I fell in love with this purse organizer during my trip. Usually during flights, I am constantly digging in my bag for a book, or cord, or glasses, but this trip – not so. This little guy saved me from the frustration and stress of finding things while on the go. I’m sure everyone can agree with me that the less stress during travel, the better.
I am so happy I bought this North Face Raincoat for the trip. I sized up just in case I wanted to wear something bulky underneath, and I am so glad that I did. During our hike up to the Old Man of Store, it starting pouring, but I was able to stash my camera under my rain jacket, which kept me and my camera totally dry.
My hiking boots were also a great success. Despite the downpour, my feet stayed dry and warm. (My friend, who was wearing Sperry rain boots, was not as lucky).
What Did Not Work:
I was not so successful in my pants selection. During our rainy hike, I wore jeans – a MAJOR failure. When I was researching what to wear prior to going to Scotland, I found many people suggesting these types of pants, and I decided to go the cute route instead, disregarding their sound advice. Well the cute route was not so cute after being soaked in the rain for an hour or so. I suggest either biting the bullet and getting some rain-proof pants, or wear running tights – which I did on another downpour occasion and had a lot more luck. I forgot that I was in Scotland, and the luck of the Irish did not apply.
We visited three distilleries and a cooperage (where the barrels are made). This was my second whiskey tour (I did the bourbon trail with my fiancé a couple of years ago). So I was already semi-familiar with the distillation process. For those who aren’t, I’ve tried to sum it up in a diagram – Distillation Process.
Our first stop was Glenlivet, or “Valley of the Smooth Flowing One.”
Glenlivet officially began distilling in 1824 (although it had long been distilling whiskey illegally prior to that date). Whiskey distilling started in the Speyside region with tenement farmers, farmers who did not own the land, but instead worked it and paid a percentage of their income to the individual who did own the land. Many times, the percentage was rather high, and the farmers started to distill whiskey to make some extra cash – free of taxes. Additionally, due to its remote location in the Highlands, it was easy for farmers to hide their illicit behavior from the customs office.
In 1824, however, legislation was passed to allow whiskey distillation, and George Smith, the founder of Glenlivet, was the first in the Glenlivet parish to get his distiller’s license. For this, he was harassed by his neighboring distillers and was forced to carry a pair of pistols for the rest of his life.
George Smith’s son had been studying the law when his father died. He gave up his law career to move home and run the family business. His law degree informed how he ran the business. For instance, it was under his leadership that Glenlivet fought a protracted legal battle over the Glenlivet trade mark, giving Glenlivet the right to be called “THE” Glenlivet. For those of us who are Ohio State fans, you know how important the “THE” can be.
Next was Glenfiddich, or “Valley of the Deer.”
“Few men have built their own distillery with their own bare hands. But that’s exactly how William Grant started writing our story.”
During the summer of 1886, William Grant and his children built, by hand, what was to become the Glenfiddich Distillery. Unlike many other distilleries, Glenfiddich actually has its own cooperage on site. The triangular shape of Glenfiddich bottles was instituted in 1961. And in 1963, Glenfiddich was the first Scottish Whiskey to be actively promoted outside Scotland.
Before visiting our last distillery for the day, The Macallan, we stopped at Speyside cooperage.
Speyside cooperage was founded in 1947 by the Taylor family. It is the largest independent cooperage in the United Kingdom. It also has branches in Alloa, Kentucky, and Ohio because much of the wood it uses to make barrels actually comes from former bourbon barrels. Under United States law, bourbon may only be aged in virgin barrels; thus, after one use, the barrel cannot be used again – at least not to make bourbon. So many bourbon distilleries will sell their barrels on to other whiskey distilleries.
But, like Bourbon, oak is the only wood that can be used as casks because oak prevents seepage of the whiskey while still allowing the whiskey to “breathe.” The ability to breathe also produces what is known as the “angels’ share,” i.e. the whiskey that evaporates.
The coopers at Speyside still use all the traditional methods and tools to make the casks.
Finally, we went to The Macallan, which just opened its new distillery this summer. It was breathtaking in a very modern sense.
The original name of the area was “Maghellan”, comprised of two Gaelic words: “magh”, meaning fertile ground and “Ellan”, from the Monk St. Fillan.
