Sunday, July 08, 2007

Orkney 2007 - Day 2

Tuesday 26th June - Highland Park, Kirkwall, Scapa Flow, walk and wreck

The morning brought fine weather to our little cottage:

And fine views down to Grimness, more of that later:

Our first full day on Orkney saw us getting the priorities sorted. Namely, whisky.  After the first lie-in for far too long, a hearty breakfast saw us venture back to Kirkwall where we promptly booked ourselves in for an afternoon tour at Highland Park.  A good lunch at, I believe, The Strynd Tearoom beside the cathedral saw us return to the distillery for some serious tour action.

Unfortunately, for all the effort involved in getting to Scotland's most northerly distillery, I have to say that the tour fell a little flat.  It could be that we are getting to the stage where only Glen Moray style super-tours can hit the mark, but there are a few pitfalls for us that a tour can fall into... 

Number 1 mistake here and the highest on my personal hate list is the dreaded 'audio-visual presentation filler'; a cheap impersonal time-filler that's just going to tread old-ground over a faded out shot of someone pouring whisky into a glass, probably with a fire blazing in the background. 

Number 2 here was giving the pre-tour shot'; what's the point then of continuing? For me a shot at the beginning should always suggest a follow-up afterwards.  Related to number 2 then is...

Number 3, 'the single-shot tour'; Highland Park has three standard expressions, the 12, the 15 and the 18 year old, as well as a number of special editions, but you only get the 12.  Why on Earth would I pay the premium price for the premium bottle without getting a taste and proving to myself that a) you can taste a difference and b) that the difference is worth it? 

Number 4 is the 'inexpert expert'; generally this means a summer student after some spending money.  This in itself is not too bad as some of these people are enthusiastic and know their stuff (see the Glenmorangie tour write-up coming up on Day 7), but it doesn't compare to when the manager is taking you around!  However, the weight of number 4 is doubled when it is accompanied by...

Number 5, the 'whisky-hating guide', as our guide announced herself to be upon introduction.  Add to this the...

Number 6 of mentioning the 'Angel's share', the name given to the whisky that evaporates from the storage casks (stops being funny on your second tour), and...

Number 7 of a rubbish ticket/voucher offer and Highland Park left us feeling a little underwhelmed.  

I did nonetheless enjoy walking through the buildings which included seeing an active malting floor and kiln (Highland Park being one of only five distilleries still doing this early part of the process themselves).  There were also some interesting information, such as the fact that Highland Park uses only sherry-fill casks; no finishes here, it's all it gets!  Basically, the tour is worth doing if you're on Orkney , but don't travel especially for it unless you're a whisky obsessive just like us, and then you can rant about it on your very own blog!!

The attractive streets of Sonia, sorry, Kirkwall:

Girls and a distillery, heaven!

These signs are just made for lounging in front of:

Pretty and sturdy stills at Highland Park:

You are now leaving the most northerly distillery in Scotland:

After the distillery, some shopping in Kirkwall was undertaken, which saw me invest in an 8-year old 'Orkney Single Malt' for only £18.  I believe it to be Scapa due to flavour and colour, but either way it was well worth it - although it is far too drinkable!  A quick pint at one of Kirkwall's disappointingly few hospitable-looking establishments and it was time to head back to the cottage, but not before checking out the gorgeous setting of Orkney's other distillery, Scapa.  Unfortunately there are no tours at this one so we just had to cope with a paddle and a photo or 50...

The gorgeous Scapa Flow with Scapa itself just visible:

A pity to waste such beautiful waters: 

"Well, hello":

Come back, don't do it! It's me not you!

Standing proud, but proudly closed to visitors, hmmph!

Back at the cottage after dinner there was plenty of light left in the sky for Sonia, The Leach and myself to take a pleasant walk down to Grim Ness.  Thereupon we discovered a large wreck along the Lime Banks.  Pieces of this big ship were strewn all across the stony beach giving an indication of what force the sea must have had when it met its end.  Indeed the wreck gave an unnervingly sombre close to the day as it was lapped by the gentle evening waves.  We later found out that the ship ran aground in 1969 and had been a Liberian cargo ship; all hands apparently survived but tragically the Longhorn lifeboat from nearby island Hoy had itself sank with the loss of all 8 men on board, an extremely big deal for such a small community.  This I presume is what is referred to here.

The view from mine and Sonia's room:

Our cottage was just by South Cara:

What a contrast today's weather must have been to that day in 1969:

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Blogger Scott said...

awesome write-up. I'm with you on the tour points. Glen Moray was the best tour ever.

12 July 2007 at 17:56  
Blogger George Walks said...

Absolutely, glad you're enjoying them. Your trip away looks great too, and with some fine malts!

12 July 2007 at 22:13  
Blogger Scott said...

Hey, you should read (if you haven't already) Iain Banks' Raw Spirit. I found it a really amusing, semi-autobiographical, semi-lunatic-ranting, yet really thorough tour of all the distilleries in Scotland.

14 July 2007 at 14:30  
Blogger George Walks said...

I did check that out actually, and I did really enjoy it - apart from when he was talking about his car just a little too much and not about the whisky!

15 July 2007 at 12:14  

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