The tour bus is currently speeding up through the highland Grampian Mountains right now, and since we’ve all got a bit of whiskey packed into us now (no one more than myself) I thought I’d take some time to tear my eyes off the beautiful rocky vistas around us and type out a quick memo on what we’ve already done so far today.

The bus arrived at about 9:00 to pick us up and we headed north immediately, across the Forth of Firth (I love that name) and into the Dunkeld region on the lower highlands, where we took a stop to tour the Hermitage forest, which houses the tallest tree in all of Britain and a beautiful waterfall with an overlook from it. The trees here are very old and mossy and the stones are almost covered in the thick green carpet. Our guide and bus driver for the next 3 days, Michael, said that Dunkeld forest was made by Scottish botanists who would take seeds from other countries, load them into a cannon and then fire them into the mountains just to see what would take root. There were beautiful purple rhododendrons everywhere which were certainly not originally native.

We then came to the next stop on the trip: Edradour, Scotland’s smallest distillery in the mountains of Pitlochry, where they make fabulously expensive whiskey with a team of only three men and they’ve been doing that since the distillery was founded in 1825. This place makes the whiskeys back in the States look like Fleischmann’s vodka; bottles of this stuff (aged between ten to twenty-five years in casks) cost anywhere between £39 and £69 – now double that and you have the price in American dollars. So as we’ve been driving north towards Inverness (stopping to grab lunch in the town of Pitlochry) it was a pleasant surprise that Michael got us a little gift at the distillery. Michael is talking to us about the history of the Scottish clans in the highland mountains, he tells us that there was Callies between the clans, meetings of people, and likens that to the 25 of us on the bus, and he whips out a big jug of 10 year old whiskey and says just like as the clans did, so we must all touch the bottle to our lips and drink (to show that we’ve not poisoned it to kill off the other clans). So suddenly the bus is filled with laughter and noise as we’re hoisting this big bottle around and swigging from it and of course, I didn’t mean to drink three swallows, but the bus went over a big bump and it just went down my throat unintentionally!

We’ve all got to do our part and finish this bottle!

So we’re continuing to head north; we should be at Loch Ness within another hour or two. Michael’s put on Scottish music (everything from new age to jigs to bagpipes) through the loudspeakers, and the CD is skipping pleasantly as we hit potholes in the old highway. Shaping up to be quite nice so far!