Hoot and a Holler!

Well, it's about dang time I get back into the blogosphere and update. Did ya miss me? I missed you guys. The more I blog, the more I enjoy it. Funny how you can follow someone's blog, a person you've never ever met, yet get to know them so well that you feel like you're friends. You never get into a fight or get mad that they didn't call you back. And most of them have beautiful pictures, my favorite part of any good blog. ;)


Needless to say, the reason I've been MIA is Mike's parents and younger brother arrived in Scotland! They came in last Wednesday and we wasted no time showing them around Aberdeen, squeezing in a trip to Inverness, visiting Balmoral Castle (where the Queen lives 6 weeks out of the year) and taste testing some Royal Lochnagar whisky—some of the most exclusive in the world! We had some great meals, lots of laughs and enjoyed live music on two separate occasions.

Our one-night train trip to Inverness was great, Mike and I have been there several times now but we try to keep it fresh. This particular visit we rented an SUV... gasp!!! (It was a giant upgrade from the mini Nissan Micra we have in Aberdeen.) We drove around in luxuriuos spacious comfort to see some of the pretty scenery Loch Ness (Lake Ness) has to offer, but alas we never did spot Nessie. The highlight of the trip, for me anyway, was a visit to Dores Inn. Ahhh, I love this place. It was only my second visit, but you know how something just hits you right the first time? This is one of those.

It’s the cutest little inn, right on the edge of Loch Ness with a backdrop of gray-blue mountains and grassy hills, just beginning to turn a fresh spring’s green. (In the picture above, we are standing behind the restaurant. It's that close to the water!) I have not found any other establishment that serves as good a steak and Guinness pie as this place! We all ordered the yummy dish then settled in with our drinks and a Farmer’s Board appetizer: local cheeses, meats, smoked salmon and fresh bread for the neighbourhood bakery. That’s what I like to call locally sourced.

After a drive round more of the lake—and spotting the castle where Mike and I had ridden by on horses back in September during our anniversary trip—we returned the car and freshened up at the hotel. Mike and I’s first room had smelled like smoke (um, hello, there was an ash tray on the dresser) so we can relocated and upgraded. Hello elaborate Victorian bed and Jacuzzi tub! It was two firsts for me: I’ve never slept in a bed that had curtains round the sides and I’ve never used a Jacuzzi tub. Well, three firsts I guess, because I also learned how much bubble bath you should not put in a Jacuzzi tub. Apparently the jets produce colossal amounts of bubbles from a small dose—very deceiving. I was standing outside the tub in horror as the wall of bubbles grew, reaching waist height, before I shut the whole thing off and started over. I had to use the shower head to deflate the dang thing then refill the tub. After that, it was bliss. I want one... especially now that I know about the bubble rule.


Our evening’s entertainment was bloody good, we had a table reserved at Hootenanny, a place known for it's pubby atmosphere and great live music. We took my mom and step-dad there during their visit in December and learned its best to call ahead and book your seat! One delicious Thai food dinner later and the five of us were sipping fresh drinks and stomping our feet on the beer-stained wooden floor while the fiddle, the guitar and the accordion played. We left when the lights came on.

I enjoyed one departing bubble-less soak in the jacuzzi tub the next morning before we checked out and hopped on the train back to Aberdeen. There must be a continous cloud of gray that hovers over that place, because every time we leave it the sun comes out. We spent Friday lounging around at the flat and I made my famous Guinness Stew. Mmm mmm good.

You know at the circus that little bitty car that drives out into the ring and, like, 20 clowns pile out? That's pretty much how we were on Saturday. All five of us squished into the Micra for a quick road trip out to Balmoral Castle to pay Her Majesty a visit. Okay, she may not have been there but we still took a look around her house. Did you know she only uses it six weeks out of the year? In July and early August. Must be nice to have a castle as your "summer house" but then again I've lived in Scotland long enough... give me a beach anyday.

It was really grand all the same, just wish the gardens had been in bloom. But with this very chilly spring we're having (hello, it snowed in April!) things are just taking awhile to come alive. It started raining on us half way through but we were able to complete the tour, even popping in for a look at the Grand Ballroom and several of the Queen's elaborate dresses she's worn over the years. If she ever goes for a walk on the castle grounds she wears a tartan skirt, blouse, sweater and cardigan, neckerchief, head wrap and brogies (shoes). All that just for an afternoon stroll. Royalty must be a lot of work.

Prior to the castle, however, was my favorite part of the trip. I had packed a picnic lunch so we chowed down at a patio table outside the Royal Lochnagar distillery (in the company of the distillery house cat, Nigel) before our tour began. Though Mike and I have visited a few distilleries since arriving in Scotland, this one was especially informative thanks to the knowledgable tour guide.

From Wikipedia: The first Lochnagar distillery was burnt down in suspicious circumstances in 1824 and a replacement again burnt down in 1841. In 1845 John Begg built the "new" Lochnagar. The distillery was awarded its Royal Warrant in 1848 when John Begg invited Prince Albert to visit the distillery from the nearby Balmoral, the Queen’s residence in the Highlands. The next day the distillery was visited by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children. Today Royal Lochnagar is owned by Diageo, and the distillery produces a relatively small amount of whisky, most of which is used in Johnnie Walker black and blue label.
The tour guide told us about 80% is used for the Johnnie Walker labels and only 20% of the distillery's whisky is then made into the Royal Lochnagar Single Malt. Our wee dram at the end of the tour was really smooth and delicious. The brand is one of the hardest to find whiskies in the world, so we made sure to snatch up a bottle before we left.

That evening concluded with dinner at Ferryhill—we always get the savoury bisque-like Cullen Skink Soup. This time I tried the Chorizo Chilli Pasta, which was also good. Then we proceeded on an evening's tour of Union Street, complete with some crazy fundraising parade for the local university. Most of our time was spent at O'Neils enjoying the live Irish music, but we managed to stop by for a drink at a couple other places before calling it a night.

Sunday I made a huge spaghetti lunch with butternut squash meat sauce and garlic and parmesan broccolini and asparagus. We ate to our heart's content, got everybody some clean laundry and watched Iron Man in preparation for seeing Iron Man 2 that evening. (Loved it!!! Robert Downey Jr gets me everytime. We hung out till the end of the credits this time, and there was a special snippet at the end. I didn't really get it, but apparently it's setting up a sequel which will include comic book legend, Thor.)

We also took a ride out to Stonehaven to show them Dunnottar castle, although it was extremely windy and cold. The last time we were there was with my own parents in December, and the walkway was completely frozen over! I was grateful for the lack of ice and the green grass but the wind bit right through our gloves and jackets so we didn't last long.

After a late night of packing the Bells up and looking through our pictures of London and Paris, we finally hit the sack completely exhausted. They were up early for their flight back to London, where Mark will depart for Houston, and we meet up with Mike's parents in Switzerland on Thursday. We can now all say we've survived and enjoyed a Bell Family Vacation!

1 comment:

  1. GREAT post!! Again, I feel like I just made the trip myself through your perfect narrating and pictures!! Did you know we have a jacuzzi tub? Brand New.....it is in the storage building in Brownwood and we have toyed with the thought of putting it in the main bathroom...but will have to take down the outside wall to get it in!! SO maybe not! Sounds like everyone had a wonderful time!! I know you are enjoying every last drop of adventure! Love you!!


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