioned before, Mr John “Whisky” Dewar was born in a croft in the village of Dull. We had noticed Dull on our drive to Foss but we didn’t realise until we saw the road sign that it had cunningly been twinned with Boring, Oregon, USA.
There are even Dull and Boring celebrations annually in Oregon in August and in Scotland in October. What a marketing coup this was? It gets even better though, the crowning glory was when Bland Shire, a farming community in New South Wales, Australia, joined the lack luster group to form the “League of Extraordinary Communities – Dull, Boring and Bland”.
In Dull’s defence, after a bit of research I discovered that Dull may mean “meadow” in Gaelic or maybe it was so dull that John Dewar took to producing his very own whisky so there was never a dull moment!
13/06 – 18/06/2017