Friday, August 2, 2013

Islay, Part II

So, dear readers, when I last left you I had shared stories about our first few days in Scotland, particularly on the island of Islay.  We stayed on Islay almost a week and I can't tell you how much I loved, loved, loved this island.  I didn't think that I was going to like it as much as I did, mostly because all Jim had talked about pre-trip were the numerous whiskey distilleries on the island (and I don't like whiskey).  Well, I guess I have to eat my words because did encounter one whiskey that I like -- Laphroaig's Quarter Cask.
I discovered this whiskey when we did a "Water to Whiskey" experience at the Laphroaig Distillery.  Basically what happens here is that you start by going to the water source of the whiskey and end with the whiskey being taken out of the casks.  And the cool thing is that you get to participate in everything!  

So at the beginning of the day here we were (as group of 6) walking to the water source with our Laphroaig guide:


At the water source, we had a nicely packed picnic:
Later in the day, both Jim and I got the chance to cut some "peat," an important part of the whiskey process for Islay distilleries.  The peat gives the whiskey its unique earth-y taste.

I didn't get pictures of the whole experience because along the way we were also getting little drams of whiskey (and the peat field is where I realized that I liked the Quarter Cask and our guide was more than happy to keep filling my glass!).  We toured the distillery and got a close up look at the whole process of making whiskey culminating in us tasting three casks and then choosing one to fill up with our own bottle to take home!

So I guess the moral to the story here is that maybe you might up liking something that you never thought you would like!  (and there has certainly proven true in my recent appreciation of coffee!).

One more experience at Islay I need to metion -- Jim and I hiked the Mull of Oa (the "a" in this word is not pronounced).  Once home to over four hundred people who were eventually cleared of the land because sheep and cows were deemed more economically viable for the land (there is a whole story here), Oa is now home to the American Monument, a Washington-Memorial-like statue commermorating the 266 Americans who drowned when the HMS Tuscania  was torpedoed 7 miles off the coast of this penninsula in 1918.  It isn't the memorial itself which is so awe inspriuring (or the long mile uphill hike) -- the beauty is in the desolate beauty of seeing two coastlines on each side of you meet together.  Here are some professional shots:

Jim and I brought a picnic lunch with us and ate it at the steps of the memorial and then hung around for a bit and took pictures.  No one was there while we were in the area for a few hours.  I think that isolation adds something to the beauty (though as you can tell from the pictures above, I did have a little fear about falling -- keep in mind we were quite isolated with no chance of getting any help if one of us stumbled).

I tried to show the contrast of what Oa looked like in person versus the book but that didn't work -- note the cheeky photo below!
Jim walking around taking pictures while I sat on the grass so I wouldn't fall!
Oa is the one reason I would want to come back to Islay.  The pictures do no justice to this place -- it was just simply stunning (as in "I want to cry this is so beautiful").

We left Islay by ferry, arrived back in Kennacraig (where we had taken the ferry coming in to Islay), and then pointed our little Fiat rental towards Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands (on the southern tip of Loch Ness).  More about that adventure tomorrow ....

Cheers, Dianna

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