A Wee Scottish Adventure on the Isle of Skye
By Isabelle Lindsay, daughter of Montreal members
In August 2017, my stepdad, Steeve, and I travel to Scotland for hiking and adventure. Roughing it, so to speak, and slowly making our way toward the Isle of Skye, where we have a task to complete: to take photos for Opimian’s Cellar Offering at Pràban Na Linne.
In an attempt to make ourselves at least somewhat presentable after ten days in the wilderness, we spend a big twenty pounds to stay overnight at a campsite equipped with actual showers. We each pull out our one halfway decent outfit and head off to find Pràban na Linne. After several twists and turns we arrive at Pràban’s headquarters, sitting picturesque on the shore of a cove, next door to Hotel Eilean Iarmain.
Upon our arrival, we are pleasantly welcomed by the staff, are provided with the necessary bottles and are left to our photoshoot. At the end of the day we are invited in to meet the owner. And so, an adventure begins.
The owner of Pràban na Linne is Lady Lucilla Noble, the widow of Sir Ian Noble, founder and one of Scotland’s most highly regarded entrepreneurs. To put it lightly, Lady Noble does not disappoint. Wearing a green and red tweed jacket, she warmly welcomes us into her office and offers us a tasting of Pràban’s 8-, 12-, and 21-year-old whiskies. Avid drinkers, we readily accept. She presents us each with a solid gold whisky tumbler cup into which she pours us our whisky. The cups are a coming-of-age gift in her husband’s family and are made to be cradled in the palm of your hand as you sip your whisky drink, slowly warming it. We start with the 8-year-old and make our way up to the 21-year-old, each more exquisite than the last.
After our three shots of whisky and a handful of entertaining anecdotes from Lady Noble, she invites us to dinner. She tells us that unfortunately we aren’t able to dine at Hotel Eilean Iarmain as there is a wedding reception taking place that night. Instead, she offers to take us to her friend’s lodge, a short drive away. After a wild ride along tiny, winding lanes with the lady at the wheel of her Volvo, we fill her in on our rustic travels. Enjoying our assumed lifestyle, she informs us that it is best never to leave the house without a “wee dram” of whisky, as one never knows when a drink in the wilderness shall be called for.
We arrive at Kinloch Lodge—a very large Victorian lodge—and are treated to an aperitif of octopus ink crackers and prosecco in the antechamber. We are then led into the large dining room. Our presence seems unexpected, as we are clearly not old nor stiff enough for the upper crust clientele—and we are sorely underdressed. Nonetheless, thanks to our host, we are graciously seated.
The supper is a nine-course meal accompanied by numerous bottles of wine. With every new wine comes a new glass, which keep accumulating. The waiters clear them away periodically to make room for more. I see my stepdad across the table keeping tabs on me. He fears I might not be able to hold my liquor as the dinner extends into the wee hours. Lady Noble, a brilliant conversationalist, enthralls us the entire evening. She asks us many questions, but every once in a while, she drops a hint about her own past. She mentions that she was a Mackenzie from Ross and Cromarty and that her family were the proprietors of Dalmore Distillery. She had spent her youth gallivanting around Europe, studied art history, and lived in Italy for many years, getting into some trouble racing very expensive cars (which explains the earlier Volvo ride).
Eventually, the last course makes its way to us. My stepdad gives me the stink eye as I partake of a sample of each of the ten cheeses offered, but Lady Noble praises my appetite. Afterwards, during a break in our animated conversation, we look about and realize that we had closed the restaurant. We depart.
A Wee Jam
My stepdad and I make our way back to our tent and slip into our sleeping bags. At about three in the morning, I wake up parched from all the alcohol and make my way to the car for water. After several gulps, I close the trunk. Horrified, I realize I just locked the keys in the trunk! My stepdad is not pleased, but sleep is necessary as we have to be back at Pràban to take final interior shots.
In the morning the drama continues. There is no cellphone service, so we approach a woman coming down the road with her dog. My stepdad goes to her house to call a tow truck, which arrives within the hour. I notice Steeve’s face fall as he sees who we have to depend on. A teenager steps out with a number of plastic and inflatable wedges and proceeds to wedge the front door open, but, alas, it has been disabled. Several other locals out for a stroll stop to offer ideas.
A new strategy is undertaken. The lad begins the arduous process of prying the back-passenger door open and eventually gets it open wide enough to guide his wire through. He somehow manages to pull down the back seat and get access to the trunk, and there we see the keys lying perfectly poised on a bag. Excitement mounts as he reaches slowly to the back and expertly hooks them onto his wire. He guides them forward to the window and, with a final hard tug, pulls them through the crack in the door. Our day is saved!
We head over to Pràban na Linne several hours late. We arrive ready to apologize, but as we enter, we are greeted with sly smiles. As it turns out, one of the passing locals was the inn’s gardener. He had told everyone about the two crazy Canadians who stupidly locked their keys in the car. Cheers and back slaps all around.
We had missed Lady Noble that morning, but as consolation for our car troubles, she had left us a set of Gaelic Whisky miniatures along with a note telling us to enjoy a “wee dram” that evening as we watch the sun set over our campsite. And so we did.