Anniversication: Islands and Highlands of Scotland – Aviemore and the Glenlivet

I’m at the Premier Inn Glasgow Airport, and I’ve got about 24 minutes of free wifi before I have to pay, so I’m going to write the quickest blog post ever! Here goes the last post in the Anniversication series, combined with a Time for your Piece post to showcase, in my opinion, one of Scotland’s best restaurants.

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I left off with our brief visit to the Isle of Skye. The day of our anniversary, we woke up, packed up and headed east to the mainland, north to Inverness (along the shores of Loch Ness – another Scottish iconic landmark), then due south on the A9 (the highway through the middle of Scotland) to Aviemore. 
Aviemore is Scotland’s version of touristy ski town: think Banff, Canada (because there’s a Banff in Scotland) without all the franchises, (and Australians). It’s a family-friendly, outdoorsy town, with a high street lined with stores, restaurants and pubs. We had booked a room in a hotel for our anniversary, as we wanted to sleep in a proper bed that night and indulge ourselves a little. Our resort was pretty nice and within the grounds, there was a leisure centre with swimming, gym and spa facilities, as well a shopping centre with expensive stuff! To be honest, I wasn’t overly excited about being in Aviemore, it was another case of wanting to go for being able to say I’ve been and to see what it’s like; perhaps I’m a bit ski town spoiled, having spent three winters quite close to the Rockies and resort towns of Banff and Jasper, (I can see my friend Shannon immitating me in her snobby-impersonation posh voice right now). Our anniversary meal, however, definitely made the trip worthwhile though.

We asked some of the hotel staff to recommend a good restaurant for our anniversary meal, and they all unanimously said The Old Bridge Inn. So we called to make a reservation, and, to show how popular this restaurant is, the earliest table we could get was 9:15 pm. Usually, when we call for a restaurant for a reservation the same day, we always get a table around peak times. I liked the fact that we had to wait later for a table because this told me that this place was good!

The Old Bridge Inn can best be described as a casual atmosphere with an eclectic, cozy at-home feeling. The restaurant is in a house that has been converted, and can be found across the train tracks from the high street, nestled on a tree-lined street. It also has a hostel and bunkhouse, and although it didn’t happen the night we were there, they also seem to feature live music regularly. The staff was all dressed in plaid shirts with jeans or coloured khakis and casual runners, very cool. And the place was packed!

There was a dog under the table of the two men on the right

Our table wasn’t yet ready, so we had a drink at the bar, and of course, being Anniversication, a game of Backgammon.

Nice board

When we ordered our drinks, my husband asked about their whisky selection, and the bartender was able to answer his question thoroughly. Now to any oblivious North American, this is a natural expectation from your bartender in a restaurant; the reason this is significant in this situation is that such a thing is rare in Scotland. Usually, when you ask your server/bartender about the food/drink available, the answer is always “I don’t know, I’ll go ask.” If I did this in both my serving jobs in Canada, I probably wouldn’t have been a server for very long, and wouldn’t have made good tips either. In a nutshell, service here is usually quite poor, and you’re often left wondering who your server is, where he/she is, and why don’t they know anything about the menu. At The Old Bridge Inn, it was different. It was like North American quality restaurant service in Scotland. Finally. And it that was just the beginning.

Yet another great thing about The Old Bridge Inn is the fact that all their food is locally grown, locally reared and locally source. The menu at the time featured a starter of Scallops from the Shetland Islands (the northernmost islands of Scotland) and Speyside ribeye, locally reared beef within the region of the banks of the River Spey. I wanted the scallops for my starter, but seeing as how we ordered at 10 pm, it made sense that they were all sold out. Instead, I had a baked goat’s cheese and carmelised onion tart. Pat had tomato soup. My tart was total heaven, inside and out!

Being a beef lover, especially lover of Scottish Beef, I naturally ordered the Speyside Ribeye with Cafe de Paris Butter, which literally melted in my mouth. It came with buttery mashed potatoes and side salad. So basic yet again, so heavenly.

Can you hear the angels singing?

Pat was on a fish kick and had recently expressed that he wanted to try samphires, little edible plants found in coastal areas. He had fillet of Moray Cod with samphires. Which he practically inhaled!

Then came dessert! I’m usually a whip cream, white sponge, fresh fruit kind of dessert lover, but for some reason, the apricot and almond tart was calling my name. It. was. amazing.

Pat had hazelnut profiteroles.

By the end of dessert, it was 11 pm; our spirits were high, our bellies were full and we were very satisfied customers. Not only was the food incredible, but again, the service was so good! The food was quick, our server was attentive and I felt like I was at home again. The only question she couldn’t answer was when I asked about my dessert: what kind of sauce is this? (apricot). Perhaps, though, I could’ve been the first person to ask her that that day, who knows? When the bill came, I was so happy with my meal and experience, that I generously tipped our server £10. Tipping isn’t manditory here, and usually my husband and I don’t tip as we feel the service isn’t tip-worthy, but at The Old Bridge Inn, it definitely is! Overall, our experience was incredible, I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone, and if we lived closer, we would be there almost every month. It’s for this reason that I feel it’s one of Scotland’s best restaurants, but also a suitable Time for your Piece piece.

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We had planned to drive straight home from Aviemore the next day, but Pat had a desire to see a whisky distillery, and seeing as how there are many in Speyside, we took a detour and stopped at the Glenlivet distillery. Glenlivet is, by the way, Scotland’s second best selling whisky in the world, behind Glenfiddich.

Pat decided he needed to do a plank outside the distillery
I won’t bore you with all the distillery details, so here are a few interesting bits of information:
  • Throughout the distilling process, once the distillery has finished with the barley, they sell it off as animal feed, (no waste).
  • Once the whisky has been put into casks to age for at least 12 years, the alchohol evaporates at a rate of  2% a year. This 2% is called the Angel’s Share.
  • When the casks are fully aged, they are all poured into a tank prior to bottling. This process is called marrying. Some might think it’s blending, but blending refers to mixing different single malt whiskies into a blend, rather than combining the same batch of single malt whisky.
  • During the marrying process, spring water is added to the cask strength whisky, making it milder (ha!) in taste and thus lowering the alchol percentage as well.

Although I find the whisky making process so interesting, I detest the stuff! Pat likes it though, plus it’s a Scottish thing, so I’m down with it. If you’re ever interested in trying whisky, keep in mind that the older the single malt, usually the milder and smoother in flavour the whisky will be. Also the older the whisky, the more expensive it is!

 

Us and George Smith, the founder of Glenlivet. Can you tell we’re married?

After Glenlivet, we took the winding road through the mountains home. The Anniversication was over. The best vacation we’ve had in a few years was finished.

Altogether, we covered 658 miles. The map below outlines our travel route, with F roughly representing where we live, B being Oban, C for Tiree, D for Sligachan in the Isle of Skye, and E for Aviemore.

Would we do it again? In a hearbeat.

It’s time for bed, I’ve got a 4:15 am wake up to catch my early flight to Toronto tomorrow morning for my uncle’s wedding!!!!!!! I haven’t been to Canada since July 2010, it’s been too long.

By the way, I didn’t write this post in half an hour, I had to purchase wifi credit. Oh well.

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