Tuesday 27 September 2005|
Land in Aberdeen and pick up my hire car. I usually get something on the order of a Renault Clio, but I have friends joining me in a couple weeks, so I have moved up to the "compact" class--a VW Golf Plus, and I love it. It's spacious enough for the three of us without being too big to drive on the narrow roads, and best of all, it has a reasonably glute-bootin' cd player. I am carrying mostly neotraditional music from Scotland, Ireland, England, Brittany, and Scandinavia--Battlefield Band, Old Blind Dogs, Alan Stivell, Annbjorg Lien–but I cannot resist blasting one of the late Martyn Bennett's bizarre works as I roll out into Aberdeenshire. Bennett was well-grounded in traditional music-making, but his setting of "found" vocals to squonking, throbbing techno beats is hair-raising stuff. Not something I want to listen to every day, but this morning it puts me in the proper mood for a jaunt through the Scottish countryside.
I've scouted out some ancient monuments to see along the way, but am disappointed to realize that I have seen three of the four of them in past visits, and the fourth is essentially a pile of dirt. However, the Tomnaverie Stone Circle is worth a revisit, as it was fenced off for restoration when I last saw it. It had nearly been destroyed by an adjacent quarrying operation.
Roll into Craigellachie in late afternoon. Settle into the B&B and step into the Highlander for dinner. I've never been here before, but there is a lot of talk about how the new management, in place for a few months, are doing good things. It's a nice pub, good pints of Cairngorm Trade Winds, lots of whisky-oriented folks to talk to. There are Germans, French, Japanese, and even a Scot or two (you can tell them because they ask for Bell's or Teacher's or Grouse). The malt selection is excellent, if not the largest, and I have quite a few this evening--a Craigellachie and a couple different Glenrothes for starters. I try the BenRiach Curiositas, which I find mildly smoky, but utterly lacking in any kind of body; it's like smoky water floating over my tongue. Then it's a Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Wow! Not sure I like it; it tastes of raw wood and salty prosciutto. It'll get another chance, though.
I stumble back to the B&B, glancing at the Craigellachie Hotel down the street. It's the Craig's Quaich Bar that has drawn me here--a mecca for the whisky lover. Tomorrow.