Saturday, June 07, 2008

July 8 2007 - Inverness and Around

Today, we will visit a whisky distillery, spend some time in Inverness, and check out Loch Ness..

A Lossiemouth, B Whisky distillery, C Inverness, D Urqhart Castle (Loch Ness lookout point)

But the day did not start brightly for us... in fact, it was shitty...

We planned to just take abit of sleep and wake up at 4.00am to catch the sunrise.. well, not all of us.. just a few of us..

I did wake up at 4.00am, and noticed that weather was awesome! It was drizzling, and lots of dark cloud collected in front of our spot, making it impossible to get any sunrise... so I went back to sleep..

We started to wake up at 7.00am, and instead of sunrise, this is what Bing managed to take..

U can just imagine the sunrise placed here if u want to

U can say that we were unlucky, or u can say that we were lucky... if we had driven all the way to John O' Groats to get the same shit...... I don't even wanna think about it...

No sunrise, no hostel, we made our way to the public toilet nearby. The toilet is small, and have a small basin.. it took us Herculean alot of effort to wash our head and face.. 15 of us..

The time for our whisky distillery tour is at 12.00noon.. It was still early.. so we decided to make use of our Explorer Pass and visit a palace nearby in Elgin..

Spynie Palace

When I saw the name of the place, I got kinda excited... we have been to castles in Scotland, what will a palace be like? Little did I know that I would be in for 1 of the biggest disappointment in my life..

This is the Spynie PALACE

Apparently, it used to be a palace, but due to war/fire/some other reason, now it is like this...

Oh, they actually have a tower that is still quite intact

Group photo inside the tower

View on top of the tower

If u are interested in historical buildings, then this might be a nice place for u, u can get to see how a palace can be like after some major disaster happened. If u are just an ordinary folk like me, well.... haih...

Well, it wasn't part of our plan to come here at 1st, and the palace is under Historic Scotland so we paid no extra money for entrance, so.. it's ok, just forget it and move on.. if u don't have the Explorer Pass with u, admission here is 3.5 pounds..

We found time to have a quick drive around Elgin town..

And took a group photo is this Elgin Cathedral

Ok.. almost time for whisky =)

If u have been to Scotland and have never been to the whisky distillery, please pretend that u have never been to Scotland!

There are 1 million alot of whisky distilleries in Scotland. Erm.. distillery means... production place lah.. Almost every distillery offer distillery tours and whisky tasting to tourists. Some charge u for the tour, some give u a free tour and free whisky to taste, knowing that most of u would not leave their in-house shop empty handed.

I found this Tomatin Distillery that offers free tour + free tasting, so I booked 2 weeks in advance.. problem is.. today is a Sunday, and Sunday is not a day where angmohs work, so we would not be able to get a free tour, just whisky tasting..

I had intended to make time on Friday or Saturday to do the distillery tour, but that would cause alot of problem for the schedule, so... well... to be honest... the FREE whisky tasting is what matters anyway =)

And I'm not promoting this Tomatin distillery.. there's alot of distilleries in Scotland, it's just that I found this 1.. u can find other distilleries...
Tomatin's entrance

Here's their opening times

We were greeted by the distillery's manager,

And briefed of the distillery's history

We were given 2 different products to taste... for free, of course.. the 12 Year Single Highland Malt Whisky, and the Culloden Cream..

Erm... the sight of free alcohol made us forget to take alot of photos :D

The Culloden Cream

The 12 year old whisky tasted like normal whisky to me, the Culloden Cream was more special.. because it is whisky blended with chocolates!

Gift Pack and Price List

The Talisman and Big T are blended whisky. Blended means.. taking different types of whisky and mix them together to produce a better taste? They also have another product called the Antiquarry, which is another type of blended liquor.. this 1 is their own Tomatin 12 year whisky, blended with 12 year whisky from other distilleries..

Whisky for sale

Although we can't take a tour of the distillery,

We get to see the process of making whisky in a DVD presentation

1 hour, some whisky souvenirs, and many cups of free whisky sampling later.. it's time to leave..

Where to? To Inverness..

