Newtondale 2017 – Part 1

It’s been a couple of years now since we’ve been away for a ‘proper’ Holiday so this year we decided to take a one away somewhere nice and peaceful in beautiful surroundings and boy have we picked a great place ! We’re in a lovely stone cottage along a private forestry road next to the North Yorks Moors Railway (! Warning lots of Train Photos to follow !) in Newtondale , our closest station is Levisham, a nice ¾ of a mile walk .

Friday 28th July

We arrived early Friday evening (it’s the first time we’ve done a Friday – Friday rental ) and was greeted by the owner Jan and shown around the place . Have to say it’s a lovely presented cottage with great facilities in beautiful surroundings , there is very little traffic – only residents (of which there aren’t many) and forestry vehicles (of which there aren’t many…) .

The NYMR also gave us our first glimpse of a Steam train with the Evening ‘Pickering Pullman’ …….

(Click on Photos to see full size)

This is how close the railway is to us BTW , this from the Conservatory no zoom…..

So happy and content we retired for the night…. After a few drinks….

Saturday 29th

Seeing the weather looked promising we decided to make use of the railway (our membership gets us a 50% Discount….) and have a trip out to Whitby , so leaving the car behind we walked along to Levisham and caught the train .

Our local station

The Train to Pickering Arrives

After a Fish and chip lunch and a bit wander around , Whitby was absolutely chocker , we returned to the peace and quiet of the cottage and spent the evening relaxing with in between dashes to the bottom of the garden to watch the Specials go by…….

The last of the days scheduled trains

80136 on the Grosmont Pullman and the Class 26 on the ‘Pie and Peas Train’

July 30th

Seeing it was our 23rd Wedding Anniversary we decided to take it easy by doing a 5 mile hike through the forest ! It wasn’t too bad as most of it was on rough tracks , it was just the inclines that made it hard and boy were there some inclines !

Every so often we did get a glimpse of the railway and when we got to our turning point at Kidstyle Farm we saw the Thompson B1 in all her glory

We got to see Skelton Tower in the distance , one of our future walks

We also caught a tantalising glimpse of something strange through the trees……

It was the recently overhauled Schools class ‘Repton’ out on a test run , later on we saw her actually hauling a train

On the way back the skies absolutely opened and drenched us !

After a shower back at the cottage we headed out for an anniversary meal at the Restaurant at The Fox and Hounds Country Inn at Sinnington .

Hmmmm….. What to have ?

Melanie had White Onion Soup as the starter with the Seafood Platter as the main , I went for the Belly Pork and Seared Scallops as the starter and the Seafood Platter as the main . The Seafood Platter was interesting as it was a twist on what I would normally call a Seafood Plater , it consisted of smoked haddock and parsley risotto with a poached quail’s egg , a crayfish cocktail , a monkfish and king prawn kebab and little fish and chips . A very filling plate full I can tell you !

Pudding was skipped…..

We had a thoroughly good evening at the Fox and Hounds , great food and great service .

It was a beautiful night when we got home so a bit messing about photographic wise was called for…..

July 31st

Another fine morning when we awoke so we decided to head off for a drive to Scarborough , we like Scarborough it’s a traditional holiday resort that has adapted to modern times it , has a bit of everything for everyone . I’d had family holidays there since 1966 , we had our honeymoon there in 1994 and have had regular day trips since then . After a walk around the town centre we headed down to the harbour for our lunch at Ask and pudding at the Harbour Bar . Ask has a great location overlooking the Harbour which has changed a hell of a lot since 1966 , the restaurant is where the wood boats used to come in and now the harbour is mainly a marina with a small fishing fleet . The Harbour bar still makes the greatest Knickerbocker Glory in the known world !

The view out of Ask and the mighty Knickerbocker Glory !

After lunch we head over to the North Bay for a walk around Pheasholm Park and ‘The Sands’ area . The Park hasn’t changed much over the years , still has the Naval Battles and still has the tame Grey Squirrels

The North Bay of Scarborough

After a diversion to pick up some supplies we headed back to the cottage for a quiet evening of contemplation and wildlife watching . The garden , as well as the passing trains , gets a good selection of wildlife in it . As well as the usual suspects bird wise there is a regular Great Spotted Woodpecker , there are also Grey Squirrels and a rumoured Badger (not seen yet ) .

