A few weeks ago we spent a night in Grantown-on-Spey to break up a long journey north (that’s how we justified it anyway). We left Edinburgh early, keen to make the most of the day ahead, enjoying some of the many fun things to do in Speyside and beyond. The forecast was mixed but we agreed we’d waterproof up if need be. After a photo stop or three we arrived in Grantown just in time for lunch, we also arrived just in time for the awesome event that is Thunder in the Glens.
Thunder in the Glens
Harley owners and enthusiasts descend on Aviemore each August for a gathering known as Thunder in the Glens. The highlight of the gathering is a mass ride-out to Grantown-on-Spey.
We found a viewing spot on the outskirts of town and waited. As the bikes rode by AC/DC’s Thunderstruck played on a continuous loop in my head – I’ve had worse ear worms.
Mr G began snapping photos and forgot his hunger (for a while at least).
Ali, our hostess for the evening not only runs a B&B, she’s also a retained Fire Fighter. Her crew were at Thunder in the Glens collecting for the Fire Fighters Charity.
When offered, the boy jumped at the chance to sit in the fire engine. He looked down on us from the driver’s seat with an air of authority, as children queued patiently for him to fishing posing.
Ten minutes later we were feasting on sandwiches, chips and lentil soup and Mr G’s good humour returned. We dined al fresco, sitting on a wall outside the town’s petrol station. Never let it be said that we don’t have class.
Fed, and with the roar of engines still ringing in our ears we set off in search of tranquility.
The heather on the hills was in bloom and looked beautiful. Heather season is one of the annual highlights of road-tripping in Scotland.
We stopped at a viewpoint near the village of Tomintoul to admire the view from ‘Still’ – one of a series of art installations, located at viewpoints along the region’s Snow Roads.
Glenlivet – The Old Bridge of Livet
If you’re a fan of Scotch Whisky then like Tomintoul, the name Glenlivet will be familiar to you. As well as a famous distillery, the village also has a historic bridge and castle ruins.
Surrounded by lush, foliage the Old Bridge of Livet looks like it belongs in a faerie kingdom. Its often wrongly attributed to General Wade who went on a military road and bridge building spree in the Highlands during the 1720s and 30s, so Government troops could be mobilised quickly should any further Jacobite risings kick-off.
The age of the bridge is unknown. What I can tell you for sure though is, if you step on the wet rocks next to it to take a photo your feet will probably disappear from under you, and you’ll likely find yourself with a sore, wet bottom – I’m speaking from experience. One minute I was standing, the next I was perfectly seated with camera still poised. I could practice the move every day for the rest of my life and never come close to recreating it.
The ruins of Drumin Castle stand close to slippery rock bridge.
Not much of the castle survives but it’s still worth a visit. Drumin is thought to have been built in the late 1400s by Sir Walter Stewart, grandson of the notorious Wolf of Badenoch.
Percy Topolis was ere’
I love photographing remote cottages, so I was a tad excited when I spotted a beauty near the Lecht. “STOP” I demanded, and for the first time ever I got my wish, as there was a car park nearby. Normally I’m still sulking miles later as Mr G explains that he couldn’t stop as there was a car directly behind us, or nowhere to park, or a whole host of other excuses he’s perfected over the years.
As I snapped the cottage a patch of light hit the hillside and lit up the heather. A blissful haven – or at least that’s how it seems. The cottage has an exciting past which belies its tranquil appearance.
Percy Topolis was a criminal and imposter who fought in WWI. On leave he would don a monocle and masquerade as an officer. In 1920 he went on the run after the murder of a taxi driver, and wounding of a police officer in Hampshire.
On 1st June 1920 a local farmer saw smoke coming from the chimney of this photogenic wee cottage and alerted authorities. Topolis was inside and a shoot-out ensued. He escaped to Aberdeen on a bicycle and caught a train to Carlisle. On 6th June he was apprehended by Police in Carlisle and shot dead.
