Heading North


Bags packed, breakfast eaten then we headed north from the Highlander inn towards Cawdor Castle. This is a truly magnificent castle and home of the Cawdor family for 600 years. The Castle was immortalised as the fictional home of the Thane of Cawdor in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and understandably so because the tower house castle has such gravitas and standing in its location, which includes very large beautiful gardens. The section visitors enjoy is furnished with period furniture and some excellent art works. I found this castle one of the highlights of our trip to Scotland. We ended our trip, of course with a visit to the castle café for coffee and scones!

From Cawdor we visited the battlefield site of Culloden fought in April 1746. This was a horrific battle with great cruelty and death. There is nothing to be celebrated about war; the monument manages to leave that lasting impression.

We left in a very different mood to when we arrived. We went from Culloden to a nearby Clootie Well. These are wells or springs, almost always with a tree growing beside them, where strips of cloth or rags have been left, usually tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing ritual. I suspect some of the clooties would tell pretty sad stories.

We visited only one distillery today, but it was one of the best. Glenmorangie started life in 1730 as a brewery, but in 1843 Bill Matheson bought it and converted it to a distillery. In 1977 development pressures put the security of the Tarlogie Spring under threat resulting in Glenmorangie acquiring 600 acres to protect their water rights. In 2009 they increased their Still numbers to 12, this gives them a large production capacity, in modest sized buildings. The Stills are the tallest ones in Scotland, which Glenmorangie claim allows only the lightest and purest spirit to reach the condensers. Good quality whisky distilleries are valuable assets; in 2004 Glenmorangie was sold to French company Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton for a staggering 300 million pounds.

Their whiskies are very light displaying the cask character more-so than any other distillery I can think of. The first one we tasted was the well named Nectar D’Or, finished in a Sauternes Cask and the sweet grapy character of the wine was very prominent. The nose was jammed full of citrus, and yes orange characters. It was the most interesting, if not best light sweet whisky I have tasted. The next we tasted was the 10YO, which exhibited similar characters to the Nectar D’Or, but the Sauterne characters were replaced with rich vanilla. A really fine 10YO. Last we tasted the 12YO, finished in Oloroso Sherry Butts. Again the backbone was light but high quality, the sherry characters of sultana and cinnamon came to the front. If my desert island had only one distillery’s whisky washed ashore I would probably pick Glenmorangie. Their marketing relies heavily on Celtic runes which gives their top line range a real hint of class.

Tonight we stayed in the Golspie Hotel. The unseasonal warm weather was giving them problems and the place was like a sauna. We walked into Golspie for a beer in an otherwise abandoned pub then went back to our hotel for dinner. The serves were huge, so after dinner we went for a walk. We were well north and were able to sit and watch the sunset despite it being late in the evening.