Tomintoul and Glenlivet, Scotland
Today felt like an introduction to Scottish culture. We started the morning by having a “Full Scottish Breakfast” in our hotel in Aberdeen. It’s definitely different than what we’re used to for breakfast. The bacon is really more what we would call ham, and I’ve never had mushrooms or tomatoes outside of an omelette during the morning hours, so it was mostly new foods, especially the black pudding. I wouldn’t call either of us super adventurous eaters, so this one was a little tough for us to try especially because we already knew what it is made out of. We both tried it and it honestly tasted better than either of us thought it would. I actually think we would have liked it if we didn’t know what it was made out of. If anybody is curious what a Full Scottish Breakfast is (at least at our hotel in Aberdeen) it was a poached egg, a hash brown, a sausage, a rasher of bacon, some baked beans, a slice of black pudding, 1/2 of a baked tomato, and some mushrooms served with toast. It’s definitely filling and very good if you’re not skittish about your food.
If you want to see our reactions to trying black pudding, take a look at these videos below:
After breakfast, we left Aberdeen and headed to Tomintoul to check out the Tomintoul Highland Games! It was definitely smaller than we expected, we were imagining sort of like a Renaissance Fair sized event, but everything fit on a field about the size of a high school football field. There was a fenced off field in the middle with sport, music, and dancing competitions and then a circle around the outside of the space with craft and food tents. There were some fun games for kids to enjoy and prize-winning games for both kids and adults. We even saw a bottle of whiskey which would go to whoever pulled the right key for a cabinet out of a bag! We enjoyed watching the junior bagpiping competition, the highland dancing, and the throwing the caber and throwing the hammer. It was really interesting (and sometimes scary since the judges would stand right in the line of fire) to see how far the competitors could throw. We really enjoyed each time the various bagpipe and drum bands would come onto the field to perform. It was a great experience and we were happy we got this little bit of Scottish culture on our trip. The festival lasts all day, but we spent about three hours there and that is enough time to get a really good idea of what the event is.
Here are some videos of some of the athletes completing:
~We had some time before our dinner reservation in Burghead, so after the Highland Games, we decided to stop by Glenlivet. Our car’s GPS brought us in the back way through what were some pretty tight little roads, a little scary, but definitely a beautiful drive! We were afraid for a while that we weren’t going the right way, but we did arrive at Glenlivet and were lucky to be there just in time for the 3:30PM tour and they had a couple of spots left! The tour was great, our tour guide, Chris, was very knowledgeable about the entire process and explained it all to us. We loved seeing the entire process from how the barley is mashed to where it’s put in barrels. We learned that the shape of the stills affects the flavor of the whiskey (we had no idea.) Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take pictures during the tour, so we only have a few pictures from Glenlivet, but we did get to try three different whiskeys. The first we tried in one of the barrel rooms (straight from the cask), the second was the 15 year, and the third was the 18 year. If you’re the designated driver for 50 pence a piece, you can put your samples into little bottles to take home. If you’re not driving and interested in tasting more whiskeys afterwards, they can help you up at the bar. We didn’t do that, so we’re not sure what the price is for that one. There is of course a gift shop on your way out as well. I definitely recommend this distillery. Kim and I are mostly bourbon drinkers, and we both thought the 15 year old was the best one. The tour was only £10 each which isn’t bad even if you factor in the exchange rate! It’s our first whiskey distillery tour, so we can’t rate it against the others, but it’s in a beautiful area of Scotland (are there any areas that aren’t beautiful?) and we really enjoyed ourselves (even the sober one!) ~ Annette