The Macallan was founded by Alexander Reid in 1824 on a plateau above the river Spey in north-east Scotland. In fact, to ensure that the river Spey continued to provide The Macallan Distillery with pure water for its whiskey, the Distillery bought up much of the land that surrounds the river. Unlike Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, Macallan does not use a Scottish cooperage; instead, they import their barrels from a cooperage in Spain.
Ultimately, my favorite was Glenlivet. Although I have to admit, my forever favorite will always be Jameson. And not just because it’s one of my cats’ names.
“The Trossachs are often visited by persons of taste, who are desirous of seeing nature in her rudest and most unpolished state.” – Callander parish minister Dr. Robertson (1791).
The next stop on our visit was The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland’s first National Park, established in 2002. (Loch is Scotland’s word for lake.) The Trossachs has inspired many a poem, including several by William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, Samuel Coleridge, and Sir Walter Scott. In fact, Sir Walter Scott’s best selling work, Lady of the Lake, is set in and around Loch Katrine. Loch Katrine also appears in Jules Verne’s The Underground City.
The Trossachs is home to allegedly one of the most haunted places in Scotland – the Drover’s Inn.
If you are into ghosts, click here to read about all the ghost sightings that have been reported (be wary of the video though – it has a trick at the end). My mom – a major ghost/supernatural believer and avid ghost/bigfoot show watcher – wanted us to do a EVP session (still not sure what that means), but instead of riling the ghosts, we simply had a beer and made sure to be on our way long before nightfall.
Also along our driving tour, we stopped to see the Glencoe Valley, home to mountains known as the “Three Sisters.”
Afterwards, we stopped at Glenfinnan. Glenfinnan is known for two very different teenagers: Harry Potter and the Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Well known now as the home to the viaduct that appears in the Harry Potter movies (see picture below), Glenfinnan has a tragic past. It was here that the Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his father’s standard. The monument you see in the pictures below is a memorial for the Highlanders that lost their lives because they supported the Bonnie Prince. If you are at all interested in the Prince’s claim to the British throne, click here.
Finally, we visited the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, we had terrible weather – at one point, I truly thought I might be blown off the side of a mountain. So my pictures aren’t what they could have been – as I was trying to protect my camera from the rain – but even in the rain, Scotland is hauntingly beautiful.
At the end of our climb, my best friend – who is my forever travel partner – claimed she had a “loch” in her boot, thereby proclaiming the creation of Loch Storr, and after spending hours in the downpour and wind, we were its monsters.
Today was my first day back in the real world, and needless to say, I am coming down from my travel high. What a whirlwind of a trip. If I could sum up Scotland in a single phrase, it would be: “majestically dramatic.” The imposing nature of the landscape created both a mysterious and daunting atmosphere – making writing about it similarly daunting. So I am going to give you my thoughts on a piecemeal basis. Today, starting with Edinburgh.
The Sir Walter Scott Monument
Sir Walter Scott is one of the many authors that was born in Scotland. He wrote the Waverley novels, including Ivanhoe and Rob Roy. (Other Scottish literary figures include Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J.K. Rowling.) Scott’s work celebrates Highland culture, which – at the time – was in danger of being eradicated, and his work has been attributed to reviving it.
King Arthur’s Seat
Climbing this hill was one of my favorite things that we did the whole trip. And the view from the top of the hill – incredible:
We did make the mistake of not bringing water on our trek. Major failure. Bring water.
A fun fact about Edinburgh – if you are a Harry Potter fan – is that it provided inspiration to J.K. Rowling. For instance, Diagon Alley is said to be based on Victoria Street, Hogwarts is supposedly inspired by an Edinburgh prep school – George Heriot’s, and the names of McGonagall and Tom Riddell come from Greyfriars Kirkyard.
I am currently rereading the Harry Potter books – I am on the Prisoner of Azkaban – for the first time as an adult, and it is fascinating what I missed when I read them as a child/teen.
But, back to Edinburgh, we did a lot of eating and drinking, and I have listed by favorite places below.
Montpeliers Bar & Brasserie
The Grain Store
We also went to a few others, including Black Pig & Oyster, The Kitchin, and Café Tartine. All three are in the same stretch near the Royal Britannia , next to a beautiful fountain, with seating outside.
As I get ready for my trip, I thought I would share what I am packing. I have never been to Scotland before so packing has included some guesswork. By the end of the trip, I can share with you what worked and what didn’t, but for now, here are some of – what I am assuming – will be the essentials.
