Scotland was one of my first European countries that I visited last in 2006, but only went to Edinburgh and Glasgow. I remember not understanding a word of Glaswegian, so it seemed safer to fly into Edinburgh. Then Wow Air went bankrupt, 4 days before departure, so instead of flying for pennies thru London, I splurged on the direct flight from KEF with Easyjet. I loved arriving on a spring day, where a very young city rode bikes to and fro and lined up at McDconalds to buy tea.
I made a friend last year thru Backroads, the young Scottish clone of Icelandic footballer Rurik Gislason. More than being beautiful, he was a biker, and helped me set up my home on wheels for a week-long Speyside bike tour. I stayed the first and last nights at his in Edinburgh, but spent 6 days, 5 nights cycling the whisky highlands on a beautiful blue Giant.
On the train north, I stopped for half a day in Aberdeen. I visited the beach and a friends favourite pub, filling up on carbs for all the cycling ahead. My tour started and ended at Elgin train station, where I cycled down to Rothes, a small village near Glen Elgin where I found a hostel, the Aqua Play bunk house. My first tasting and tour was at Glen Moray at 9:30 am, a bit early for most but perfect to start a day of biking. I carried onto Macallan, where tours were sold out, so I had a tasting and gourmet lunch inspired by El Celler de Can Roca, the three-Michelin starred restaurant in Girona, Spain. I stopped at Aberlour, before heading to Speyside camp where I was the only lonely soul pitching a tent. I had dinner and more whiskey tastings at the Highlander Inn bar in Craigellachie, home to John Dewar & Sons, where I made some more Scottish friends to reconfirm I was crazy to be camping this time of year.
I spent a night there before going to Glenfiddich. I rode the tourist train in and out of Dufftown (mostly to give my butt a break) to Strathisla Distillery, owned now by Chivas brothers and one of, if not the oldest, distilleries in Speyside. From there I rode thru Cairngorm park to get to Tomintoul town in the highlands, where snow from last week was still scattered on the sides of the road.
Day 4 was spent riding back down, thru the Cairngorms winding along the River Avon, where traffic was finally at a minimum. The narrow roads sometimes made biking a bit unsafe, but the cooperative weather never made me doubt for a moment the trips perfect timing. I tasted at Glenlivet and Cardhu with a bartender friend I had made in Rothes, and went back to my tent at Speyside campground that night.
My last speyside distilleries were Glenfarclas and Cragganmore, and by this time, I felt I could have led my own distillery tour. Every distillery had their own niche blurb about their copper stills or water source, but all the whisky was excellent, all the tour guides knowledgable, but the increasing discomfort of heartburn from tasting whisky all day every day made me relieved the trip was near over.
On the train back south, I went thru Inverness and the highlands, thru the most scenic landscapes pulled right out of a Game of Thrones episode. I returned my blue Giant in one piece, with all of my belongings still attached, but was most surprised by the fact that not a single drop of rain had fallen yet. To my pleasure, my last day in Edinburgh was spent hiking in the sunshine.