Sunday 19 October 2014--An easy day today, taking what has become the usual walk along the Speyside Way to Aberlour, where we
pick up a couple of bottles at the distillery, wander through the cemetery, and hang out on Victoria Bridge (also known, I have learned,
as the Penny Brig, for the toll that was charged to cross it). Back in Craigellachie, we have a pint and catch up with online matters
in the Highlander before taking a pre-dinner nap at the B&B.
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Sunday 19 October 2003--I hit Ullapool sometime after 4:00 and set about looking for a room. It wasn't easy--half the hotels and guesthouses are closed for the season, and most of the rest are full. Finally found a dingy room, for more than I wanted to pay. Poked my head into the Ferry Boat Inn--there's an evil-looking crowd in there. It's very quiet here in the Caledonian Inn, save for the piped in music. This crap is everywhere--I gather it's some sort of subscription service. It's a very weird mix of music, although it's all mush--bagpipes playing Amazing Grace (which should be outlawed), orchestrations of The Skye Boat Song, insipid versions of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. And I'm quite sure I've heard Gerry Rafferty's mix of the Proclaimers' Letter From America and Rafferty's own Baker Street every day since I've been in Scotland. Rafferty must be living like a king just off those two tracks*.
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After dinner, we decide to visit the Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel, a short stroll down the street. Neither of us has been in in quite some time. The Craig has been a destination for whisky lovers for many years, but its future was in doubt just a few years ago. It has changed hands more than once, and last year was purchased by London hotelier Piers Adams, who spent £3 million on renovation. The new Quaich Bar, home to a thousand-bottle collection curated by Dave Broom and Charlie Maclean, wows us at first--it is in many ways a vast improvement over the tiny room that used to house it. It doesn't take us long, though, to miss the more traditional atmosphere of the old bar. This one is too glitzy for my taste, and the salmon-colored lighting quickly gets on my nerves. We nevertheless find some interesting drams to try, and enjoy conversation at the bar with Hector and Carlos, two fellow travelers and whisky enthusiasts from California.
*Rafferty, who died in 2011 at age 63 of complications of alcoholism, claimed to be earning £80,000 a year from Baker Street alone, decades after its release. Obituary, the Guardian.