WE’RE SPENDING Friday travelling up and Monday travelling back again so the East Coast rail journey of our weekend in Inverness is one half of our short break in the Highlands. It’s too long since we’ve been here – well over 20 years. We get to Scotland once or twice a year but rarely get any further than Edinburgh or Glasgow.
We’ve always driven here, so it’s 31 years since I last travelled up by rail. The names of the stations conjure up memories of my journeys to summer and Easter stints as a volunteer osprey warden in my student days; Gleneagles, Pitlochary, Blairgowrie and Kingussie on the countdown to Aviemore. After a year in Leeds or London at art college, going through the rugged pass north of Blair Atholl, with its screes and cascading streams felt like crossing the border into another world of primeval landscapes and spectacular wildlife.
Food and drink on the train are included as part of our bargain break, as we’ve upgraded to first class for the eight hour journey so I indulge in a miniature of Famous Grouse blended whisky as we drink in the landscape as the train pulls out of Gleneagles.
“I don’t normally drink whisky,” I explain to the stewardess, “but I felt I should as we’re entering the Highlands.”
“These aren’t the Highlands!” she retorted.
“Yes, but Gleneagles sounds like the Highlands.”
This reminds me of my three day Highland Tour with Dr Stephen Cribb whose book Whisky on the Rocks I illustrated. Famous Grouse is a blended whisky but the book investigated the geological story behind the process water – usually spring water – used in distilling single malt whiskies.
The taste and bouquet of the blended whisky brings back our visits to some of the famous single malt distilleries on our research trip. Places such Speyside and, north of Inverness, Tain where they make Glenmorangie. We didn’t have time to visit any island distilleries unfortunately.