I’ve seen a few deer on our wanders and the owners have mentioned a local Goshawk , I also spotted a Green Woodpecker on the drive up to Levisham from the station .

August 1st

Yorkshire Day !

Our first booked event of the holiday , The Yorkshire Day Pullman , a good excuse to ride the NYMR all day ! We caught the train up to Grosmont from Levisham where we boarded the Jos du Crau car (a 1960’s Pullman car done out in the old Style) for a ride down to Pickering and back enjoying a 3 course meal on the way .

On arrival we were given a welcome drink of Yorkshire Wine from Westow for Melanie and a John Smiths for myself . We both started with the Yorkshire Coast Fresh Dressed Crab with Mayonnaise , lemon and a crisp salad . Melanie went for the Roast North Yorkshire Sirloin of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding for her main whereas I went for the Roast Loin of Yorkshire Pork with Crispy Crackling , both absolutely melt in the mouth meats ! For pudding Melanie had Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Custard and I went for the Trio of Yorkshire cakes (Victoria Sponge , Coffee and Walnut , Chocolate Fudge ) , to say that we were stuffed would be an understatement….. But try telling Kids of t’day and they won’t believe you !

It has to be one of the nicest experience going riding up and down the NYMR in a Pullman Coach being hauled by a 1950’s Steam Engine enjoying a fantastic meal passing the beautiful scenery with the Gorgeous Melanie !

After the return trip to Levisham a quiet evening was spent letting the meal digest……
And watching the local Neighbourhood Woodpecker….

August 2nd

The weather wasn’t great today but we still headed out for a walk up to Skeltons Tower on Levisham Moor . It is a well known landmark and can be see from the train .

Todays walk (in Blue)

It was very gentle to start with along to Levisham Station but then the climb out of the Station is quite steep , when you hit the top of the first incline you turn on to the moor which is slightly more level . It’s very still and beautiful on the top and then you get your first view of the tower….

Even though the weather was cloudy and there was always a threat of rain , the views were spectacular from the tower…..

Melanie at the Tower….

After a packed lunch we watch a couple of trains go by ……

Have to say it gives a good view of the trains !

We carried on our walk which took us down a rather sodden track and Melanie found out a new pair of walking boots are in order ! Eventually the track fetch us out at the Platelayers Cottages , just a short distance from our cottage , which was good as by now it had started to rain persistantly ! We also got a chance to spot another Loco where we crossed the line…..

And take even more photos of course ! The rest of the afternoon was spent drying out before heading off to the Fox and Rabbit pub for a well earned tea !

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Islay Visits…… Go West to Toronto ! Pt2

The Touristy Bit…..

Now that the serious side of the trip was over with the Completion of the Whisky show it was time to relax and do a bit of serious sight seeing . When we’d been originally invited Melanie and Myself had discussed things we’d like to see in Ontario and one thing came top of our list……. Niagara Falls ! So at the Hotel we asked the Concierge what trip to Niagara she recommended and she said the Gray Line one , So we booked it for the Sunday……

Sunday 4th May

Normally we would have been picked up at the Hotel for the tour but due to the Toronto Marathon being on and road closures we had to make our way to the Bay Street Bus Station which was no bother as the Subway went from outside the Hotel to about a Block along from the Station . The Subway is excellent , $3 to go anywhere on the System in nice , clean trains . There weren’t many on the bus , 15 , 6 of whom came from England ! Our guide for the tour was Grant .

We set off West along Queen Street West seeing quite a bit more of the City we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise before joining the Expressways to Niagara . On the way we got asked if we wanted to do an optional extra on the tour….. A Helicopter ride over Niagara . Seeing we thought we’d never have this chance to do it again even though Melanie has a fear of heights , So we were dropped off at Niagara Helicopters paid our fares and headed to the pad……

(Click on Photos to see full size)

Ready for Boarding

Ready for Boarding

Here we go !

Here we go !

So off we went ! 
Swinging west first stop was the Whirlpool then along the Gorge……

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

Along the Gorge

Along the Gorge

Then it was the Falls them selves before heading back along the Gorge

The Falls

The Falls

Back along the Gorge

Back along the Gorge

then it was back to the Whirlpool taking in views across the area

Out across the area

Out across the area

Back to the Whirlpool

Back to the Whirlpool

Then it was back to the Heliport to disembark…..