Inverness is the largest city in the north of Scotland. Inverness means, mouth of the river Ness, and is connected to the Loch Ness by the river.

We parked our car in a church's carpark, near the High Street, because we could not find any other carparks and parking by the road side seems illegal..

The church's compound

Well, Inverness is a quiet and comfortable city. I didn't find out what are the attractions in the city, we just parked our car and wandered off.. but I think if there's anything that can represent the city, this bridge across the river Ness can..

Chilling by the riverside

Inverness Bridge

On the bridge

It was lunch time, we were hungry, and on the way back to our cars,

We saw this

I lead by example and bought a jumbo sausage hotdog, and soon, everyone is doing the same =)

Camwhoring while waiting

The hotdog was yummy, because it was served hot, with onions, tomato sauce and mustard =)

Continue on our journey, to the Loch Ness Exhibition centre..

There's a common misconception among us about Loch Ness. Loch Ness is NOT the monster. Loch Ness is the name of the lake. Loch = Lake. The Loch Ness monster means, the monster in Loch Ness, not the name of the monster is Loch Ness..

Actually, the monster is quite cute, and if u don't wanna call it a monster, u can also call it Nessie =)

The exhibition centre is actually a series of rooms telling stories about the history, the mystery, the sightings, the theories, and everything else about Nessie. Admission costed us 4 pounds per person..

I have actually known about this Nessie and it's stories since I was.. 9 years old? And paying 4 pounds to go into the rooms to listen to the same bullshit stories that I have already read of, countless times, was actually kinda boring.. I'm sure spending the previous night in the car did not help..

If u don't know anything about Nessie, then u should go to the exhibition and be enlightened, like the rest of my members.. if most of u are like me, then..

Taking a photo with Nessie on the artificial lake outside the exhibition centre is more than enough

The Nessie experience is like studying, u need the theories, then u do the practical. After everyone is enlightened with the story of Nessie, of course we have to find some place to try our luck and see if we can spot Nessie in the lake.

Now, the Loch Ness is actually a very big ang long lake. There's actually quite a number of designated lookout points around the lake which u can choose from..

But for us, the choice is pretty obvious. Just half a mile down the road, lies Urquhart Castle. Actually, I'm not sure how to spell the name of the castle. Google map says, Urqhart Castle, but all the brochures say, Urquhart Castle, so I guess I'll call it Urquhart Castle..

Urquhart Castle is like the Spynie Palace. It's actually a castle in ruins, due to war.. but.. it's beside the lake and offers a great view, it's near the exhibition centre, and best of all.. it's under Historic Scotland so we can enter for free with our Explorer Pass!

Urquhart Castle's carpark

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

They have this medieval war machine outside the castle gate to remind us of why the castle is in ruins..

The Trebuchet

Castle entrance

Group photo.. can u spot Nessie in the lake?

Panorama of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

Tonight, we are going to spend our night in Glasgow. It's another 6-7 hours journey.. Dinner at Fort William..

Fort William's High Street

Actually, there's only 1 main street in the town...

This is our dinner - fast food, takeaway to eat in car

Carmates group photo

We kinda estimated the time too casually and ovespent our time at Urquhart Castle, so.. after having a quick dinner at Fort William, we went all the way to Glasgow without stopping.. same thing, we needed to beat the midnight time limit to check in to our hostel..

The cameras were all dead because we hadn't charged the batteries for 2 days.. but.. we passed by Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Scotland.. it was absolutely gorgeous, that place...

And the road towards Glasgow, 100% pure mountain pass... all the drivers will love driving there =)

Here's the map, Urquhart Castle to Glasgow

Our hostel in Glasgow is the Bluesky Hostel. It's the cheapest I can find in Hostelbookers, and the ratings seems fine.. the hostel was nice and cosy too.. and there's alot of unique art in the hostel.. will show some photos of it in my next post..

We did not do much.. it was almost midnight when we reached.. just checked in.. get our rooms, showered, and went to sleep...

Booked 15 beds for tonight, since I figured everyone would be ultra tired, so it would only be fair if everyone gets a bed to sleep in for our last night in Scotland.. tomorrow we will head back to Liverpool...

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