I assume that there shouldn’t be any problem getting accommodation, how wrong I am – none of the B&Bs near the square have vacancies – apart from Fournet House, and I’m not paying their prices. Have to get the e-Pad out and check other places on my site. Third time lucky, one place no longer does B&B, Fife Arms is full, but Inveravon can take me tonight – and for next year’s festival. Amazing room – massive bathroom and there’s a tumble drier in there too!
As I suspected the path isn’t going to be easily cycleable all the way – possible, I would say, but some parts are very steep on grass, others very rough. Some might make it! The view over Dufftown are spectacular, then after a bench dedicated to a local doctor, it’s into the woods. Some parts of the path up here are very boggy. The route is between Little Conval and the Knock of Buchromb, and had I followed it all the way would have brought me out a little higher up the road into Aberlour I’d taken yesterday. However, rather than go down into Aberlour, I take the option to follow forestry roads that will bring me out in Glenallachie near the distillery. Some gaps in the trees revealing long distance views of Rothes and Macallan’s new warehouses
Getting down towards Glenallachie – pictures of Ben Rinnes to compare the snow cover to previous days, and of the distillery of course. To avoid the A95 as much as possible, I head through Milton of Edinville and the Benrinnes distillery, where I‘m rewarded with some pictures of the stills, as the shutters to the still room are raised today.
I’ve decided to head down to the Speyside Way and take the path as far as Tamdhu, to see what’s going on there, and get pictures of Knockando with the bike in them. So it’s back past Dailuaine and Imperial beforehand.
“Tamdhu” Station is the most intact of any on the former Speyside line. The quotes are because it was never called Tamdhu in its operational days – it was Knockando. It is however, right outside Tamdhu distillery and owned by the distillery, so the former owners renamed it – and used it as a visitor centre for a while. Although that use is long gone the buildings are intact and have been repainted - with the station signs being re-done in a font to match the new owners’ style. The distillery was re-launched during the festival with a fete on the Saturday, which I was unable to attend. They’ve produced a special bottle to commemorate the event - a 10yo ‘limited’ edition of 1,000 bottles selling at £100, matured in first fill sherry casks. The regular 10yo is a more reasonable £34.95, also sherry matured – the new distillery site says the regular bottle will be available in Waitrose. The only specialist site I’ve seen it on so far is Royal Mile Whiskies.
While I was there the marquee that had presumably been used for the fete was being dismantled, and a large area close by had been cleared and some initial work was going on – for more warehouses(?) I’d not heard about plans for public opening, so I enquired at the General Office and was told that Saturday was a one-off.
Back through Knockando, then past the remains of another old platform on the Speyside Way, overgrown and barely recognisable – apparently it used to be a halt for Knockando House. At Imperial there’s some activity – a lorry has driven on to the site! Back along the Speyside Way to the Mash Tun for a well-earned pint, but then I decide to visit the Fiddichside Inn, forgetting it closes for the afternoon and won’t be open again until 5pm. So cycle round Craigellachie for a while getting some more distillery pics from different angles – Mark Watt’s barbed wire fence is no longer in evidence! And there’s a house in Leslie Terrace called “Finally…”
By the time I’m back at the Fiddichside, it’s open. I wrote some of the rant below for a blog last year that was never published:
The Fiddichside Inn is like nowhere else I've ever had a drink
The Fiddichside Inn survives in a time bubble that allows you to experience how pubs used to be
The Fiddichside Inn is run by Joe, who’s in his 80's
The Fiddichside Inn is a small room divided by a bar
The Fiddichside Inn doesn't serve real ale but does have a range of whiskies
The Fiddichside Inn doesn't chill bottles
The Fiddichside Inn has an outdoor drinking area facing South West
The Fiddichside Inn DOES NOT serve food – this is made clear outside
The Fiddichside Inn will one day force someone to create a website about what it isn't
The Fiddichside Inn has character
The Fiddichside Inn is er er is er well The Fiddichside Inn
The Fiddichside Inn is…
I’d forgotten some of the basic rules – asked for a cold Magners, my request was met with the lager’s cold – I settled for a half! (Last year I thought to ask for ice). But sitting outside in the sun – that’s why you go there, beautiful setting on the banks of the Fiddich (you may have guessed that from its name), just before it joins the Spey – if only the drink matched the location. There were three fishermen outside, who said they’d spotted me when I was by the Mash Tun, and we talked a bit about the Inn, but they were smokers, so I decided food at the Highlander was called for.
Much busier than my previous visit on Wednesday. Dave (?) from Sunderland tells me he’s trying to match Duncan Elphick’s collection of all the Flora and Fauna bottlings. He’s got them all except the rarest four, which includes Speyburn and Royal Brackla. There were 26 altogether – many are no longer Diageo distilleries or have had their F&F bottlings superseded long ago and are therefore increasingly expensive and difficult to find. I didn’t take a picture of the Highlander collection, so this will have to do. Dave’s long-suffering partner, baby and dog were outside!
After eating and enjoying a G&M cask strength Imperial (again) and a Signatory Clynelish – both bottled for foreign whisky clubs, I headed back towards the Fiddichside, but the sun was too low, so straight back to Dufftown – to B&B, I don’t have to go all the way up the hill! Downside to that comes next when I realise that the Royal Oak is no longer within (what I regard) as walking distance.
Despite the Festival being over, there are still plenty of whisky lovers to talk to – some including a group of Germans have only just arrived in Dufftown.
Time for a not too late night.
All pictures from Tuesday are on Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633438295203/