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Published: August 18th 2011
Dad and I reading up on some deets in the ruins.
Tuesday morning, we got up and jumped in the car again in order to go to Finlaggan (on the way to Port Askaig) where they used to crown the lord of the isles and where they ruled form the 12th to about the 15th century....I won't write about it, you can read more here: http://www.finlaggan.com/about.asp. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but they do have a little visitor's centre (with some detail and artifacts), and you can see the ruins of some of the buildings (although the stone paths to the other islands involved are now under water since the water levels are much higher these days). All for a whopping price of 3GBP....I found it interesting, but part of that may be a family connection and we spent over an hour here, but may not be of interest to some.
We had the VIP tour booked at Bunnahabhain, so we continued on in the car. This seemed to be one of the more remote distilleries with winding roads that had to be travelled in order to get to it. We sat in the car and ate our paninis and sausage rolls that we bought at the co-op in
What the sign says....
outside the distillery.
the morning (we needed something to soak the whisky up with), and then we were ready to tour!
The tour that we took is Bunnahabhain's most expensive tour (25GBP). The manager of the distillery took us around, but because they had just finished their silent season on Friday (i.e. they have a planned shut down as most distilleries do), there wasn't that much going on. He did have a lot of information though, and told some stories about things that went wrong or people that used to work there. Finally, to the tasting! We each got a dram of: Bunnahabhain 12, 25 (this was probably my favourite), 18, Darach Ur, and Toiteach (this one was unaged and peaty and I kind of liked it). I thought that it was worth it, especially since I've been on some tours in the highlands that charge double that....I only wish that they weren't just coming off of silent season because I think that my parents missed out on some things (this was their first distillery that they had been to) since they weren't quite in production again yet.
We drove back to Bowmore, and that night we headed to the Lochside
The Bunnahabhain Warehouse
I could handle being locked in here for a while.
Hotel for dinner. Mom & Cor both had the chicken, with bacon, and cheese & a side of chips (the chips kind of tasted like the oil needed to be changed and the chicken was over done), dad had Thai crab cakes which he liked very much and I had a curried cauliflower soup with a starter of baked brie and tomatoes (also good). Everything was going well until when it came time for coffee after not even being in our seats for an hour. We were asked (not in the nicest way) if we could move so that they could seat other people for dinner. Fine....but weird, then as we were walking she said that she asked some people if we could sit with them. Uh....what? Luckily we were able to grab a table of people who must have just left, but that was weird. Then we went up to the bar to pay and the same girl promptly turned around and went about her business (without acknowledging us) and we just stood like tools for over 5 minutes. So....a kind of decent meal kind of went down the tubes after that - especially when I compare it to
the other restaurants around the island. They get no recommendation from me....this is a place to skip.
Wednesday we had another distillery tour, this time at Bowmore. I had wanted to take their craftsman tour here, but they are currently in their silent season, but they were still continuing their normal tours. Again, not too much going on here other than cleaning, but they also had an interesting film to watch and at the end (Cor actually chatted with the warehouse guy, Ginger, on Thursday morning), we again got to do a tasting of three whiskies (pretty good for a 5GBP fee, except that we got to do it for free because we are in the Mashman's Cottage - oh yeah, and did I mention that for staying in the cottage, we also got a complimentary bottle of Bowmore 12?). We only actually got one Bowmore (Bowmore 15), and then we had two whiskies from distilleries that are owned by the same parent company (Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch), along with great views from their bar in their visitor centre.
We also stuck around for a bit and had some other complimentary drams: Bowmore 18, Maltman's edition, Feis Ile
Bowmore - No. 1 Vaults
The Queen's cask, empty now, but the distillery sold a bottle at auction and raised 10,000GBP for charity
2009, Bowmore 25 (well, they had to charge for that one), and Bowmore Tempest 10. We were the only ones that stuck around, so we had some good conversations about whisky with the staff in the visitor's centre....so much so, that some of the whiskies that I mentioned, we didn't even ask for, they wanted us to compare. We also picked up some glasses and gifts in the store, and Cor did end up buying a bottle of the Maltman's edition (the 25 was his favourite, but he just couldn't justify the 200GBP price tag).
Then we checked out the Holy Coo in Bowmore for a late lunch (they are only open until 5-ish, so now was our chance). There's very limited seating in here, but they have a pretty good selection on their menu. Mom & I both had the cauliflower soup with honey and rosemary (delish!) and split some chips, while Dad and Cor both had Aberdeen angus burgers with chips, salad, and coleslaw. There is only one person working out front, so we had to wait a minute while she ran around and served and cleared tables, but I would highly recommend this for lunch....or for
Bowmore Visitor Centre
Let's get a move on, there's drams to be had!
a coffee and a snack (they looked like they had some great baking).
