When we first set out to visit 12 arbitrary distillers all owned by the same mutli-national conglomerate, we knew there would be a few that would be hard to get to. But that in fact was largely the point, by setting aside these twelve distilleries as a goal we would take the effort to go places we may have overlooked. As a result we fell in love with Islay and the Speyside and dragged every visitor we had off Scotland’s winding roads whether they liked whisky or not.
With just two weeks left in Scotland, we looked at our list and were surprised by what remained. It wasn’t the islands left, but the two distilleries north of Inverness and the one closest to us just outside of Edinburgh. Two trips that would stretch us the farthest north and the farthest south we have been in Scotland.
Now our time in St Andrews is quickly growing to a close and we are short on both time and money, but a goal is a goal. And really, we would take any excuse to go up through the Highlands just one more time.
Thankfully, our friends Becky and Jared were easily convinced into joining us because the trip wouldn’t have been the same without them. I think the key selling point was Jared’s recent enthusiasm for wild camping. In Scotland, with only a few exceptions and a few vague guidelines, any open land is fair game for camping. No permits necessary. This means that as long as you have a tent, Scotland’s rural north is free for the night.
I was skeptical. The last time we tried to camp there were large rocks involved and an emergency shed. But, oh man is Scotland beautiful, and there is something so freeing about scouring the hills looking for the perfect spot, and then just going. We drove out along Loch Brora to a small grove of trees surrounded by fields FILLED with deer. Like, we thought that they had to be domesticated because there was no way they all could just be here.
We had a dram and watched the sky get slightly darker. It doesn’t really get completely black any more. For instance, right now, it is almost 11pm and the sky is still light blue.
It was 36 hours of Scotland’s small villages, wide green hills, and unexpected fairy tale castles in the middle of nowhere.
It was about 6:30 when we pulled up to Dunrobin castle. There was no one around, so we just let ourselves in. Parts of the castle date to the 15th century, but most of it is 18th and 19th. It is the historic and present home of the Duke of Sutherland. During the day they have falcon shows. I can’t overstate how entirely out of nowhere this castle appears from large swaths of farmland. I wanted to camp right across the road just so we could wake up to the view, but I’m not sure the duke would have appreciated that.
In terms of our “destinations,” some of the scotch was amazing and some of it was just half-way decent, but the whole trip was all beautiful. Another widely successful and largely unplanned road trip where Jeff managed to deftly navigate Highland roads! We are lucky to have people who don’t bat an eye at being with us in a car for 10 hours in a 36 hour period.