Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Appreciating Scotland's Whisky Distilleries from the comfort of the Train.

Yesterday morning I was on the train between Inverurie & Inverness, it was a lovely clear day with the winter sun appearing to warm the now, purple skeletal twigs and illuminating the slender, silver trunks of the birches.  I look forward to the lovely curved sweep on the line where, at Boat O'Brig close to Diageo's modern Achroisk Distillery, we cross the majestic Spey.  Beautiful Strathspey - where the majority of classic malt whiskies are produced.

Even yesterday morning, on my journey from the East, I passed several 'installations' involved in the production of the golden elixir appreciated worldwide & a major contributor to the Scottish economy.  First at Kennethmont just north of Insch, right by the line, is Ardmore Distillery producing whisky for the Teachers blend.  Then at Keith we arrived at the home of Strathisla - founded in 1786, thus one of our oldest and most picturesque distilleries http://www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com/LinkClick.aspx?link=74&tabid=65 here By the railway line here there many hanger-like whisky bonded warehouses where there will be stored thousands of casks holding gallons and gallons of the maturing spirit.  Whilst waiting in the wings at their Keith yard are many Chivas Regal tanker lorries, ready to transport bulk whisky to bottling plants, situated mainly in Scotland's central belt.  West of Keith we then passed Chivas' Glentaucher Distillery, getting ever closer to Boat O'Brig ~ where road and rail bridges run parallel across my beloved River Spey!

Dave C.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Small but Beautiful ~ Best Country for Varied/Accessible Outdoor Activities

It is now almost 18 months since the Cairngorms Development Partnership ~ then Aviemore & Cairngorms DMO ~ ( http://www.visitcairngorms.com/ ) brought the highly prestigious Adventure Travel Trade World Summit to Aviemore. Many people in the industry ~ both from abroad and many within Scotland, including some of the Scottish activity providers considered Scotland to be just a wee country, with not a lot to offer compared to all the big, exotic sounding countries attending the ATWS incl. Mexico, Brazil, India, Africa. However, delegates were amazed by just how much Scotland has to offer ~ a great morale booster for the Scots. The ATWS was truly a showcase for the wide diversity of high quality, easily accessed Adventure Activity Tourism available here in Scotland. I believe many involved in Scottish Tourism may still be unaware of the influence and positive effects the event has had upon Scottish tourism.

Apart from just the simple factor of not having to travel for hours in terms of accessing contrasting activities, delegates at the ATWS were amazed by Scotland's well considered outdoor access legislation ~ which allows reasonable, responsible access to all who have a desire to be active in the outdoors ~ whatever their chosen activity/level of expertise/comfort-zone.

I was reminded once again of the easy access to multi-actives in Scotland when, in Spring 2011, I was asked to work with a Canadian film crew 'Ski TV' ( skitv.com ). This great team of producer, camera/soundman and presenter basically travel the world filming to provide their multi-national viewers action shots and reviews of ski-resorts spotlighted. The programme producers had been forewarned that skiing was 'not always a certainty in Scotland'. However, if for whatever reason skiing was not possible, then alternative outdoor activities could be easily sourced. On Sunday April 3rd the Canadian film crew, including their presenter, former Canadian World Cup skier Edith Rosza Wright, were truly impressed to first have a  full morning skiing on Cairngorm Mountain ( www.cairngormmountain.org ) in the morning. Then through the afternoon into the dusk they were with me paddling canoes on the majestic Spey ~ a session which culminated with a full malt-whisky tasting experience in a cosy tipi situated on the river back.  

Scots journalist Robin McKelvie in autumn of 2011 once again highlighted the diversity of the Scottish outdoors in the VisitScotland diaries ~ http://www.visitscotland.com/grabaglen

The ATWS provided for me a wonderful sounding/spring-board, for Spirit of the Spey ~ blending open canoe Spey journeys with unique Speyside malt-whisky experiences. Since that World Summit, the past eighteen months has been an exciting time for me ~ leading Canoe Journeys on the historic Spey and providing whisky experiences but also in further developing my Spirit of the Spey business. This has included setting up lines of social media ~ new website, Twitter, Facebook accounts and building connections (now over 500) on Linked-In ~ the equivalent of Facebook for businesses ~ without any trivial chat or holiday snaps.  ( http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/dave-craig/2b/678/362 )

Although very ably aided by my wonderful VPA (Virtual Personal Assistant) Louise,(http://approachthecoach.co.uk/ ) setting up all my social media framework has meant long periods of my sitting at my desk, with the only view being my computer! I sometimes consider social-media to be a multi-piece jigsaw with an ever-changing picture. However, for me now, many of the pieces are in place and, as well as getting out paddling on my beloved Spey, I am now looking to getting back into the local hills, be bathed in their tranquility, appreciate their beauty and revitalise my flagging fitness levels.

From my home here at The Beeches in Newtonmore ( www.thebeechesnewtonmore.com ) within a matter of moments I can be walking with ease through picturesque countryside or on mountainside; biking on-road or in a forest/hill-track, scaling a crag, painting a stunning landscape or playing golf on an immaculate course. This week as a start to my new fitness regime, my wife and I have been running up Glen Banchor towards A' Chailleach (The Old Woman), the impressive Munro 930m behind Newtonmore ~ visible from the A9 ~ frequently in winter adorned with a very marked cornice along the lip of its long east facing corrie.

I am constantly reminded about how privileged we are to live and work in Scotland ~ and Strathspey in particular. This is indeed a stunning part of the world with, literally on our doorsteps, endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, in whatever way we might choose and to feel at one with nature. Scotland may be a relatively small country but for her size, greater than anywhere else in the world in terms of her a natural beauty and a wide-range of outdoor opportunities ~ welcoming and easily accessible to all ~ residents and tourists.

Happy Burns Night!!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year Wishes from Spirit of the Spey in Algarve, Portugal.

Belated Happy New Year from sunny Algarve, Portugal. Beautiful blue skies here. Around 25 degrees today. I am back in Scotland January 9th. In meantime I wish everyone Best Wishes for 2012- Good Health, Prosperity and Happiness.