Mechanical Misadventures and Christmas Scottish Treats!
Our 2nd week travelling in our camper van was our last week touring around Scotland.
You’d think after 6 weeks we would have had our Whiskey fix by now, well not yet… we were just getting warmed up! We made a impromptu diversion to Speyside – home of half of Scotland’s distilleries.
With it being winter and a Sunday, it made for a very limited selection of distilleries to visit. This suited us fine as we tend to find ourselves buying under the influence! We kicked off with a visit to the well-renowned Glenfiddich – it did not disappoint and then to a lesser known whiskey to us Aussies – Glen Grant (owned by Campari). Glen Grant is supposedly huge in Europe – not so huge with us however, it was pretty harsh stuff.
Our next stop was to find Nessy at Lochness. We had no such luck… the Loch was so swollen and rapidly flowing from the recent rain so the poor old thing had probably washed away! After a few quick snaps of the Loch in the wee early daylight hour of 9am, Shan was itching to start our journey far north to catch our first stop – a tour at Glenmorangie.
After our first week of working out the hard way of touring around Scotland in winter, our second week was about working out the advantages of being the only two tourists in the highlands. This first became apparent with our private tours at Glenmorangie and other lesser known Scotch brands. These tours took us to parts of the distilleries that are not normally viewed and generous samples of the ‘good stuff’.
Other advantages we also discovered were:
– Private van parking in areas that would be hot property during the warmer months.
– Sacred stones and cairn sites that were not surrounded by ticket offices were always deserted and peaceful.
– Manned tourist sites (that were still open), would virtually have us as their only visitor for the day and we received detailed explanations and enthusiastic retelling of tails.
But of course another week touring with the Welsh’s still had its adventures. We woke up with an engine warning light on the morning of our ferry ride to the Orkney Isles. We slowly meandered to the terminal, wanting to at least make the ferry and then to flag our fault with our camper van company after arriving at Orkney. We arrived to the terminal with the staff informing us they tried to call us about the wild weather had delayed our scheduled departure. This bided us time to get our van checked out, the ferry staff gave us rough directions to the nearest mechanic and we carefully motored to these so-called mechanics. We rocked up to what appeared to be a car graveyard in the Wild West of Texas! Once we worked out from the car rubble where the entrance was, we called out in hope of finding someone still working there. A boy around 17 eventually greeted us and hesitantly guided us to the office of the owners wife. She was quick to inform us they did not take C/C and gave us rough directions to the only ATM in the area. Of course the machine did not accept overseas cards. Thankfully the general store owner allowed an Eftpos transaction for the cash. Returning to the mechanics we were finally able to have the diagnostics completed, while the owners wife and we exchanged life stories. We finally got the all clear and were back on our way to the ferry to Orkney Isles!
We would never have thought to make the trek all the way north to the Orkney’s, but Shannon’s friendly surgeon in Colac had passed on our details to catch up with his family that lived there – so we added it to our itinerary. We were warmly welcomed by Lily and Len with a local dram and an immaculately set table. We had a lot in common with them, Len was once a air traffic engineer and Lyn was a nurse turned B&B owner!
If you ever get to Scotland, make sure Orkney is on the hit list. We had a feeling it was going to be a special place… But we were not expecting every corner of the Isles to have pockets of such a diverse array of history. From Churchill’s barriers linking the islands together with half sunken battleships from WW2, to a unique church made by Italian POW from military scrap, to amazingly well preserved Neolithic houses that were older than the pyramids and Cairns vandalised by Vikings with cheeky inscriptions.
Orkney is also is known for it gourmet food such as cheeses, baked goods, boutique beer and of course whiskey. Lily and Len ensured that we experienced all of what Orkney had to offer by serving us gourmet breaky spreads, packed lunches and 3 course meals every night! Although it had been 20 years since her B&B days she still had the flair and I can only hope I host my B&B as amazingly as she did. As a thank you the least I could do (as she would not let me cook) was to whip up a little Scottish recipe for them, Christmas Whiskey truffles! And as Christmas is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d share these Scottish Christmas inspired recipes.
Christmas whiskey truffles – makes 30 small or 15 large truffles
1/2 packet of crushed Hobnobs or in Oz: chocolate coated digestive biscuits
400g of milk or dark chocolate
200g of sultanas
4 tbsp of Whiskey – Glenmorangie was recommended and is what we used
1 tsp of orange zest
Soak sultanas with orange rind and whiskey in a container overnight. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in the saucepan to then heat over a larger saucepan filled with water over a stove top. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the stovetop and add the crushed biscuits, sultanas, mix throughly. You can spoon the mix your choice of small patty tins or chocolate moulds and place in the fridge to harden. I did not have either and used a plastic egg carton as a mould! These were a hit with Len and Lily and they were so easy to make you can whip it up in a camper van!
Another thank you treat I made for our Edinburgh hosts was a Dundee Cake – fruit cake (Dundee is actually the town we stayed in last night)
650g of mixed dried fruit
150g of orange peel
225g of self raising flour
A pinch of salt
225g of butter
225g of sugar
1 dsp lemon juice
75g of chopped blanched almonds
Grease and line an 8-inch cake tin. Sieve the flour and salt. Cream butter and sugar and beat in one egg at a time. Mix in the flour, fruit, peel, lemon juice and half the almonds. Put mixture into cake tin. Arrange remaining almonds on top and bake in a moderate oven for 2 hours or until firm to touch.
I think it’s a lighter style fruit cake (not lighter in calories though) and something different to the classic fruit cake. Shannon said it was the best fruit cake his ever had – so it must be good!