Thursday, October 30, 2014

Waterfalls, whiskey and crannogs


Short drive to Acharn a few miles away on a lovely sunny morning and a walk to see the Falls of Acharn. Quite a steep climb up the side of the gorge, but we got some great views of the Loch.

When you get close to the falls, there's a "hermits cave"  which you go through to get a fantastic view of the falls. Not really a cave, but a man made folly built a few hundred years ago to make the view a bit more spectacular. They really were fantastic, there's been a lot of rain recently and the colours were fantastic.

We carried on the walk up to the top of the gorge, then crossed a wooden bridge to get a view of the top of the falls.

Back down the other side, really loving the autumnal colours.

Lunch at the cottage - good old cheese and Hendos on toast!!

Then it was off to Aberfeldy to the distillery there.

They make Aberfeldy Single Malt, and the very famous Dewars Blended Whiskey. I'd bought Stuart a special tour for his birthday, and we had a great time.

  With our own guide, we got a personal tour of the distillery, which included a special tasting from the cask - a 26 year old, 55% proof whiskey. Amazing. I had to give most of mine to Stuart as I was driving!

Then it was off to the blending room, where Stuart was helped through the process of blending his own whiskey into a specially engraved bottle. Just like being a chemist again!  The result was a very pleasant blend - but with a strength of 58% to be saved for a special occasion. He sealed the top with wax, so it should keep well!

The visit was excellent, and I really recommend it.

Back home.  A couple of aperitifs, and we ate in. We always revert to comfort food when we're away, and so it was jacket potatoes, brocolli in cheese sauce, and pork chops. Lovely. Followed by a triple sacking on The Apprentice! And I knitted a scarf, which I was quite proud of till I cast off, and then realised I'd dropped a stitch half way up - will have to work out how to recover it!


Woke to a miserable, rainly day, so didn't bother to get up early! 
After a late breakfast, off to the Scottish Crannog Centre which was very close on the edge of the Loch. Extremely interesting visit, where there's the only genuine reconstructed crannog in Scotland.

Demonstration of various Iron Age skills including wood turning and fire making.

I decided to walk back to get some exercise, and although it was damp, it was very atmospheric. Misty, and still beautiful.

After lunch of cheese and hendos on toast, again, we set off on a late walk from the cottage to Taymouth Castle.

Lovely colours, a nice path, and mild, damp weather.

The castle has been empty for some time, but apparently is being renovated at the moment as a luxury hotel.

By about 4 it had got quite misty, so we set off back.

Just in time for a whiskey mac, and a nice relax before a meal in the on site restaurant. I have taken to wedging my iPad behind the taps of the bath so I can have a long soak watching a video (at the moment The Big Bang theory). I'm sure its going to end in tears....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Water, weddings and waterfalls

Our Autumn week away this year is in Scotland, at the Kenmore club and the end of Loch Tay. As we could only get in Monday to Monday, we decided to break the journey and do it in two 3 hour drives, so set off on Sunday and drove to Gretna. A66 road from Scotch Corner was closed for high sided vehicles (although we saw loads), and it was very windy! I hadn't realised that Gretna and Gretna Green were two different places, so we were a couple of miles from the famous blacksmith's wedding place. But it was a lovely hotel and I was determined to get as many steps in as possible, so went for a walk in the pouring rain, and the dark, round a quite dismal Gretna.... A good meal, including haggis, cheered us up no end!


Our twelfth wedding anniversary!  Silk is the appropriate gift, so I got Stu silk socks and a DVD set of Silk, and I got an engraved whiskey glass in a silk case and some chocolate.  Set off straight after breakfast and called into the real Gretna Green for a look at the famous blacksmiths anvil.

Then set off for the long drive. Stopped for coffee just before Glasgow and I took over the driving - it was pretty horrendous with heavy rain and wind, and lots of spray. But got to Aberfeldy in time for a late lunch, and then to our resort. Soon settled in with our cards, presents, and my flowers which I brought up from Sheffield.

Went for a walk round to ground to get some steps in - found a good circuit by the Loch, but in the pouring rain again, while Stuart swam, and then I went into get warm. A few lengths swimming, and then some time in the jacuzzi! Lovely meal of venison in the resort restaurant, and back for a nightcap.


Mainly waterfalls!  The loch and river are very high, and there's been a lot of rain in the last week, so we decided to go and look at some waterfalls. On the way from Aberfeldy we'd spotted one, and went back to look at it. Quite spectacular.

Then we drove along the north side of Loch Tay to Killin past some spectacular views. And by then the sun had come out, so some lovely autumn colours.  In Killin there was a church which I couldn't help thinking of as a "tin tabernacle', and I'm sure my Mum and Dad will know what I mean!

Walked through Killin where the river was very high, and bits were flooded, but there were some great photo opportunities.

Finally got to the  Falls of Dochart which were amazing. Not huge high falls, but more of a gentle slope But a real raging river which went on for ages. Very difficult to convey in photos, but I could have watched and listened to it for ever.

After watching the falls for a while, we had lunch in the pub by the side of them. I had cullen skink - one of my favourite soups. Smoked haddock, potatoes and cream. Yum.  Then came back out to watch the falls again, and a nice round walk back to the car along the river.