During our trip, the weather is generally “mostly cloudy” with highs in the low 70s/ high 60s and lows in the 50s. Rain is also likely. So item one on the list is a rain jacket. My rain jacket is the Venture 2 jacket from North Face. My hiking boots are Oboz Bridger Mid in Walnut. My leggings are from Lulu Lemon, and I got my sweatshirt while hiking in West Glacier, Montana (a trip that is definitely worth taking if you’ve been thinking about visiting out-West).
We rented a car for our trip, and I was unaware that Hertz required non-EU citizens to have an international driving permit until yesterday… so I was in a panic. But, as it turns out, it is SUPER easy to get one. You just need two passport photos – which i got in about two minutes at CVS – and your license. Then just fill out this easy form, and take it to your nearest AAA. The whole process took about five minutes, and I walked out of AAA with a permit – same day. So if you booked a car and didn’t realize that you needed a permit, don’t panic. I’m just hoping that this international driving excursion turns out better than my last one…. When I went on a trip to Ireland, I ended up totaling the car. However, in my defense, the roads there are treacherous. In fact, when we were returning the car, the lady at the rental agency was on the phone with someone who had crashed within five hours of picking up the car. My advice – get the insurance. It is worth it.
On another note, I have recently become a makeup geek – the only other lady at my office is a makeup goddess and she turned me on to the beauty industry; now I can’t get enough … which, if you’ve read my other post, is a ongoing theme in my personality.
My current obsession is this new wallet that I bought for this trip from Aspinal of London. It has dividers for tickets, passport, documents, and boarding passes, along with a little pouch for change. It seemed perfect when I bought it, but it has yet to stand the test of actually being used – so I will let you know how it worked out. For now, it seemed like a great investment.
Finally, choosing a book to come with me is also a challenging task. I’m currently in the middle of a couple – I tend to read multiple books at once because I never know what kind of reading I will be in the mood for night-to-night – but I don’t usually like to bring one that I have already started when I am traveling. Bringing a brand new book avoids the problem of finishing one before the trip is over, and having to lug two books home. Additionally, the book needs to be paper-back so that I can lug it around with me without feeling like my arm is going to fall off. My problem there is that I am a super for hard-back books, so most of the books that I own that are on my “to-read” list are hardbacks.
The few that I do have are mostly history and include:
Allison Weir’s Queen Isabella
Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare
Lawrence Goldstone’s The Activist
Roger Crowley’s City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
Anthony Everitt’s Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician
I still am up in the air, but I’ll let you know what I end up choosing.
I know, I know – I’m going on vacation so exercise? really??
Unfortunately, yes. I am getting married next year, and I really love eating so exercising is a must. But since I will be staying in air B&Bs the whole trip, without access to a gym, my trainer and I came up with a no-gym/no-equipment solution. Here’s the schedule we came up with:
Escalating Density (12 min) (meaning you do five reps of each exercise and then repeat until the 12 minutes have expired – if this is too easy, increase to 15 minutes)
A1.) Push Up, which is pretty self-explanatory
A2.) Split Squat: This is essentially a stationary lunge. If anyone is familiar with Barre3, this is basically the same thing as carousel horse.
x5 per leg
x5 per leg
A3.) Reverse Crunch: lay down on the floor so that there is no space between the floor and the small of your back. Then raise your legs so your body is in a v shape and lower them slowly until you feel your abs catch. Raise them to the starting position and repeat.
A4.) Reverse Lunge
x5 per leg
x5 per leg
Escalating Density (12 min)
B1.) Squat Jump: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to repeat.
B2.) Partner Towel Row: so you can only do this if you are traveling with a friend, but the idea of this exercise is that your partner provides the resistance by holding one side of a rolled towel while you stand face to face with them and pull the other side of the towel as though doing a row.
x5 per arm
x5 per arm
B3.) Shoulder Taps: begin by taking a plank position. Then lift one hand to the opposite shoulder (i.e. the “tap”) so that you are in a one arm plank, and then place it back down so that you are once again in a two arm plank position. Then lift the other hand to tap the opposite shoulder. Repeat.
x5 per arm
x5 per arm
B4.) Reaching Single Leg Dead Lift. For those familiar with Yoga, this is similar to warrior three. The starting position here is standing on one leg, which is slightly bent. As you bent forward at the hips, move your arms directly out in front of you, and raise your non-standing leg to create a straight line from your fingertips to your left toes (i.e. parallel to the ground)
x5 per leg
x5 per leg
I will also – hopefully – be running while on vacation. My fiancé and I are running our second Marathon in late October, and if I come back having failed to run, he will finish the race embarrassingly far ahead of me. I’ve posted our training schedule below, if anyone is interested.
