Mark (mhaithaca) wrote in scotlandtravel,

4/7: Dunvegan and Talisker

Before our drive up the length of Loch Ness (which reminded me a lot of driving up the west side of Cayuga en route to Rochester or Buffalo), we set out to explore more of the Isle of Skye. Having failed in our plan to get to Lagavulin, hitting Talisker certainly seemed like a fine idea! And, while it was on the opposite side of Skye, with no direct road from Portree, you have to keep in mind that nothing in Scotland is that far from anything else.

Alison happily confirmed our thought that visiting the castle Dunvegan would be a good idea. "Dun" means "castle," though interestingly enough, if you go far enough back the word means "heap." Since castles were originally just heaps of stones, that kinda works out well etymologically.

Dunvegan is a stunning castle, and is actually still (in theory, if not in practice) the clan home of the MacLeods. (Ironic that they used the MacRae castle for "Highlander," eh?) The only approach to the castle used to be via the seagate, which I'm having trouble visualizing. I guess if your castle is a self-sufficient community, there's little need to wander into the nearby woods, hills, etc., but it sounds... confining to me. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, and there were fields nearby being cultivated, but there were no roads from there to other areas.

An interesting feature at Dunvegan was the walled garden, with a rock wall that looked more like an old wall than the castle's walls. (Castles that have been in constant use for centuries tend more towards solid walls, even if there's rock behind the plaster or whatever they use.) The sundial at the center was an hour off. I guess they don't adjust the sundials for daylight saving time!

The Talisker distillery is at the end of a couple miles of one-lane road, in a tiny town called Carbost. (The town of Talisker is a few miles away.) We got there at lunchtime, but there was really nothing to eat. The sole local eatery was closed, but happily there was a tiny convenience store. We bought a loaf of fruit bread to share as a snack.

The distillery opened at 2:30 for visitors, and we were in the first tour group. (It filled up, so some folks who had been poking around the grounds got shut out and had to wait for the second tour.) I liked the fact that they start the tour, rather than end it, with a sample of whisky.

After the tour, curious about the cask strength whisky the guide had described, I asked her if it might be possible for us to taste that, in addition to the taste of the regular stuff we'd tried, so we could consider whether we wanted to buy some. She took us back up to the tasting room (the tour ends near the gift shop, of course) and let us try that and a couple of other things. I also noticed that they had a bottle of Lagavulin 1984 Distiller's Edition on display, and wondered aloud why they had several non-Talisker bottles shown. Turns out the same company owns Talisker and Lagavulin and a couple of other major distilleries! So, I was able to buy the cask strength Talisker (really remarkable) and a bottle of the Lagavulin 1984. My dwindling supply of their 1980 Distiller's Edition was one key reason I was so excited about going to Lagavulin, so I was pleased to replace it without having had to get to Islay.

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