Melanie exiting the Helicopter

Melanie exiting the Helicopter

What an Experience ! The photos can’t do the journey justice , we had a perfect day weatherwise and i was so proud of my wife for doing it knowing her fear of heights , she was so glad she’d done it ! After buying a few souvenirs (we were tourists after all !) we headed back to the coach to head into Niagara Falls itself ! We were dropped at the Visitors Centre Car Park for a bit of a wander outside……  

The Top of the Falls

The Top of the Falls

Melanie at the Falls

Melanie at the Falls

Myself !

Myself !

The American Falls

The American Falls

Closer View

Closer View

The Horseshoe Falls !

The Horseshoe Falls !

Awesome ! as our American friends say....

Awesome ! as our American friends say….

My Special Woman in front of the Falls !

My Special Woman in front of the Falls !

At this point we were supposed to go on the boat to the falls but they weren’t running yet due to ice still being around , that’s the ice to the side of the falls in the Pictures above and on one of the viewing platforms below . So they took us behind the falls instead . This involved going down an elevator and along a tunnel cut in the rock . The portals are normally used to monitor the water going over the falls , it’s pretty impressive seeing the water from the footpaths but you don’t realise the full force until you go down below !   

A view from the Portals

A view from the Portals

From the Side

From the Side

From the Upper Viewing Platform

From the Upper Viewing Platform , the lower platform still Ice Bound

Now it was off to The Sheraton on the Falls for lunch in the aptly named Fallsview Restaurant….

Now thats what i call a Fallsview !

Now thats what i call a Fallsview !

It was a very nice Buffet , a good choice and as you can see above we had a stunning view ! Afterwards we returned to bus to carry on with the tour , stopping to look at various views along the way including the American Hydro Electric Station below…..

 

Hydro Electric Power Station

Hydro Electric Power Station

After passing the Flower Clock and Fort George we made our way to Niagara on the Lake for a short stay . As tour buses aren’t allowed to stop in the town itself we were dropped in a car park and caught a shuttle bus in . It was a very pretty town that has been well preserved and has a lovely view across the lake .

 

Niagara on the Lake

Niagara on the Lake

Old Fort Niagara , USA

Old Fort Niagara , USA

We had one last stop to make on the way back to Toronto , at a winery . The Niagara area is absolutely crawling with wineries and they produce some stunning wines (as you’ll have gathered from these postings !) . We stopped at the Pillitteri Winery just outside of Niagara on the Lake . We got offered a tasting of one White (Riesling) and one Red ( Cabernet Merlot ) and the legendary Ice Wine ! To say the Ice Wine is sweet is an understatement ! We were told it is 25 on the wine scale….. Both the Red and White were nice but not to our taste And we asked if we could try the Pinot Grigio , this was to our liking and two bottles were purchased ! Boarding the bus for the final time we headed back to Toronto spotting Forty Creek Distillery on the way at Grimsby .

What a stunning day it had been ! Never to be forgotten especially the fantastic Helicopter flight . We freshened up once back at the Hotel and headed for the Epic Restaurant downstairs .We had the Lobster Tagliatelle (Butter Poached Lobster, Double Smoked Bacon, Blistered Asparagus,Parmigiano Reggiano, Chipotle Spiked Lobster Cream ) and of course some local wine ! Once again the food and service were exceptional . We headed off for another drink in the Library Bar before returning to the room for the night .

Monday 5th May 

Our last day in Toronto ! After a slight lie in i headed off to the Queens Quay LCBO to pick up some more wines and Canadian Whisky . On return we packed up our belongings checked out (leaving our cases to be picked up later ) and headed to the Watefront to meet up with Johanna and Charles for one last time and have lunch in the Pearl . Another first for us both , Dim Sum , what a great way to spend lunch ! Fantastic company and Great food , was well impressed with the offerings . We bid our farewells to Johanna and Charles , had a wander around the Shore and then hit the Subway up to Queens Park…..  

The Shore

The Shore

The Shore

The Shore

The Shore

The Shore

Melanie on the Shore

Melanie on the Shore

The Buildings around the Park were very interesting , first thing that sprung to mind seeing this one was ‘Ghostbusters’ ! 

Who ya gonna Call ?

Who ya gonna Call ?