I know running sounds horrible to most people. And it really did to me for the longest time. In fact, I quit sports in high school because I loathed running. Had you told me then that I would one day fall in love with it, I would have laughed in your face. But, after graduating college, running kept me sane.
I had a really hard time my very first year out of college. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (although let’s face it, I still don’t), but back then I had no direction, no plan, leaving me feeling utterly lost. I had moved home to live with my parents, none of my friends lived in my home city anymore, and I did not have a job, so I spent the year working for my dad – who worked mostly from home. Needless to say, I almost never left the house. Except to run.
My littlest brother was in his last year of high school, and he forced me out of my house to go on runs with him. Eventually, he talked me into running a half-marathon. After running that race, I was addicted. So much so that I signed my fiancé (then boyfriend) up for the next year’s half. Although he was not pleased about it – he hated running more than I ever had – he soon learned to love running just as I did. All it took was for him to realize that running never gets easier – you simply get better at it.
My best friend and I are planning our trip to Scotland this week – so obviously we incorporated wine and a charcuterie board into our planning sess. Since this is my first attempt at blogging – a sentence I never thought I would say … or type – you don’t know my affinity for cheese and wine yet. But don’t worry, you will.
More to the point, I am going to Scotland next week, and I thought I would share the itinerary that my bff and I came up with. So here goes.
11:30 am: arrive at Airport
11:30 am -12:57 pm: bask in the glorious feeling of having no work to do
12:57 pm: Flight to Connecting City
2:55 pm: Arrive at Connection
2:55-9:55 pm: Sleep in the airport and pray they did not lose our bags (which happened on our trip to Ireland …. both ways. But, despite not showering or changing clothes over a period of three days, we still managed to have a great time)
9:55 pm: Flight to Scotland
Tuesday: ARRIVE IN EDINBURGH
Today, we are going to grab some coffee and explore Edinburgh, including most of the following sites:
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Palace of Holyrood House
National Museum of Scotland
Scottish National Gallery
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Wednesday: Hike to Arthur’s Seat and visit any of the sites mentioned above that we didn’t make it to on Tuesday
Next stop is at Glencoe (WHERE PART OF HARRY POTTER WAS FILMED (when Hagrid is skipping stones) – and where an apparently less happy event occurred – i.e. the bonniest of Prince Charlies)
Next we will arrive in Mallaig where we will have approximately one hour to enjoy a walk and take in the local atmosphere
We will then board a train to Fort William, and afterwards back to Glasgow by coach
Explore Stirling, including Stirling Castle
National Wallace Monument
Doune Castle (20 minutes from the Wallace Monument)
Saturday: Isle of Skye
Black Cuillin Mountains
Old Man of Storr
Leakey’s Bookshop : located in a converted 1649 church
Monday: Urquhart Castle
Tuesday: Today we are doing a Whiskey Tour, which I am VERY excited to do. In 2016, my fiancé and I did the Bourbon Trail, which was a blast. And I am hoping that this turns out to be just as fun! Here is the itinerary our tour guide sent us:
7:00ish am: at this ungodly hour, we will be meeting the wise Duncan Cartwright for our Whiskey Tour!
7:30 am – 9:00 am: Find Duncan
9:00 am: Departure from Grantown On Spey
9:00 am – 9:35 am: drive to Glenlivet
9:35 am – 10:00 am: Browse the exhibition and shop before you join the first tour of the day at 1000.
10:00 am: Glenlivet Classic Tour (£10) i.e. “Where it all started”, the first legal distillery in Speyside. Good exhibition.
1:00 pm: – 13:00 pm Glenfiddich Explorers Tour (£10) They say Dufftown was built on seven distilleries and Glenfiddich is one of the most well know producing variety of innovative malts. It’s also a very photogenic distillery.
3:00 pm: Speyside Cooperage (£4) Watch the coopers at work. Some say the cask provides 70% of the flavour.
4:30 pm: Macallan Tour
Wednesday: Visit Balmoral!
Thursday: Back to Edinburgh we go for our final night and a different fun part of the city!