Then we just wandered to the grave yard of the round church to look for a relative, and checked out some shops (I bought a few things at Spirited Soaps that uses the whiskies of Islay & Jura for their bath products and creams), and they we just lounged around. Nothing like a lazy day in Islay....especially when we know that we are going to have to go home soon. Eep! 😞
For dinner, we thought that we would go to the Port Charlotte Hotel because we had heard some good things, but it took us too long to figure out what we were doing, and they ended up being booked up. So, despite the poor tripadvisor reviews, we decided to try the Bowmore Hotel. It was a little sketch when we first walked in, and then we were taken over to the lounge side (which was the first thing people complained about on tripadvisor...so I though: uh oh). It also seemed that people said that food seemed frozen and I don't see how it couldn't be - they had at least a four page
Each with flavours that people associated with each.
menu that was crammed with choices. There was no way that they could have that much stuff on hand fresh. So....I opted for a safe menu choice: chili con carne with basmati rice (Cor had the same), mom had lasagne (which she said was fine, but kind of looked like it lacked sauce to me), and dad was brave and had salmon with ginger prawns (other poor reviews had said that the seafood didn't seem fresh, but he was willing to take his chances). We had the lowest expectations in the world, and that seemed to work to our benefit because honestly, it wasn't that bad. It took almost an hour for our food (another tripadvisor warning), that other nights we might have been annoyed about, but this night, we weren't that hungry...at least not until the food came. It worked in a pinch, but again, keep your expectations low.
Then we just hung out in the cottage again as my parents were leaving bright and early in the morning to drive to Pork Askaig in order to catch their ferry.
Us, on the other hand, for Thursday we had to check out at 10AM and try to
On the Way to Port Charlotte
Poor cow, you're screwed when the tide comes in (when we drove back though, the entire herd had joined her)
keep busy until we had to go to the aiport for our 6:20PM flight to Glasgow. So we sadly turned in our cottage keys, loaded up the car, and decided to make our way to Port Charlotte to the Museum of Islay life. It was 3GBP to get in and some of the stuff that they had was kind of interesting, most of it on loan from the locals. They had everything from Victorian christening gowns, to an illegal still, to pieces of ships that had sunk off of the coast. It was definitely a good way to waste some time.
Then we decided to drive to Ardbeg because we liked the lunch so much. I decided to order a giant lunch: I had cream of broccoli soup (which was alright, but now I apparently have high expectations of soup wherever I go), and a cheese and pickle sandwich that I asked to be made into a panini (my favourite! This was the best cheese and pickle that I had on this trip for sure). Cor also had a panini of shredded duck with peking sauce that was also quite good.
We also learned about the little dog
This square foot is mine...all MINE! Muahahahahahaaaaaa! Next, world domination...in wellies.
(named Shorty) associated with the distillery (he's on buttons, shirts, and even a silhouette of him is on the bottle with 'Islay Nosed' under it). Apparently, he is owned by someone just up the road, but the dog would come down to the distillery so much that people began to associate him with Ardbeg. Cute.
Then it was off to Laphroig to claim our square foot of Islay. We grabbed our plot numbers from the visitor centre (and got a certificate and two more free 50cl bottles of 10 year old cask stregnth - that puts us up to 4), put on our wellies and headed across the road. We almost lost Cor in the bog, and I'm not totally convinced that we actually found our plots but we planted our Canadian flags in them anyways. It was actually really fun.
After this, we just drove around, through Port Ellen, out to Oa, over to Kintra....we even made it almost to the American monument (to commemorate the loss of a ship torpedoed off of the coast), but we had to walk a mile to get there, and we didn't have a huge amount of time left, so we finally headed back to Bowmore to get gas and have a coffee. We were kind of in that limbo of not really feeling like/having time to do anything with no where to hang out, so we went to the airport about 30 minutes earlier than planned. We were both WAY over on our luggage (eep....luckily we get 30kg per bag for our international flight). They seemed scared to tell us that we would have to pay, but it was only 10GBP per bag which was cheap to me. And we totally knew that we would have to pay anyways.
So another quick flight and we were on the ground in Glasgow. We leave early on Friday morning, so we just ended up staying at the Holiday Inn which is directly across from the airport, so no taxi was required. We checked in and the room is decent enough (we prepaid 59GBP for a double bed room with breakfast), but then we went down for dinner. We waited about 10 minutes to be seated after the people in front of us were seated. Drinks took at least 20 minutes, and there were many restaurant guests sharing annoyed glances. Meals seemed to be wrong, change was not given, drinks were taking forever. It was actually kind of funny because every time we looked, the servers were all huddled around the computer. Once we got our drinks (mine was wrong, he said that he got confused when he was pouring drinks, so he wanted me to taste it....my thought was: whatever, it's wet...although maybe he should have repoured it if he wasn't sure). The food was a bit pricey for what it was - Corwin had some kind of Indian dish and I had baked aubergine parmesan - both were fine. At the end though, we noticed an incredibly ballsy move - an automatic 10% gratuity. I personally would have left no tip, but I wasn't going to fight over 3GBP either. I hope breakfast there is okay tomorrow.....eek.
So that's it for now - tomorrow we go home. I may or may not write too much about that, but I may spend our time in the airport putting together a ranking of the restaurants that we've been to. Wow - that sounds really lame when I type it out 😊
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