Ghàidhealtachd

Showpiece Event

For various reasons it has not been possible for me to take a longer break this month (September ’22). The best I have been able to manage was 2 nights away in the Highlands*.

That plan had been set up back in July when I bought a ticket for the Camanachd Cup final held in Kingussie (near Aviemore) on 17 September. It had to be changed at the last minute when my accommodation fell through (more on that another time, perhaps) and I was lucky to find a cottage in Archiestown (on Speyside) for a couple of nights.

Yes, shinty…

I have never played the sport. I have been to see my local team (Aberdour, in Fife) a couple of times over the summer, but most of the teams are based in the Highlands and Islands so it is not a sport which I can get involved with as a spectator in any serious way.

But then watching sports events – major and less so – has taken me to a wide variety of places. Ice hockey in Sweden most recently. Rugby in Ireland and France. Football in Germany and Turkey. Horse racing in Ireland and France.

Yes, Kingussie…

Mostly I enjoyed Kingussie v Lovat, with the home team winning 3-1 eventually.

The Dell, Kingussie

The Dell is not exactly an arena, so viewing was a bit tricky at times. People putting up umbrellas did not help.

In any event the sport was only ever intended to be a tiny part of my 3 days away. I broke my drive north to Kingussie with coffee and delicious croissants in Blair Atholl. To walk off the calories I hiked up to the Falls of Bruar just north of the village.

Falls of Bruar

Then I had a picnic lunch at Ruthven Barracks (close to Kingussie) before the shinty.

Ruthven Barracks

By the time I reached my cottage in the early evening, all I wanted was food and to put my feet up.

My Sunday involved visiting cousins and friends at Findhorn on the Moray Firth. We messed about with/in boats a bit, and sat in the sun just chewing the fat. If you can sit in the sun in Scotland in September, you grab it with both hands and savour every moment.

Findhorn Bay

Much of all this was about avoiding the media as much as possible. I have been a republican for 50+ years, so you can imagine. That Monday was the crescendo, of course. I went hiking for a few hours and then drove home. I did not see a single minute of the medieval nonsense.

My hiking was on the Speyside Way, very close to Archiestown – about 7.5 miles (12km) I reckon. The path mostly follows the line of the former railway, and Tamdhu Distillery has done a good job of renovating and maintaining the former station.

Tamdhu

About 200m further on is the distillery itself, and the vents blast the smell of fermenting goodies out onto the path. I must admit I lingered for a wee while at that spot. I also passed Knockando Distillery (nice aroma, but not as good as Tamdhu) and Dalmunach Distillery (hermetically sealed to keep passing walkers safe) on my wee hike.

Dalmunach

Dalmunach Distillery was built in 2014, and is proof that the product does not need to come from a 19th century building. I quite like its combination of new with old. It is owned by Pernod Ricard, and I think its output goes into the Chivas Regal blends. I was intrigued by the flags at the front gate. The company’s flag, the French tricolour and the Scottish saltire.

Multinational

An ideal and stylish combination.

[* Gaelic for “Highlands” is “Gàidhealtachd”.]

ⓒ iain taylor, 2022

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