The [Whisky] Odyssey – Chapter 1

After the renaming of my blog i thought it was about time i put my own [Whisky] Odyssey down in words….. I suppose a bit of a background about myself is needed first , Born and Bred is the Great City of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom , My main interests had been Music and going out socialising , usually the two intermixed , spending most of the time seeing bands at the Local City Hall and the Famous Mayfair Ballroom . By the early 80’s i’d seen several of the Legendary Lindisfarne Christmas Shows and the likes of AC/DC , Van Halen , Motorhead , Ted Nugent , Genesis , Mike Oldfield and The Police at the aforementioned venues . My taste in drink had journeyed through most of the local brews (Amber , Exhibition , Brown Ale) , various lagers and was at the time mainly on discovering ‘Real Ale’ in the pubs where possible and suffering Snake Bite at The Mayfair (it was the only way to drink their beer…..) . On the Spirit front the only one i went near was Rum , But that was about to change……  

Chapter One

In the Beginning…..

The early summer of 1984 was a strange time , i’d just come out of a long term relationship and didn’t actually know where things were going to go . A discussion one night in a pub with my good mate Dave Embleton would end up having a profound effect on my life , a few pints the conversation got around to holidays , we both had a bit of leave to take – i actually had mine booked for the start of August – so we decided to do something , i had a tent and various bits of camping equipment , he had a motor so why not head off somewhere ? Scotland seemed like a good idea ! A few of our other friends gave us a few pointers as to where to stay , so one August Sunday morning we set off from Daves in his Bright Yellow Vauxhall Magnum for a camping holiday in the Highlands !

(Click on Photo to see large Version)



Our first destination was Glencoe , The Clachaig Inn to be more precise , This was the Clachaig Inn before it went all Swiss Chaletish , when you could actually camp outside it in the fields (fields being a loose term….) , it took some getting up there at that time , there wasn’t the nice wide road there is now up past Lomond , it was all narrow ‘hugging the Lochside’ type , it seemed to take us an eternity behind various Caravans . After pitching our accommodation , we hit the Clachaig , it was a great little pub with a pool table and something we weren’t used to….. McEwans Export on Draught ! McEwans Export was only available in bottles and cans in Newcastle , Which was strange as it was actually brewed at the old (now departed) Tyne Brewery opposite St James Park ! It was a delightful beer , went down really well (too well a little later in the Hols….) . After a few Dave asked if i fancied a dram , i said no , when he asked if i’d ever had a whisky i said i had , forced on me by well meaning parents in the shape of a Hot Toddy when ill and i hated it ! “I bet it was a blend , Bells , Teachers or something , i’m on about a Single Malt “. Not having a Clue what a Single Malt was Dave proceeded to educate me about them , after about 10 minutes i gave in and said yes .


Our Camping Spot in Glencoe , Yes that’s Dave!


So he came back with two small glasses containing an Amber Liquid , “Try that….” , i did…. To say that i was slightly shocked was an understatement , it was a Eureka moment , it didn’t burn , smooth as a babies bum , quite sherried  wow ! Eventually he told me it was a Macallan 10yo , a few more were consumed before we headed back to the tent…..

Glencoe , for the uninitiated , is a beautiful place , a fantastic valley where in the summer the sun doesn’t vanish till yon time at night , it is also very spooky due to a clan massacre that happened there ! So full of Beer and Single Malt we sat outside the tent watching the sun set over the valley top , Pink Floyd playing on the tape machine and a bottle of Mackinlays being passed back and forth – the reason for the Mackinlays was due to one of Daves relatives being in the drinks business and he got some off him . It was a very Spiritual first night camping in Scotland , for every reason !


All the ‘Cool Cats’ used to camp at the Clachaig….


After a good nights sleep we resumed our travels , i can’t remember the exact route but we did take in Applecross via Bealach na Bà  , Ullapool , Durness and Portree on Skye and all points in between . Applecross was interesting , not only for the hairy drive up the pass and all the midges but it was where i really let go of the earlier mentioned relationship and set a personal best for Alcohol consumed . The village is fairly small , the campsite is above it , there is two ways to get to the village from the campsite , the long way following the road or down the steep grassy bank , the first way is best recommended on the way back from the pub…… In the Village there was a row of Cottages , A shop / post office and the pub – The Inn – a good name as it was THE Inn , i believe it’s been renamed since , it looked a lot different to when we were in it when it was featured on the TV series Monty Halls’ Great Escape – Beachcomber Cottage in the late Noughties .


The view from Bealach-Na-Ba


We consumed a great amount of drink that night , we knew we were doing well when the Bar maid kept asking if she could have some glasses back . We had hit 8 pints with whisky chasers at one point , I’d never drunk that amount before or since ! I blamed the McEwans Export myself……. I do remember sometime after 12am asking the Bar maid if she wasn’t worried about trouble with the local police and the late drinking and her replying “No , that’s him over there…..”


Two happy campers on Skye


According to Dave on our way back i’d insisted the campsite was straight up the road and not on the right when we approached it , that would have been some walk up Bealach na Bà ! He also said as soon as i put my head down on the pillow i was out like a light till the next morning , Can’t figure out why ? Ullapool was a great stay over , excellent campsite , great pubs and a superb fish and chip shop at the Ferry landing  !  It was the first place i ever seen anyone ask if they could smell a whisky bottle – Dave in The Arch – and the first time i ever seen anyone turn into a jibbering wreck over Single Malt . We spent a great deal of the evening in the Ferry Boat Inn , it had a good selection of Ales and a very nice set of Malts , on one of Dave’s rounds he came back with two drams and all i could get out of him was “they had two , they had two , Bottles!” I eventually got out of him what had happened at the Bar , he spotted a bottle of Macallan 18 and decided to treat us to a dram, The Barman got the bottle and said “there’s only enough for one dram in this one….” Straight away Dave thought “Well that’s mine….” but then the barman added , “i’ll just go and get the other bottle !” , apparently at that time there wasn’t a lot of the 18 around and it was rare to get 2 in the same place , the shop where Dave bought his annual treat from only got a very limited supply . Amazing what Single Malts does to people…….


Look….. Nae Bridge !


We had a great time on this trip , went on our first Calmac Ferries over to Skye and back , this was pre-bridge days and you still had the ferries from Lochalsh , saw some fantastic scenery , drank some great beers and i got introduced to the Water of Life ! Cheers Dave , It’s all his fault !!!!    


One thought on “The [Whisky] Odyssey – Chapter 1

  1. Great story and pics Gordon! All those wonderful places we’ve just been to… sigh. I love the pic of you doing a Pete Townsend 😉

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