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Whisky stills at Balvenie

Whisky stills at Balvenie Distillery

Today, we visited two Speyside distilleries and a famous Whisky Bar.

First stop was Balvenie, a sister distillery of Glenfiddich at Dufftown. here we joined an exclusive 3 hour tour which took us through the entire whisky making process from malting, mashing and fermentation to distillation and maturation. We also paid a brief visit to the distillery’s cooperage. Balvenie is one of the handful of Scottish whisky distilleries which still undertakes the entire end-to end process on site. Most distilleries have now contracted out malting and cooperage. continue reading…

Great Hall, Stirling Castle

Great Hall, Stirling Castle, Scotland

 This morning I collected my guests from their Edinburgh hotel and then drove north, first stopping for a quick tour of historic Stirling Castle. This castle is strategically situated in the centre of Scotland and in medievaltimes was critical to the control of the country. Two key battles were fought near here: Bannockburn in 1314 and Stirling Bridge in 1297. The castle had a combined military and prestige function in that it was also  Royal palace and built to impress. Above is the Great Hall whilst immediately below is the Chapel Royal, built in the space of just 9 months for a Royal christening. continue reading…

Robert the Bruce Statue

Robert the Bruce Statue, Bannockburn

This evening, I am focusing on the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 which was a key watershed in preserving Scotland’s independence from England which lasted until the birth of the United Kingdom in 1707.

Ssince the Norman conquest of England in 1066 the kings of England ran various campaigns and initiatives to make Scotland subservient to English over-lordship with mixed success. It is noteworthy that the two key battles occurred within a few miles of Stirling Castle because this was the ‘buckle in the belt’ of Scotland. To secure Scotland an invading army from England had to cross the plain in central Scotland which Stirling Castle dominates. In 1297 William Wallace (aka ‘Braveheart’ ) had a success against the English at nearby Stirling Bridge but this proved something of a pyrrhic victory because Wallace was subsequently betrayed and executed in London.

In June 1314 Edward II of England amassed a huge army of some 40,000 to crush the still rebellious Scots. The two armies met over two days, June 23rd and June 24th, with the latter being the main battle. The battle site was Bannock Burn. Burn is a Scots word meaning stream. The English were poorly organised and led and with the smaller Scots force taking advantage of their superior knowledge of the local terrain the result was a resounding victory for the Scots. Paradoxically, the current British Royal family are descended from the Scots victor, Robert I through his daughter and the House of Stewart.

The actual site of the battle has been lost in the mists of time but there is a Visitor Centre and Memorial not far from Stirling Castle on what is believed to the general area where the battle was fought.

Last year I provided a battlefields tour  incorporating Bannockburn. continue reading…