Saturday May 4th: Day 2 of ‘Feeling it on the River; Tasting it in the Whisky; Holding it in your Heart’
Whisky Festival visitor spirits were not dampened by the heavy rains which fell in Speyside through Friday, May 3rd. However, by the Saturday morning river-water levels had risen markedly and whilst continuing to remain serene, Lady Spey looked particularly majestic, appearing as if she was in a bit of a hurry to get to the Moray Firth!
In keeping with the international flavour of the Speyside Whisky Festival, my guests for this Saturday trip were 4 lovely whisky aficionados from Switzerland. Femke Sijtsma.
Once again we met by my tipi nestled by Thomas Telford’s lovely bridge by Craigellachie. All togged-up, with water-proofs, buoyancy aids and armed with paddles, our trusty Tawse Taxi whisked us off to our start point at one of the Spey’s other picturesque bridge at Carron.
After a short land-drill ~ mainly to practice paddle strokes and their effect in controlling our 15’ canoes ~ and an entertaining chat with a very nice Laggan House fishing client we launched, first into a bank-side eddie and then off downstream on to the swift flowing river, leaving the arch of Carron bridge well behind us as my group of competent, smiling paddlers ably employed their new found stroke knowledge and skills.
Just round the bend we pass, on the right bank, Carron House ~ sitting elegantly beyond the green sweep of manicured lawn on its elevated location above the river. Then river left we can clearly view the red-stone, turrets of another fine example of Scottish architecture ~ Laggan House ~ now owned and rented on a time-share basis, which includes owners acquiring fishing rights on the Laggan beats.
Because of the higher level and brown colour of the water, we encountered very few anglers on our journey. However, Delagyle ghillie Willie Mearns is out and about with clients who want to make the best of their last day of their 6-days fishing on the Spey. Fishing for salmon is not permitted on a Sunday. Willie Mearns is due to retire in September, at the end of the 2013 fishing season. Willie seems quite glad to be hanging up his waders but I will miss my banter with Willie, usually around his tidy fishing hut, before going on to tackle the turbulent rapids, known as ‘The Potts’.
Safely through The Potts, I suggest to my wee group that we might think about stopping for a little light refreshment before we reach Aberlour. I offered Tea or coffee ~ even hot-chocolate. However, surprise! surprise! a ‘warming’ wee dram seemed to be much more appealing drink of choice! So, out came my special metal case, lined with close-cell foam which cradles my 7 Glencairn nosing glasses and on this
After our break for ‘reflecting and refueling’ we glide on downstream under the Aberlour foot-bridge, viewing high on the hill river left the mighty Macallan bonded warehouses. Speeding along effortlessly on the fast flowing current of this magnificent river, we are soon back at our tipi where for the next almost 2 hours my group enjoy a delicious picnic-lunch, followed by a dram ~ or three or four or five ~ including a
Monday 6th is my final day of helping Festival visitors discover the ‘True Spirit of the Spey’, through short canoe journeys on the river with lunch drams en route and a full tastings ~ up to 6 expressions ~ once off the river. An unofficial Festival day, actual paddler numbers for the Monday were a little unclear. There was mention of a Brazilian representation, once again highlighting the ‘international draw’ of the Speyside Whisky Festival. However, instead of Brazil my clients were a lovely couple, Dawn and Marty from Aboyne in Deeside. Having been brought up in Stonehaven the Dee was my ‘home river’ until, as an impressionable 14 year old, I met and fell in love with the attractive, alluring Lady Spey.
Because Dawn and Marty were not booked into any afternoon Festival activity we decided to again head upstream to Knockando, where upon arrival we found all was quiet following the previous day’s big launch of the Tamdhu distillery and the special release of the new Tamdhu 10yoSingle Malt ~ welcomed with mixed response by whisky aficionados.
It was a glorious day when we decanted all the gear out of the trailer and down to the riverbank. We were
After another nice al fresco lunch and a wee dram w were once again back on the water, heading for Craigellachie and some more drams for Marty and Dawn to try, back at the tipi. I was grateful to Craigellachie Fishing’s Ghillie, Dougie Ross for his co-operation in terms of his being very happy for me to pitch the tipi in his area of cut grass by the Telford bridge and also for working the day for his angling clients around my canoeing/whisky ‘comings and goings’. It was great to be able to share some drams from my tipi with Dougie and some of his lovely angling guests.
This very pleasant day of sunny weather, spent with my lovely folks from Aboyne, finishing with the sharing of drams by my beloved river, brought a very pleasant finale to the 2013 Speyside Whisky Festival. Even as I headed home with boats and kit packed into my trailer, I began to already look forward to inviting even more Festival visitors to experience the ‘True Spirit of the Spey’ at #dram2014!