Lovely drive back, and then a visit to a shop across the road from our resort where I was amused to see "Broons" Christmas hampers.

 Relaxing time in the apartment, predinner drinks, long hot soak in the bath, and across the road to a local bar for a meal. More haggis!-

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Harrogate with the Girls

Annual girls weekend away last weekend, and this time we went to Harrogate. Lovely town house by the station, so after a quick, uneventful journey there, we were able to leave our bags and head for the Station Tap to get the weekend off to a good start.

Then we had a walk round town, where there was still a lot of evidence of the start of the Tour de France

Lunch was in a lovely pub, and then back to the house to unpack and wait for the Tesco's order which was mainly heavy stuff, ie booze. Off to the shops for food, and then a lovely relax on a sofa which was very comfy but difficult to get on and off. Lots of knitting was in evidence later, but not when this was taken!

A good home cooked meal, some alcohol was taken, and a quick trip to the tap again before bedtime

Saturday up bright and early for a bus to Harlow Carr Garden. First thing we had to do was have a cup of tea and a cake in Betty's tea room, and what a good cake it was too. I think this counted as one of my five a day!

The garden was lovely, and there was a set of new willow sculptures. This tickled me as it was called The Hare-y Bikers...

So much colour, whoever had planted it had really thought about what it would look like at all times of the year.

We walked back though the pine woods

And then through Valley Park. After lunch in Harrogates oldest pub which is still lit by gaslight

We had a look in the Pump Room Museum, and round some of the lovely shops.

Back to the house for our famous Christmas dinner - chicken, pheasant all the trimmings, with of course a hedgerom cocktail to start. elderflower cordial, Prosecco and sloe gin floated on top. 

Sunday was  a leisurely day.   We did the town trail from a map, and walked tound all of the Harrogate sights, with Beka as tour leader

Taking ina nice coffee shop, and a pub lunch of course on the way. We even visited Weatherspoons, whch is rather spectacular in the old Winter Gardens.

 A lovely meal in Jamies Italian to finish the day off. Monday we had to be out earlier, and had to put our bags somewhere, so we utilised a cycle shed to much amusement form us. Spent the morning having coffee, looking round the shops and a lesurely lunch before coming home. Another fab weekend with the girls!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Spent a week in Orlando recently at a conference, and as usual made the most of the spare time we had. The first day off we had a few of us hired a car and drove to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Nearly two hours drive, made all the more exiting by being in a left hand drive automatic car on the wrong side of the road with 6 lane highways and exits that go off to the right and left! Only two of us had driving licences, and I was the only one who'd driven over there before, so I took the first leg and drove there. Luckily we had a sat nav or I think it might have taken us considerably longer....

Big Cat Rescue is just what it says - a rescue centre for big cats which have been rescued. It's a fantastic place, but it was very hard hearing the stories of where they have rescued the cats from - abandoned pets, circuses, entertainment venues, concrete cages not big enough for them to turn round in...  Many of them have been declawed badly so have deformed feet. But, all of them are well cared for here, and spend the last years of their life being well looked after.

We arrived just after lunch and checked in for our keeper tour.

The first thing we did was make some "enrichment" for the cats - filling bags and tubes with strong smelling spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and catnip, or spraying them with perfume. The cats love them, and roll over on them and rip them to pieces - just like my cats do with catnip!

It was great going round with the keepers. There is no contact with the cats, so in order to make sure they can look at their paws, bellies etc, they train them with a piece of meat on a stick to stand up, open their mouths and show their paws.  The first cat we saw was a snowcat, very small, very cute, but very fierce! 

We also saw cougars, servals, bobcats, leopards, lions, tigers, and lots more. All in very big enclosures - bigger than they look in these photos as there are many enclosures joined together by tunnels.

The tigers were definitely my favourite. The last picture is of Nikitta, a lioness who was recused from a drugs den, where she had been kept as a 'guard lion"! Bit of a surprise to the police when they broke in....

Half way round it rained, and we had to put on our fetching ponchos

and Nikitta refused to come out, looking at us as if we were mad standing in it!

A really good day, spoiled only by two insect bites I got which over the next two days swelled up to about 6 inches in diameter, to the point where friends were threatening to take me to hospital. But  luckily they went down as quickly as they had swelled up!

The other free day we had was spent at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It was so quiet, couldn't believe it. Went on my favourite Superman ride first, and instead of queueing for an hour, we were on in 5 minutes, so went straight round and on it again.

I love the park, and prefer it to Disney. I'm not a roller coaster fan, so gave the big ones a miss, especially the Incredible Hulk:

Since I last went, they've developed the Harry Potter attraction complete with Hogwarts and Hogsmeade

Fabulous attention to detail in the shops - the owls in the post office were animatronic and moved...

There was also a Harry Potter ride - one of the best I've been on - difficult to explain. A simulation where you felt you were flying and taking part in a game of Quidditch!

Of course we went on the obligiatory get wet ride where we dropped hundreds of feet (I could be exaggerating) in a log flume

But since I was last there they've installed people dryers. Not that it made much difference to us

Just as we were leaving the heavens opened, and it rained so hard we couldn't move. Luckily we were in a Margarita bar watching it...