“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, the hills of the Highlands forever I love.” – Robert Burns
Scotland is one of the most magical places on earth. Rolling hills of lush green and heather, endless stills full of whisky, some of the most genuinely warm people you’ll ever meet, and a unicorn for a national animal. I mean, what’s more magical than a unicorn?!
4 days in Speyside
Last spring, the fella and I spent 4 spectacular days in Scotland while on an epic European adventure and I still haven’t gotten sick of talking about it because it was genuinely just that great. When we first started planning our trip to Europe, Scotland was at the top of our list. I’ve always wanted to see the beautiful Highlands I’ve read about in some of my favorite books – you know, a little series called Outlander or the setting of a magical school called Hogwarts – and we both happen to be whisky enthusiasts, so we decided on the Speyside region in the Highlands for our first trip.
Female whisky pioneers
We rented a great cottage on Airbnb on a farm in Aberlour, which allowed us easy access to many of the distilleries in the area and was a reasonable walk into town. We ended up visiting several of them during our 4 days, and though each was spectacular in their own right, Cardhu Distillery was easily my favorite; I loved the strong female history behind this distillery. It was predominantly created and run by Helen Cumming and then handed off to her daughter-in-law Elizabeth to continue the legacy. I also loved that the distillery tour included a blind nosing and taste test to identify which whiskies we were tasting and how flavor notes were influenced by the addition of just a few drops of water.
Castles, and Harry Potter, and Whisky – oh my!
Another highlight of our trip was a chauffeured day traveling throughout the region to visit Glenlivet and Glenfiddich distilleries, as well as Ballindaloch Castle, and the town of Dufftown where we spent ample time selecting bottles to ship home from the Dufftown Whisky Shop. Dufftown also happens to be the rumored location of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books (yes, I know I am a tremendous nerd). We ended with dinner and an extensive whisky tasting at the Mashtun in Aberlour.
Making new friends
I also really loved waking up to lots of cute baby farm animals. There were lambs right outside our front patio where we drank a morning cuppa each day and there was a group of gorgeous horses down the street from our cottage. Nearly every day, we’d walk into town and make new friends with the farm animals on our way. I also finally got to meet a group of shaggy highland coos – so cute!
Scottish food highlights
Aside from the beautiful landscape, infinite drinking opportunities, adorable farm animals, and awesome people, we also loved indulging in Scottish cuisine. Some of our favorite things we ate during our trip were:
Fried haddock & chips that we ate right out of the paper wrappings with greasy fingers while we sat on a bench near the River Spey on our first night in Aberlour.
Haggis, a savory pudding containing the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep mixed with onion, oatmeal, and spices. Haggis seems to be an intimidating food to some because of the organ content, but we both enjoy sweetbreads and absolutely loved haggis. In fact, we ate it at every opportunity – we even ate Haggis nachos and potato chips.
Cullen skink, a rich soup comprised of smoked haddock, tatties (potatoes), and onions that we ate at Glenfiddich after a wonderful distillery tour and ample whisky tasting. This was so comforting, it nearly put me to sleep – maybe the whisky had a hand also. I couldn’t wait to get home and recreate a pot of Cullen skink, myself.
Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert comprised of whipped cream, whisky, honey, toasted oats, and raspberries that we enjoyed at the Mash Tun after an awesome day of chauffeured whisky tastings.
We also toasted our birthday (both in May) with a Glenfarclas from the year we were born.
Revisiting the magic in my kitchen
Traveling always inspires my cooking. Usually, it’s a result of eating something wholly spectacular that I decide I must have again at home, but just as often inspiration can come from a single ingredient. In this case it’s whisky. If you’re craving more, make sure to check out my post for Salmon with Whisky Cream Sauce and Cheddar Mashed Cauliflower for some Scottish culinary inspiration.