Last weekend Stuart and myself, along with 5 of our friends decided to take advantage of this wonderful Scottish ‘Summer’ we are having and spend the weekend camping on the beautiful Island of Arran. Luck would have it that it was also the Isle of Arran Distillery’s Malt and Music Festival, but more importantly 18 years to the day when the first spirit came off the stills and into the casts! So really, it would be rude not to join in the celebrations!
Our ‘home’ for the weekend was the pretty Lochranza campsite, with deer and stag roaming free on the adjacent golf course! It was a great site, plenty of space and good facilities, not mentioning the fact its about a 3 minute stagger from the distillery! Perfect!
As with all our Whisky adventures, we started the trip with the obligatory BBQ and sampling of some fine Whiskies brought along by everyone, including my unusual contribution of India’s premier Whisky – Bagpiper!
Saturday was festival day, which seen the boys nip to the pub to catch the lions game, and the girls to go for a token walk and then hit the distillery! And that we did! On realising our master class was at 2pm not 12pm, we decided to do a mini tasting of our own from the bar, sampling a decent number before staggering off on a distillery tour.
The distillery was only opened in 1995, so is pretty new and has been designed all on one level, so easy for visitors to walk around and less tiring for staff! We got a chance to look into an empty wash back and still, something you don’t normally get to see at working distilleries.
After our spot of ‘culture’ we stumbled off in search of food before our master class (which the boys now decided they would join in on!) Arran Butchers were cooking up a storm, with tasty venison burger, beef burgers, steak and onion rolls as well a festival speciality burger made up of Arran whisky, Pork and Black Pudding.
A last minute decision to do a master class seen us left with only one choice – the Old and Rare tasting, since the distillery isn’t that old these drams were old in terms of the distillery not whisky in general! We got to try 5 different whiskies which consisted off a 16 Year Old, Campbell’s Cask, Cask Strength Sherry finish, Orkney Bere and a Devils Punchbowl (Chapter 2). All were tasty, with the exception of the Orkney Bere, it was just not my taste – though it seemed to go down well with others in the Party!
After that we staggered back into the daylight and enjoyed a few more drams in the bar while listening to the Reel Time Ceilidh Band playing up on the stage. It was then time to move on, and that we did – back to the pub for some food before heading out to the Ceilidh.
The Ceilidh was in the village hall, and the Reel Time Ceilidh Band again provided the music and they were brilliant, we drank more whisky (because we needed to!) and danced the night away before the walk back up to the campsite on a very dark road, thankfully drunken wisdom seen me throw my head torch in my handbag so we had a little light!
Thankfully up to this point the weather had been dry and relatively midgey free, unfortunately we woke up on Sunday to drizzle, though we still managed to cook some French toast outside and pack up the tents before it got too heavy. Our plans to do some walking where knocked on the head, so instead we took a drive road the island, stopping at Lochranza Castle, The Lighthouse in Pirnmill for a fantastic lunch and the compulsory stop at the Isle of Arran Cheese Shop and Arran Aromatics!
It was then off to the ferry, waving Arran goodbye as we rockily made our way back to the mainland. Arran is a beautiful island and we hope to go back and do some walking (if we can get some nice weather!), the Whisky Festival was brilliant and a lucky find by us! I am thinking it could easily become a regular fixture on our calendar!