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Published: September 21st 2009
FindochtyInverness - Findochty - Spey Bay - Cullen - Portgordon
The calm village of Findochty (the panorama on this page is of the harbour)
This is a land of lochs and whisky, seascapes, seals and sunsets. Aye, Pat and I are in the north of Scotland - not yet at the most northernmost tip of mainland Britain but a fair way north anyway. That northerly point has to wait a day or two. For now, we’re staying with friends at Findochty, about 50 miles to the east of Inverness Airport and not far from the town of Buckie on the road towards Aberdeen.
This quiet, former fishing village, pronounced by the few remaining natives as ‘fin_eck_tee’, is today reduced to a few boats fishing for lobsters and crabs and a long waiting list for leisure boat berths in the harbour. Most of the pretty little fishermen’s cottages, painted in a mix of white, cream and pastel tones, are now simple but comfortable holiday homes. We’re staying in one of them, together with family friends who, until a year or so ago, were living in Cardiff - he’s Welsh, she’s Scottish born and raised here in Findochty. Although this is a rented holiday cottage (our friends live in a modern bungalow a couple of
Sunset over Findochty Harbour
This was the view from the front door of the cottage in which we were staying
hours away, to the north of Inverness), they do, of course, know people in the village and all the best visitor attractions and eating places hereabouts.
Only two days into our ten day holiday, we had already:
walked around the village’s perimeter and enjoyed the sunset from the harbour wall opposite the cottage;
driven to Spey Bay in the hope of seeing dolphins or ospreys (but saw only the River Spey rushing to meet the sea, driftwood and sand dunes- the dolphins were off chasing shoals of herring elsewhere along the coast and the ospreys had taken wing to their winter quarters in warmer climes);
stopped at a shop in Cullen (home of Cullen Skink, that very delicious smoked haddock soup) to see its huge range of old-fashioned sweets in glass jars and to enjoy some of their homemade vanilla ice cream;
visited the Baxters factory shop, where, among other things, we bought some of their yummy Granny Smith, Fig and Cider chutney;
seen seals hauled up on the rocks near Portgordon at low tide;
heard that the Scots dislike cod and eat haddock instead (unlike us
Coopers at work
Coopers are paid on piece rates and could expect to complete between 15 and 20 casks a day. The price of a completed cask is rumoured to be around GBP1,000.
from the south, where the opposite generally applies) - oh, and they won't eat haddock if the skin's been left on it either!;
visited the Speyside Cooperage, where virtually all the casks used in Scotland’s whisky industry are repaired or remanufactured (we were told not to call them 'barrels' - a barrel is just a size of cask and holds 26.25 Imperial Gallons. The ones they were handling during our visit were called hogsheads, holding the equivalent of 2 barrels) ;
toured the Glen Grant whisky distillery, where we learned that, of the 36 distilleries on Speyside, only three remain in private hands. The rest are owned by overseas companies. Glen Grant, originally started by Major Grant and his brother, was sold to Seagrams (Canadian), then to Pernod Ricard (French), and is now owned by Campari (Italian). 75% of its production is exported to Italy, where they enjoy its light colour and mild taste acquired from barrels previously used by American bourbon manufacturers. I wasn’t really a whisky drinker until this visit - I’m now the proud owner of a very drinkable 10-year-old single malt - so much more palatable than the younger one sold to the Italians!
taken ‘high tea’ for the first time in our lives. What’s high tea? Well, it’s a ‘blow-out’ - a bit like breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner all in one. You start with toast and butter and possibly a glass of beer or cider, followed by a main meal (like liver and bacon, sausage, egg, bacon and black pudding, or smoked haddock with a poached egg - all served with chips and peas), followed by more toast and scones with butter, jam and marmalade, a selection of cakes and shortbread, and pots of tea or coffee. It’s usually served from around 5.00pm until the restaurant starts to serve dinner.
Tomorrow, we’re going east along the coast towards Fraserburgh to some small seaside towns, where the main events seem to be more food and drink!
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