D&J Scotland Whisky Tour 2009 travel blog

Left to Right: Coach Driver, Drew, Tour Director, Morag, and President of...

The Road to Bunnahabhain Distillery

Casks of Whisky Ageing at Bunnahabhain Distillery

Caol Ila Distillery

Massive Copper Stills at Caol Ila Distillery

Spirit Safe and Wash Safe and Caol Ila Distillery

View of the Paps of Jura from Caol Ila Distillery

Sooee, Three-Legged Mouse Hunter of Ballygrant

I had such a good night’s sleep, and we woke up to another beautiful morning. It had rained earlier on, but now it was lovely out.

We got showered and went downstairs, and everyone else was making their breakfast. Some had eggs and bacon, and toast, and Brian had some smoked salmon, so I had that on toast along with a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee.

Today we were going to the Port Askaig area, to Bunnahabain and Caol Ila Distilleries. We left about 10:00 am, and when the coach turned off to go to Bunnahabain, I asked the driver to let me off, so I could do some hiking.

The trail I took was through mature forest and alongside lochs, and very pretty. I went by a pond with lily pads and their flowers in bloom. It was very peaceful, and I only met two other people along the way, an older fellow walking his dog, then a woman a little further on. People are so friendly here.

Although it had clouded over a little with some pretty threatening looking clouds, it didn’t rain at all. It was about 14C, so not too warm, and there was a bit of a breeze. It was a great day to walk, as I hate getting overheated.

The path itself was packed gravel, certainly more “civilized” than the trails we walk at home. I could hear sheep and cattle in the distance, but saw no other wildlife. All of the wildflowers were in bloom: bluebells, buttercups, foxglove, harebells, Queen Anne’s lace, and even some heather. It was a wonderful walk, and I’m glad I went. I didn’t mind being alone at all, and it was actually nice to spend some time by myself, as much as I like the other people on tour.

At the end of the hike, when I reached a single-lane road, I got a bit confused as to which direction to take, but I was glad to have my Ordnance Survey map, so I found some high ground and got my bearings. I walked in the direction I thought I needed to go, and was glad to see the little village of Ballygrant a few minutes later, where we were to have lunch at the Ballygrant Inn. I found it just fine, and was able to spend some time there while I waited for the group to arrive in the coach from the Distillery.

I sat outside the bar area where there were some picnic tables, and to my surprise, a black, three-legged cat appeared from the garden, carrying a dead mouse in its mouth. It ignored me, crouched down, and proceeded to eat the whole thing in about five minutes! It ate every last little bit, aside from one little internal organ which I wasn’t anxious to look at a bit closer. I guess I always assumed that cats only ate the choicest bits – internal organs and muscle, and left the bones and fur, but this one ate it all. After it was done, I called it over and loved it up a bit, and it flopped down on the picnic table bench and purred.

I learned later that the cat's name was Sooee (like the pig call), and had gone missing for three days and come back with a mangled back leg, probably from being entangled in some barbed wire fence. The vet said that an amputation of the leg was better than trying to repair the leg and fight off the infection. I admire that cat; to catch a mouse while not being totally agile is quite the feat (feet?).

About 25 minutes after I arrived, the coach came up the drive with the rest of the group. We went inside the bar area, ordered some drinks at the bar, then they served us a delicious soup (cream of carrot, I think) and some sandwiches.

Soon enough, Morag rounded us up and we were off to Caol Ila Distillery, a ten minute drive away down a narrow, winding single track road. The Distillery is owned by the Diagio Group, who owns other Distilleries, and is a more modern factory-type distillery. It is right on the seashore, and has a great view across the sound to the Isle of Jura, and we had a spectacular sight of the Paps of Jura, rounded mountains rising 2,500 feet.

We broke into two groups, and our tour guide led us on a tour. It is quite a big production, but seems very clean and professionally done. The heat in the room with the copper mash tun and the massive wooden washback tubs was very warm, but even warmed was the room with the six great copper stills. One wall of that room was floor to ceiling glass, and had the best view across the bay.

After the tour, we went back down to the shop and they poured us some drams of whisky. As per usual, Doug drank my share. We went outside and enjoyed the sunshine and waited for the second group to come and finish with their tasting.

It was a half hour back then to Bowmore, and luckily I had time for a short nap before we left on the coach again for a 45 minute drive around the bay past Bruichladdich to Port Charlotte to the hotel there for our supper. It was a nice hotel, whitewashed stone, by the seashore, with a lovely garden beside.

Most of the group sat downstairs in the conservatory that overlooked the bay, but they didn’t have enough room for us all there, so we sat upstairs in a little room off the bar area. Doug was astonished at the number of whiskies they had there; a whole menu in and of itself!

I had a nice dinner of a brie and asparagus salad, beef and ale pie with potatoes and vegetables, and a yummy sticky toffee pudding for dessert. We had a nice conversation over dinner with our fellow tour mates.

We drove back to Bowmore, and after a little time in the lounge with everyone, I excused myself and went to bed. I’m glad that I took the time to research the walks on Islay; certainly worth it.

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