I headed up to Scotland for a week over New Years 2016 – 2017 with my parents, my brother Adam and his girlfriend, Diana. We went to Aviemore for three days and then back down to Edinburgh for another three days for Hogmanay – the Scottish New Years celebration.
After a considerable amount of trouble collecting our rental car at Edinburgh airport, we finally headed off up North and after an hour stopped in Perth for lunch at a lovely Wetherspoons in an old converted bank. We got a bit lost heading out and ended up driving down country lanes for a few hours, which was actually great because the Scottish countryside is beautiful.
We arrived in Aviemore as it was getting dark and after collecting some groceries, checked into our rental home in the Silverglades. It’s a really nice resort and all the homes come with a full kitchen and all facilities. After dinner and a few too many whiskeys, Adam, Diana and I headed out to the local pub where we met some Brits from Hertfordshire. They were almost as drunk as me and quite funny – we kept getting into arguments over whether we were cheating at pool or not!
The next day we headed up the Cairngorms Mountain to see what there is to do. We found a reindeer tour and went up a freezing cold windy mountain trail to walk with and feed the reindeer. I didn’t actually feed any because it was too cold to take my hands out my pockets, but I got a lot of photos somehow.
Then we walked through a bunch of wet ground and snow, got our feet wet, took photos of a bridge, had a snowball fight and finally made it back to the car to warm up. Warm, dry and cozy we drove up to the top of Cairngorms Mountain and went to check out the ski and snowboard conditions. To be fair it wasn’t great – despite freezing temperatures and a heavy wind, there was barely any snow and only a few slopes open, maintained by the snow canons. We settled in for a typical ski resort type lunch at the small cafe and then went for a long, freezing hike up the mountain into a horrible mist and gale force winds. It was freezing and horrible but made for some great photos! After finally descending the arctic-like mountain we drove home, stopping for a quick pint at the Highland Inn pub.
The next morning I was thinking of trying out some snowboarding on the slopes, but since the snow conditions still bad I decided against it and joined the others for a whiskey tour at Dalwhinnie Distillery. Luckily for us they were doing free tours all of December, so we got a full tour of the entire distillery, including a tasting of two whiskys. It was quite interesting to see the whole process of how whisky is made, the vats and potstills, and the thousands of old oak barrels it’s all stored in for 15 years. Then we went for a crap lunch and took a thousand photos of a really old bridge that was built to carry corpses over a river… for some reason. Looked pretty though.
On our last day in the Highlands we packed up and checked out of the house, then headed up North to check out the The Glenlivet distillery and Braemar Castle. On the way we stopped to take some photos of the Avon Bridge and Craggenmore distillery. Then we drove on to Glenlivet but missed the turning as it wasn’t signposted and, deciding not to double back, continued to the tiny town of Tomitoul which is famous for ice cream and The Whiskey Castle.
We had some coffee, cake and ice cream and I tasted a small batch whiskey that was matured in an old red wine cask and was from one of only 127 bottles ever made. It was okay.
Next was on to Braemar Castle, which like most things this time of year was closed to visitors, but we still walked around and took some great photos from the outside, and then did the finally drive back to Edinburgh and dropped off the car.
The first night in Edinburgh we went to watch the torchlight procession and fireworks on Calton Hill. It was very packed so we couldn’t get onto the hill and didn’t have a great view of the fireworks, but they were very short anyway. The procession was interesting though and I got some good photos.
Then we walked through town to the old section and went to a pub called Bannerman’s, which my Mom, my brother and I had all visited together 7 years ago when we were last in Edinburgh. It hadn’t changed much and we made a funny comparison picture with one of the old photos of Adam. It was already getting late and didn’t want to be tired tomorrow so we headed home after one pint.