Thursday, April 9, 2015

Highland Spirit Bed & Breakfast, Dufftown, Scotland, UK

About 45 minutes west of Aberdeen, nestled in the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands in an area called Speyside is the quaint village of Dufftown. It's the type of town where everybody knows everybody and within days of being there we had "the usual" at the local diner with our favorite waitress and legitimately passed people we knew in the street. The landscape is picturesque with luscious green hills, spotted with thick forests, beautifully manicured gardens, and grazing sheep, which one can hear always baa-ing in the distance.

The air is so fresh that coming from Kuwait where a mix of burning fossil fuels and orange dust constantly linger in the air, our lungs almost burned with relief having taken actual deep breaths. Not only is the air perfectly fresh but one can smell the dampness of whisky production in the air. Dufftown rightly calls itself the Malt Capital of the World boasting home to seven local whisky distilleries including one called Balvenie and another called Glenfiddich. I'm not sure if you've heard of them, they're so small and local (insert sarcasm). Of the seven distilleries within walking distance of downtown Dufftown, a few are open for tours and tastings, including those mentioned. And there are at least five or ten more within a short car or train ride (Aberlour, The Macallan, and Strathisla are a few). This place is a whisky lovers dream.

But we didn't go to Scotland for the whisky. Well okay we did, but it wasn't the only attraction. Several years ago friends of ours, Alistair and Karen, retired from their day jobs to pursue their dream of owning and running a bed and breakfast. They settled on the town of Dufftown and found a beautiful 19th century home which is now the Highland Spirit Bed and Breakfast. It's one of those fantasy life changes that you see in the movies. However, renovating a historical home through blistering Scottish winters (and with no heater!) isn't exactly romantic. It's hard and tiresome (and did I mention cold?), making it a true labor of love.Yet they took every measure to renovate the home with historical and environmental concerns in mind. Every painstaking detail was considered and included throughout the home and grounds. The walls are covered with artwork from local artists, or have subject matter specific to the home. Even the teacups in each room are meaningful. (check out pictures of interior, more details on their renovation process, and history of the home on their website here).

When Alistair and Karen began their venture, we began planning our visit. We finally decided to go the summer after Noah arrived and wanted to meet our families there to have him baptized. Before I knew it the tickets were booked and three and a half month old Noah was on a plane with Gman and me, Scotland bound.

When we arrived at the Highland Spirit our friends greeted us at our car and helped us inside. We had some tea while waiting for our families and getting the VIP tour of the house. There are three rooms each very comfortably furnished and outfitted with luxury toiletries in the bathroom and soft white sheets on the bed. We enjoyed complimentary (and delicious) coffee, tea, and Scottish shortbread cookies every afternoon in our room.

They also happily helped us plan our itinerary for our 10 day stay. There is more to do in the area besides whisky tasting. Even if you don't drink you wouldn't be short on recreational pursuits (fishing, hiking, and sight seeing to name a few). We had several days planned for tastings, day trips to the coast, visits to other towns and castles as well as plenty of time for putzing around town and going on several of the numerous local nature hikes (and naps for everyone!). There was not enough time in 10 days to do all there is to do! We planned our trip to be in town for the Highland Games as well (what a treat! more on that in another post). Everywhere we went the locals were so friendly and always ended up knowing our hosts. The familiarity made our whole trip there feel very homey and relaxing.

The bed and breakfast is not only the most comfortable place to stay, but it has seriously the best food in town. In keeping with their detail oriented design and service, the breakfast menu is a carefully edited selection of traditional Scottish favorites. Yes they serve a full Scottish breakfast, but our favorite ended up being the reliable, filling, and a bit naughty porridge with honey and Monkey Barrel whisky. Yes, whisky in your porridge. I mean, why not? When in Rome…

One of the services that Alistair and Karen offer is packed picnic lunches. We took them up on this for one of our castle day trips and were so glad we did (and later wished we'd done it every day!). Again, they make the best food in town (and surrounding towns!) and we didn't have to do any planning or worrying about what and when we were going to eat.

As I mentioned above we wanted to have Noah baptized during our trip as well. I'll talk about it in more detail in a later post, but Karen used the same thoughtfulness she uses to take care of her bed and breakfast to make sure that everything - including setting up the pastor, bagpiper(!) and after party - were perfect for Noah's christening. I never had to raise a finger! I'm forever indebted to her kindness for making one the most meaningful moments of our life with Noah absolutely perfect - no exaggeration!

With seven adults and a baby there is potential for lots of standing around saying, "well what do you want to do," and room for meltdowns and fights. But because of our generous hosts and friends our visit to Scotland greatly exceeded our expectations (mine are always unrealistically high) and it is one of the experiences that I will never forget and can't stop talking about.

I highly recommend a stay with our friends in Dufftown. You will enjoy luxurious accommodations amongst an idyllic landscape filled with passionate, friendly people (and lots of whisky).

Visit their Facebook page here and their website here.

Love you guys!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for such a lovely blog... you are too nice. "potential meltdown" lol. glad that didn't happen. can't wait for you to come back... hopefully we can get out more together on visits next time... that is must!
    love you too.

    hope the stroller is not working you too hard.


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