There was a reason for the visit to this area , not to look at the building which has been in the news since we arrived on Friday , not to admire the home of the Provincial Government (now dissolved for an election ) but to pay homage to the building that is featured on the cover of my favourite Album by Canadian Rock Gods Rush , Moving Pictures ! 

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

There was one more thing to do before departing the city for the airport , i’d been told to try a Canadian Legend while here by a few people and i finally got around to it and boy i’m glad i did , Tim Hortons Coffee !

Tim Hortons !

Tim Hortons !

It was one of the best Coffees i’ve ever had and it went down well with the Chocolate Donut ! We headed back to the Hotel , picked up our cases and got a Town Car to the Airport . Remember the earlier story about the security check at Manchester ? Well Toronto was exactly the opposite , joking and laughing , good hearted banter – take note Manchester, even when i set off the Alarm with my belt (Stop laughing Ashok !) We settled down in the Bar / Restaurant next to our gate and had a bite to eat and a drink . Interesting Concept at this place , ordering everything through the iPads mounted on the Table , just a shame in the land of Blackberry they weren’t Playbooks !

Our Plan awaits....

Our Plane awaits….

So at 20 to Midnight we departed Toronto for our overnight flight back to Manchester…….

Once again many thanks to Johanna and Charles for the invite and their fantastic Hospitality and welcome , you made this a special 5 Days for us ! And of course the City and People of Toronto for giving us a great , great time , Slainte !  

All the Photos are available to view at Flickr
Melanie has Photos available to view on her own Flickr Page

Islay Visits…… Go West to Toronto ! Pt1

Last September we were just starting to plan our 2014 visits to Islay when a rather intriguing e-mail popped into our inbox from Johanna Ngoh inviting us to take part in the 2014 Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala , needless to say we accepted and this is our little adventure……..

The first thing i needed to do was get a passport as i have never had one (never been out of the UK ) and that was an experience and a half ! I had to go down to the local office in Durham for an “interview” (not an interrogation as they said at arrival…..) , it is a weird interview , a friendly , nicey nicey interrogation , basically trying to catch you out for being not what you say you are .

So to the trip , our flight was from Manchester , so after work on the 30th April we drove down to spend a night in a hotel beside the Airport .

Thursday 1st May 

The day of departure , my first flight ! I have to say departing from an Airport is not as good as fun as departing from Kennacraig ! Checking in was ok but the people at the security security check really need to lighten up ! (check out the end…..) Why so surly ? We were flying with Air Transat so headed off to our gate to await departure , on the way we stopped off at World of Whiskies and wasn’t impressed with selection or price , i can pick up The Signet for £110 at my local Tesco !

So to my first flight…… I wasn’t too nervous but any nerves i did have vanished as soon as we got into the air , i really enjoyed the take off (i did love roller coasters as a kid…..) and seeing the world from up in the air was fantastic . The Cabin crew on Air Transat were Fantastic and even though the flight was over 7 hours it (excuse the pun….) flew over…..

We arrived at Pearson Mid afternoon and headed for the customs clutching our Declaration form , i thought this bit would be fun , (a) seeing if our bottles had made it through baggage handling and (b) seeing how customs would react to 10 bottles of Single Malt Whisky ? (a) they did and (b) they weren’t particularly bothered or interested ! Just one question for seasoned travellers , is it always such a long walk from the arrival gate to exit  of the airport ? We decided to get a limo from the Airport to the Hotel as it was only $5 more and you may as well arrive in style ! The first view of Toronto are stunning , the Skyscrapers along the Lake Shore , our driver was great , pointing things out and giving us tips for the trip .

We arrived at our Hotel for the stay and we have to say photos don’t do it justice , we were staying at the Fairmont Royal York opposite Union Station……

(Click on photos to see full size )

Fairmont Royal York

We were both trying to think of a way to describe it , sort of ‘Pretty Woman’ meets 1930’s glamourous Hollywood movie hotel  place , Amazing is a pretty good word as well !

Fairmont ReceptionYou get the most beautiful of people stopping here as well…….

Melanie in the Reception area

We were originally staying on the 2nd floor but due to a lack of hot water in the room got moved to the 13th floor on the Friday , it was a bit of a shame as we had a nice view out of the window…..

