Around the world in 15 days (part 2: north by northwest)

Friday

All of us at Incheon airport.

We woke up early to check email, finish packing, and meet Virginia’s father for breakfast. After breakfast we took a taxi to the train, which got us to the airport on time. We had to go to a check-in desk for boarding passes, but otherwise it was easy to get through security, into a lounge, and onto the plane for the 12-hour flight (according to Virginia, an “extremely long lunch”). It was long enough that I read two John Scalzi books and napped. We arrived in Frankfurt and easily made our transfer to our flight to Edinburgh.

It was easy to enter Scotland, and we took a taxi to our hotel (the Principal). We walked up the hill near Edinburgh Castle for dinner at Angels with Bagpipes. Everything was wonderful – cauliflower with spelt, beets and goat curd, venison, picanha steak with chips, dark chocolate, and rhubarb custard. We walked back to the hotel, quickly due to the cold weather.

Saturday

We woke up to heavy snow, so we stayed in, which was a bummer – we were leaving Edinburgh that day. Breakfast at the hotel was reasonably priced and tasty, followed by coffee at Burr and Co. We picked up the car after a wet, snowy walk from the hotel, getting help from a very helpful person at Hertz. The car was kinda ridiculous – our standard midsize was an Audi A3 Sport class.

Unfortunately, I was tense as we drove out of Edinburgh, having forgotten how much I have to concentrate on driving in the UK. It was made worse by a strenuous 4.5 hour trip through the snow. We broke up the drive with a late lunch at Cup in Aberdeen, which was perfect for what we wanted.

A warm fireplace was just what we needed.

We finally made it to the Craigellachie Hotel, our home base for the next two nights. First: we got upgraded! Rather than have the small room I booked, we got a large room with a whisky decanter in the room. We went downstairs to have dinner at the Copper Dog, followed by two drams of premium aged whisky (Glenfiddich 26 Excellence, Cardhu 21). It was great to relax after a stressful driving day.

Sunday

We had a full Scottish breakfast and talked with our server about the upcoming day, who fully endorsed our plan. Our first stop was Johnstons of Elgin, a renowned wool mill. We toured the facility, which was fun because as the only vertical mill in Scotland, Johnstons does all its dyeing, spinning, weaving and finishing in-house. After the tour, we visited the store and picked up four sweaters between us.

The walk up to Macallan’s visitor center.

We then went into Elgin for what turned out to be an adequate lunch. We had planned to go to Gordon & MacPhail, a renowned whisky merchant, only to find it’s closed on Sundays. So instead we went to The Macallan distillery and visitor center, which just opened last year. Virginia tasted three whiskies, and we bought three bottles (two of one and one of another). We took everything back to the hotel, had a nap, and had a late dinner in the Copper Dog.

Monday

We were up very early and were the first people at breakfast. We packed up and checked out before starting our 3.5 hour drive west to the Isle of Skye, listening to Springsteen on Broadway as we wound through the mountains. We made good time and arrived in time for lunch at the Isle of Skye Baking Co. in Portree. We shared two lunch breads (filled with cheese and leeks; filled with spinach, mascarpone, and chickpeas) and carrot cake with coffee. We also talked to Barry, who owns the bakery with his spouse Liza, and he suggested we drive around the Trotternish peninsula. He was right and it was awesome. We saw virtually every type of weather on the drive, and it truly looked like giants lived there in the mythic past.

We then drove to the Three Chimneys, our hotel and restaurant for the evening. We arrived in time for a wine tasting put on by the restaurant sommelier, focusing on Eastern European wines. We then went to our room, which was quite large and had a lovely view of the loch, to relax for a while before going back into the sitting room for dinner. We met our impromptu dinner companions Madison and Matt, with whom we were sharing the kitchen table. They were great and we had a lovely evening with them over an amazing meal.

  • Scorched Dunvegan langoustines with pickled cauliflower, kimchi, and hazelnuts
  • Dunvegan crab with ginger, almonds, and yoghurt
  • Seaweed and miso steamed code with pink fir, gooseberry butter sauce, and roe
  • Roasted Sconser scallop with celeriac, chicken veloute, and fermented garlic
  • Goosnargh Peking duck with rhubarb, fennel & coriander, and citrus sauce
  • Orbost Rose beef with miso & mushroom, purple sprouting broccoli, and Tarasgeir sauce
  • Brewed root palate cleanser
  • Triple cream brie cheesecake with poached rhubarb and sorbet
  • Sea buckthorn meringue pie with rosemary/olive oil/almond cake

Tuesday

We woke at a reasonable hour (i.e. not at 4am) for the first time in this trip and hung out in our room before going to breakfast. We were served an excellent porridge, followed by a full Scottish breakfast and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. We then pulled ourselves and our stuff together for the day’s travel.

First stop: Talisker. Virginia tasted three whiskies (I took a sip of each, as I was driving) and bought two. Somewhat surprisingly, the distillery exclusive was our least favorite, though very good. We then headed back out into the rain for our drive of the day. After crossing the bridge back to the main island, we stopped in Kyle of Lochalsh for a quick lunch (filling but not much more), and then left again.

The Airds Hotel.

We arrived at the Airds Hotel in Appin around 4pm. After being ushered inside, we gratefully accepted a glass of Prosecco while we relaxed from the trip. However, the check-in was a little awkward as we had to ask to do so; our room was small but well appointed (and came with a decanter of whisky mac). Dinner was very good, though somewhat anticlimactic after our amazing meal the previous night.

  • Roulade of Mull crab with radish, watercress, and grain mustard sabayon
  • Mushroom parfait with Maderia jelly and asparagus
  • Pan seared monkfish tail with cauliflower and leeks
  • Fillet of Scottish beef with pommes Anna and wild garlic
  • Chocolate brownie with blood orange gel and yoghurt sorbet
  • Raspberry soufflé with iced cranachan

We made up for it with a post-dinner whisky in the snug bar was perfect to end the day.

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