Thursday 5th April 2012
We travelled to Oban to do the Oban whiskey distillery tour plus the neighbours recommended a visit. The weather was a bit cold and overcast, with some rain. We could not leave Scotland without doing a whiskey tour ! We passed through Inveraray, very pretty spot. It was raining when we reached Oban but not enough to be offputting. Interestingly Oban Bay is a near perfect horseshoe bay and is known as the gateway to the Isles and a bit of trivia: during the 2011 Guy Fawkes Night, Oban became famed for its failed fireworks display which became a worldwide news and online hit, when £6,000 of display fireworks were ignited all at once. The display due to last 20 - 30 minutes was over within 50 seconds. Pyro1, the company putting on the display, provided a free fireworks show on 27 November.
The Oban Distillery is one of the few distilleries to have been built, in 1794, before the actual town which sprung up later. The distillery has only two pot stills, making it one of the smallest in Scotland, producing a whisky that has been described as having a 'West Highland' flavor that falls between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands. It was a very interesting tour and we were treated to two tastings and they were superb. It is primarily known for its 14-year-old expression, which is marketed as part of Diageo's 'Classic Malts Selection' range, launched in 1988. Also available is a 'Distiller's Edition' bottling, which is finished in a Montilla Fino sherry cask before bottling. There is also a rare 18-year-old limited edition as well as an even rarer 32-year-old edition. Mike was one of the people who was involved in the famous Mac's brewery in Nelson at inception and was quite amazed at the information they gave out regarding the distilling, although, of course were guarded about the actual recipe. Fascinating place and we also received a free whiskey glass each. It pays to book as it is a small distillery and plenty of visitors. We saw a group of Germans turned away as they were fully booked for the day.
After the tour we had the most divine fish meal at the local seafood restaurant named Eeusk situated on the North Pier. I found at later it is well known around the world and has won many awards. I had fresh lobster yum yum yum and the Thai fish cakes. Mike had the mussels which are quite a lot smaller than ours but so incredibly tasty. They kept bringing out bread rolls, we kept sending them back, only because we don't eat bread. The waitress cottoned on after awhile and just smiled.....it was nice that they do supply so much bread though, it would keep a lot of people happy. Highly recommend this restaurant !!!! They say the Langoustine, mussels, and oysters come from the cold clear water of Loch Linnhe. Their scallops are mostly from the Isle of Mull. A huge selection of wetfish is locally caught and served in Eeusk. In the last year they have had Halibut, Turbot, Brill, Megrim Lemon and Dover Sole, Ling, Lythe, Hake, Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Monkfish, Gurnard, John Dory, Squid and Octopus. They also say all their shellfish comes live to the restaurant and cooked on the premises - it certainly showed. That is how it should always be in my mind !
We stopped off at the Inveraray Castle on the way back - it stands on the shores of Loch Fyne. It was Mike's favourite castle. It had started to really rain by now so we could not roam around the gardens but saw them from inside the castle, gorgeous even in winter. The castle built between 1745 and 1790 and is home to the Duke of Argyll, Head of the Clan Campbell, whose family have lived in Inveraray since the early 15th century.
It was almost fairytale inside as opposed to the grandeur of its gracious exterior. We entered the famous Armoury Hall containing some 1300 peices including Brown Bess muskets, Lochaber axes, 18th century Scottish broadswords and saw preserved swords from the Battle of Culloden. I could not believe that room ! Photos were not allowed unfortunately. The fine State Dining Room and Tapestry Drawing Room contain magnificent French tapestries made especially for the Castle, fabulous examples of Scottish, English and French furniture and a wealth of other works of art. The unique collection of china, silver and family artifacts spans the generations which are identified by a magnificent genealogical display in the Clan Room. We were transfixed and it was nice to see a castle in its entirety rather than just a shell or one that left you only with imagination.
We were aware of the castle closing at 6:00 pm so we made sure we did not miss a thing, the day was getting on. We were in the hallway being told by a guide where the kitchen was and a young boy, probably aged around 10 maybe, said that he would show us where it was. We started talking to him as he went to the kitchen with us and I asked him who he was. He very clearly told us he was "The Duke's Son". We were being guided by a little royal person, he was truly delightful and well educated. He told us that he does not live in the castle but in a home nearby and he plays in the castle most days. I have since read though that his father grew up in the castle as his children have. Here is an excerpt from the website: " The present Duke, Torquhil Ian, inherited the title on the death of his father in 2001. He combines his duties as Duke, Clan Chief and Landowner with a consultant role with Pernod Ricard, promoting Scotch Whiskies including Chivas Regal and Glenlivet. He captained Scotland to victory in 2004 and 2005 in the World Elephant Polo Championships. He is married to Eleanor Cadbury, they have three children and live in the castle today"
He flitted around the castle and as we were leaving through the gift shop he was told by the shop keeper that it was time for him to go home, he disappeared through the shop door into the castle. Apparently he was coming back the next day with his friends, what an incredible place to play in. I asked him his name - Archie - and if you are a Campbell and know the history it is a very well documented name throughout their history. If you are a Campbell you will learn everything about them at this castle, it made me wish there was a McGregor castle.