2014_05_01_View-from-the-Window 

After we freshened up we headed down to one of the many bars in the Hotel to have a drink and a bite to eat , we ended up in The Piper’s Gastropub , Melanie got to try her first Ontario wine ( Crush Pinot Grigio ) and i got to try my first Canadian Whisky (Collingwoods) , Melanie went for the Royal York’s Signature ½ Pound Beef Burger and i went for the Bison Burger , they were , as our American friends would say , Awesome . It was at this point we realised that we were effectively eating after midnight UK time . We have to say the service was fantastic here , the waitress went beyond the call of duty , when she asked us if we wanted dessert Melanie asked about one she’d dropped off at the next table , it was a special the chef done for that regular customer , we decided to pass but 10 minutes later she returned with one……

Pudding   

It was a Chocolate Moose in a Chocolate Cup , Chocolate Ice Cream in a Chocolate Shell served with fresh fruit and a chocolate sauce , How good was it ?

10 mins later

A Few mins Later…..

We then headed up to Library Bar for a drink , while sitting there we got a text from Johanna saying her and Charles were meeting Angus Macraild in the Library bar for a drink…. They were just next to us ! After a good old natter and a few more drinks we called it a night , it was actually the next morning for us (4am UK) and headed back to our room .

Friday 2nd May

Our first full day in Toronto , after a bit of a leisurely lie in we went off for a bit of an  exploration , first off down to the Shore then slightly west via the CN Tower to the Theatre District and finally caught a cab to the Distillery District .

CN Tower

CN Tower

Sculpture at the Rogers Centre

Sculpture at the Rogers Centre

The Distillery District was a beautiful area , lots of great shops and places to eat .

Melanie at the Distillery District Distillery District

In the Distillery District

In the Distillery District

A Spot of Lunch in Pure Spirit

A Spot of Lunch in Pure Spirit

We had Lunch in the Pure Spirit Oyster House and Grill, a very nice bar , luckily we just managed to order lunch before the electricity went off in the District , they did still managed to serve us , we both went for the Pure Spirits Pappardelle (lobster, wild mushrooms, black truffle cream sauce ) and a glass of the Local wine .

Melanie two drinks !

Don’t know where she got this idea from ?

Lunch !

Lunch !

Lunch was superb and the service was excellent (this seems to be the standard in Toronto , maybe most of the UK hospitality trade should take note…..) . After another wander around the area we headed back to the Hotel to change rooms and get ready for a meal out with Johanna and Charles . Not only were we moved it appeared we’d been upgraded room wise……

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

The Lounge Area

The Lounge Area

The Bedroom and Lounge area were now separate and we now had two bathrooms ! After a freshen up we met up with Johanna and Charles who took us to The Keg for a bite to eat with Angus and our old friend Ashok . I went for a 10oz Prime Rib and Melanie went for the Grilled Shrimp , i was surprised how rare looking it was even though i’d asked for medium but it was pure melt in the mouth steak . After much drinking and talking we all headed back to our hotels for ‘Show Day’ .

Saturday 3rd May – Showtime ! 

I’d had a bit of a restless night worrying about my first ever presentation in front of an audience so to relax we done a bit of exploration to the north of the hotel via Osgoode House and the City Hall – where there appeared to be some filming going on and preparations for the next days Marathon .

Melanie at Osgoode House

Melanie at Osgoode House

An LCBO Brown Paper bag

An LCBO Brown Paper bag

After a visit to one of the Legendary LCBO shops We hit a Red Lobster for a spot of lunch , Melanie went for the Ultimate Feast and i went for the Fire-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Scallops , We love our seafood and this place is the ‘clachan a choin’ ! We headed back to our hotel to prepare for the Whisky Gala……

header1

So it was time ! We were picked up from the hotel and taken to the Roy Thomson Hall , i have to say it is a pretty impressive place to have a Whisky Festival ! First up Johanna gave us a tour of the venue showing us where the Islay Lounge would be and then took us down to the room where our Masterclass would be . We spent an hour setting up and then we were ready !

Waiting for the Masterclass

Waiting for the Masterclass

Melanie surveying the scene

Melanie surveying the scene

The Line up !

The Line up !