In 1978 a book, ‘The Monocled Mutineer’ was written about him. It was later dramatised by the BBC. Both took liberties with the truth, but the ‘Monocled Mutineer’ was immortalised.
A mine amidst heathery hills
Next, we stopped at the Lecht Mine for a short walk – the boy was super excited and jumped out of the car, setting a sprint like pace towards the old mine building.
Today, it’s an empty shell, but the lonely building in its remote setting has a incredible bleak beauty.
Like Tomintoul and Glenlivet, Glenfiddich is a name known to whisky lovers. Passing through the village we couldn’t resist a wander round the grounds of the distillery. Glenfiddich is the prettiest distillery I’ve visited, although Dalwhinnie and some on Islay come close.
With copper pagodas glinting in the sunlight, and colourful flowers everywhere it looked more like a picturesque Highland village than a place of industry.
Balvenie Castle, Dufftown
We arrived at Balvenie Castle shortly before closing, and had a quick dash round.
Inside we climbed a maze of turnpike staircases, wandering in and out of dark rooms, and others now open to the elements. Like many Scottish castles, Balvenie boasts toe-curling views from up top.
Originally known as Mortlach, it was built by the Comyn family in the 1200s. Despite its ruinous state it’s still a formidable sight to see.
Incredible ice cream, Dufftown
Our next stop was Dufftown – another popular location on Speyside’s whisky trail.
The boy was intrigued when he spotted a cat snoozing in a shop window.
The cat looked less than impressed to have been disturbed by a hairy-faced, nosey parker.
I had a smoky & peaty whisky ice cream (the boy got a teeny taste). It was delicious – the aroma of Islay hit my nostrils immediately, and I longed to return to the wonderful whisky isle.
It was now time to kick off our trail shoes and relax.
Scotland’s best B&B
I’m a wee bit reluctant to share Edencoille B&B with you. You see it only has one room, and I’d hate to find myself unable to book it because one of you guys were staying in it thanks to me and my big mouth. I’m amongst friends thought, so I’ll let you in on my amazing find if you promise to keep schtum – deal?
The lap of luxury
I knew our room was stunning from the photos I’d seen of it online, but seeing it for real I was bowled over.
We had a beautifully decorated lounge with comfy seating to slump in. There was a roaring fire, a dresser stocked with tea, coffee and tempting treats (Tunnock’s Tea Cakes) plus a table and chairs by the window where we could sit and enjoy views of the garden and distant hills. Our bedroom was up a flight of stairs which led from the lounge.
On arrival Ali brought us a chilled wine, beer and pawsecco. My glass of wine was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in a long time. Crisp and chilled to perfection it was heaven in a glass. Mr G supped on his craft ale and all was good with the World.
The boy was delighted to receive a goodie bag which Ali’s Daughter Jalan had put together for him – she’s a bit of a fan you see. It was full of tasty treats and goodies which the boy loved. My favourite goodie was an ink stamp of the Wee White Dug which she’d had made. The boy lost interest once he realised he couldn’t eat it, but I’ll cherish it always.
We spent a lovely evening chatting and enjoying our sumptuous surroundings, wishing we could stay longer than one night.
Needless to say we had an amazing sleep.
The best breakfast ever!
The next morning we headed downstairs to our lounge for breakfast and were greeted by a spread fit for a king.
Pastries, fruit, yoghurt, granola, artisan breads, fresh honey and jam were all waiting for us – it was a veritable feast.
As we tucked in a pair of red squirrels appeared outside to eat nuts from a feeder. It seems the local wildlife is well catered for at Edencoille too.
Our stay at Edencoille was faultless from start to finish. The thoughtful little touches were too many to count and the decor was delightful – the sort of place where you picture everything in it, in your own house.
And so we reluctantly left our new favourite B&B to head futher North – but that’s another tale.
Until next time ……….
(Sadly, the fabulous B&B featured in this blog is no longer taking bookings).