Radio and Royalty

Yesterday took me north to one of favourite places on earth – Royal Deeside – to join my adorable pal, Fiona. We met up at Glen Tanar estate just south of the River Dee to do some recording for her new Friday afternoon show on Radio Scotland. Starting in May, ‘Out for The Weekend’ will feature the multitude of activities on offer in Scotland’s Great Outdoors. I was there to talk to her about my road to recovery from breast cancer through walking my way back to health and happiness.

We had planned – by our standards – fairly meticulously, having brought snacks (quorn cocktail sausages, mango pieces, bananas) and a 25 year-old OS map, which I had stuck together rather optimistically with much sellotape. We then decided that the map was perhaps a bit superfluous as the several routes are all way-marked. The one we chose – Fairy Lochan – was symbolised by a dragonfly. It’s a lovely short circuit, passing the 19th century Chapel of St Lesmo, the picturesque small loch and looping back along the Water of Tanar. Simple.

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After some highly technical sound testing of the recording equipment involving a creaky gate, we set off apace in glorious weather, walking and talking…..and then things went a bit Radio Gaga. We got so engrossed in our conversation, that we’d completely forgotten the dragonflies and were not sure which path we were on. We retraced our steps…..only to find we were on the right path after all. After that, the map came out and after much squinting and holding it upside down, we figured out where we were going.

Situated in the heart of Royal Deeside and within the spectacular Cairngorms National Park, Glen Tanar Estate is just east of Balmoral Castle, which was built for Queen Victoria in the mid 1800’s as her wee but ‘n’ ben. The surrounding area is hugely popular with sightseers, anglers, walkers, climbers, cyclists and two distinct types of photographer – the wildlife expert and the selfie amateur.

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Whisky Galore!

It has always been a huge disappointment to me that, when it comes to whisky and the consumption thereof, I suffer from two terrible afflictions – hangovers and heartburn. It was a travesty keenly felt when I visited the north east for a couple of days’ walking along the Speyside Way. I met up with my old mucker Morag and Brodie the dog at the recently refurbished Craigellachie Hotel in the heart of the region’s whisky trail. Surrounded by malts, distilleries and whisky heritage the temptation to throw caution to the wind and ‘drink in’ the atmosphere was stronger than a Glenfarclas 105 which, yes, I have imbibed and suffered the effects. We had to be sternly resolute on arrival at the hotel when we were invited to join in a select whisky tasting event in the drawing room. We declined and instead gazed on the 700+ malts on offer over G+Ts in the hotel’s sumptuous Quaich bar.

The Speyside Way is a long distant route which captures the spirit of Scotland running 84 miles from Buckie on the north east coast, through the heart of malt whisky country to Aviemore, the outdoor centre on the foothills of the Cairngorms. Mostly you walk in the valley of the fast-flowing River Spey, Scotland’s second-longest river and arguably its most attractive.  IMG_0283IMG_0284

The area is home to almost half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries and both Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are directly on the Way. In need of a comfort break, we popped into the former, which hosts an excellent tour and also has a grand fireplace in the ladies loo. Posh or what?

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