Gordon at SoT 2014

 

(Photo Courtesy of Johanna Ngoh © Spirit of Toronto )

Johanna introduced us to the Room  and then the First Dram she’d sneaked in , I actually thought it was a Bowmore but it turned out to be a 1950’s White Horse Blend ! No one got it ! We then went onto the Drams i’d fetched across for the tasting , the first 4 were known but i kept the 5th Blind , The format was Johanna introduced each one , then i talked a little about what each dram meant to me and why i’d included it , Melanie interjected with a few personal stories of what different places meant to her on Islay . One person got the blind bottle but we’re not including him as he is a Malt Maniac ! you little cheat Nabil , LOL !

The full line up for the Masterclass was….

  • 1950’s White Horse Blend
  • SMOS 1979 28yo Bunnahabhain
  • Signatory 1978 23yo Port Ellen
  • Ardbeg 1976 27yo Sherry cask 2398
  • My own 4yo Port Charlotte Bloodtub R23

I have to say the hour absolutely flew over ! I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end , i think having Johanna and Melanie at my side helped an awful lot ! The room seemed to enjoy it as well !! We moved upstairs into the Islay Lounge with the remains of these bottles and added a few more……

  • Ardbeg ‘Very Young’ Committee Release
  • Bruichladdich ‘Drambusters’ Valinch 1990 16yo
  • Whiskybroker ‘Islay Malt’ 1990 21yo (Bunnahabhain)
  • Bladnoch Forum Caol Ila 1980 30yo
  • Laphroaig 10yo Caskstrength Batch 005

To say they went down well was an understatement ! We met lots of people from the social media sites including a long time friend from the SOI days , Wendy Harker , glad to finally see you in person Wendy ! We were looking after half the Islay Lounge so i didn’t get a chance to look at the other half , there was also a Whisky and Oyster bar and they seemed to be doing a roaring trade serving fresh oysters with Islay Malts .

Our Supplies ran out with over an hour to go so we got a chance to explore the show and have a bite to eat (great food Johanna !) , we met up with Ashok as well and had a dram with him and Wendy and also got a small gift off Wendy , Some Canadian Bacon for a post show snack (was delicious ) and some Maple Syrup to take home , many thanks Wendy .

Ashok at the show

Ashok at the Show

Relaxing

Relaxing at the show

The Geordie Nation at Spirit of Toronto

The Geordie Nation at Spirit of Toronto

Friends of Amrut !

Friends of Amrut with our Leader !

Thanks to Ashok for the photo !

Though i didn’t manage to try many drams i have to say the Gibsons 18yo was outstanding (a bottle was later purchased….) , well worth hunting down . After the show we headed back to the Fairmont for a post show drink with Johanna , Charles and Angus then headed off to bed for a well earned rest !

I have to thank Johanna and Charles for inviting us over for their excellent Whisky Gala and giving us the chance to share our love of Islay , you have a fantastic show Guys !!!! Also thanks to everyone one at the show for making us feel so welcome and all the kind words expressed to us during the show and later on Facebook and Twitter , i’m glad i didn’t balls it up !

More photos may be published here when i scrounge or pinch them (kidding about the latter !)

To Part Two, the touristy bit  

Christmas 2013 Visit Photographs

Here are the Photographs from the Christmas 2013 Visit…….

(Click on photo to see larger version)

Laphroaig Laphroaig2

Two views of Laphroaig on the Saturday including the new larger Warehouse “name” .

Heron at Bruichladdich Geese

A Heron across the way from Bruichladdich Distillery and the obligatory “Geese” photo .

Buzzard Buzzard2

A Buzzard seen at Bridgend .
Alpaca
One of the Native Animals of Islay……

Heilan Coo Waves

One of my favourites , a Heilan Coo and waves down at Portnahaven .

Cottage Cottage2

The interiors of our place of residence , The Stillmans Cottage , Bowmore Distillery .

Cottage3 Cottage4

Melanie
Melanie looking gorgeous as ever on her way out to the Bridgend Hotel for a meal !

Christmas 2013 Visit Part 3

Sunday 29th December

Woke up to a bit of non-windy non-rainy weather ! Still a bit chilly though……

Went back to the Bridgend Hotel for lunch and had a wee natter to Lorna , Melanie went for the Poached smoke Haddock with Mustard Mash and I went for the Venison Casserole with Sautee Potatoes , very nice it was too ! The afternoon was spent driving around the Rhinns  trying to get the hang of my new Camera , there was plenty of wildlife around today (probably due to the lack of wind) , loads of Buzzards and Geese , the wind did pick up later and the temperature seemed to drop considerably .

We returned to the Cottage to pack up our stuff and settled down for a night in with a few drinks .

Think we might do this again next year , we’ve both really enjoyed it , the islands pretty quiet , an extra night would be most agreeable !

The Photographs….

Christmas 2013 Visit Part 2

Saturday 28th December

A Nice lie in this morning (that’s what holidays are for !) , seeing it was raining when we decided to go for a wander we took a drive down to the South Side of the Island . We went along as far as Kildalton , stopping at a favourite haunt of ours for a wee while (Seal Bay) , you could tell it’s been rough of late , seaweed on any roads close to the shore and the fence has collapsed into the bay just along from Dower House . Not much in the way of wild life , just ducks and geese in seal bay . On the way back we bumped into Mickey (Heads) at Ardbeg Road ends , had a good wee natter with him , the distillery is in silent season and the stillhouse is in bits , repair work going on to the actual stills .

We then stopped off at Laphroaig (only them , Kilchoman and Bruichladdich are open full time) , James kindly let me try the 2013 25yo , absolutely stunning ! While we were in there was a wedding going on , looked like Phil (Gray) was doing the photography , Joanne ( ex-Ardbeg now Bruichladdich) was one of the guests and we managed to catch up with her when she wandered by . When we got back to Bowmore we headed over to Roys for a Coffee/Tea and Cakes . It was so good we had second helpings ! The Lemon Drizzle cake was superb , lovely and moist , luckily we did as Duncan and his wife came in and it was nice to catch up with them !

In the Evening Melanie treated me to a meal out at The Bridgend Hotel , we love eating out here and we weren’t going to be disappointed . We decided to leave the car at home and got a taxi there and back , meant I could have a drink or two……..

For Starters Melanie had the Islay Crab Salad and I went for the Chicken Liver Parfait , for the mains we both went for the same , Pan fried fillet of Sea bass with Smoked Scallops . Absolutely wonderful ! We were both so stuffed that we skipped the desserts and retired to the lounge for Coffee and more drinks . Then it was back to the cottage to loosen the belts and chill out……..

Part Three of the Visit
The Photographs….

Christmas 2013

In the Bleak Mid-Winter…..

Friday 27th December

So we set off for an extra Islay visit this year – we won’t be having our usual Spring trip and won’t be back till summer 2014 , there’s a very good reason which we can’t go into right now…… so we decided to squeeze an extra visit in when we’re both on holiday – staying in the Excellent Bowmore Cottages , this time the Stillmans . Once again it was a 4.30am start , this time in atrocious weather , the forecast wasn’t too good and after the recent spate of ferry cancellations we didn’t hold much hope of getting onto the isle . Fortunately on the way up we got as text saying after the cancellation of the 7am ferry the rest would run to timetable……..

Some say we are creatures of habit , we say we just have traditions on trips to Islay we stick to…… So it was Breakfast in Balloch and Coffee and cakes in Tarbert ! It did get sunny on the way up at one point but we soon got over that when the rain started again . Our ferry would be the aging ‘Isle of Arran’ and it seemed to be having some difficulty with the weather , it’s ramps wouldn’t lie at the right angle in the very high sea (combination of a large swell and the westerly wind I would guess) , they had a go with the rear one , then turned around and had a go with the front one . They eventually decided to put some extra ballast in the nose (they said) and bingo ! We were on !

Assuming our usual positions in the bar , we settled down to a nice smooth crossing ( Melanie  wishes…..) , we also got to say hello to Jim McEwan who is on the ferry , hope the cold gets better soon !

I was going to have a ‘Malt of the Month’  but it was Bowmore 12 , Sooooo went for a Laddie 10 instead .

We eventually got on to the Isle at 4.30pm and headed for our place of residency , the Stillmans Cottage Bowmore Distillery , very nice it is too , probably the best of the 3 Distillery Cottages we’ve stayed in . After sorting out our stuff , getting a few supplies , having a Chinese Takeaway from across the road  and giving the Spa Bath a try , we hit the Lochside Hotel for a few drinks to end the night . Tonights Delights were Caol Ila 12 , Bunnahabhain 18 , Bowmore 15yo Darkest and ‘The Devils cask’ , I was very surprised about the last one as I was expecting to hate it after the recent hype .

We returned to the Cottage to have some well deserved rest after a long day……..

Part Two of the Visit
The Photographs….