It had just started to snow and the weather update on the radio mentioned of a possible road closure by late evening. Google maps had already mentioned the arrival at my destination much before that. So, with a momentary sigh of relief, and not being worried about driving in snow, I continued towards, Aberlour. The road was already very scenic and a town by the River Spey in the highlands of Scotland was a good setting for a hotel. The idea was to check into The Highlanders Inn, which came heavily recommended for its Japanese owner and his knowledge of the whiskeys of Scotland and in general from the world.
The sun had long gone outside the window, but at the bar in Highlander’s Inn, the ambiance was bright. Those who gathered spoke fondly of their favorite spirit, The Single Malt Whiskey. Perhaps it was the alcohol or it was just the drive that day, or maybe a heady mix of the two that prompted me to think, Scotland as a tour is a good thing. People, especially lovers of good Whiskey (and there are many in India) would love to go on a single malt trail. A trail that would introduce them to the home of their favorite single malt. By the end of my drive in Scotland, I had come to an understanding that I do not need to even go to its neighboring country, Ireland, even though it would be a good sales idea to combine the two countries.
Back home in India, the idea of going to Ireland was not even an idea for an entire year. Travel to Ireland was so foreign that even going to Irish Bars did not excite me. At the same time though, I started thinking, just a ‘single malt trail’ tour was a little too much. Maybe this is why Ireland started to slowly make a headway, through the back door. I think it was not until I realized that like me the Irish were not very big fans of the Queen, that the second door opened in my mind. I guess I also started hearing or maybe started paying more attention to what people spoke about the Republic, around the world. Especially, the people who had driven in Ireland. So somewhere in early March this year just on an impulse, I booked a ticket to Dublin. It was a one-way ticket!
“Let me just go to Ireland for a couple of days and if I do not like the way it feels, I will fly back”, is what I thought the night before the flight to Dublin. Well, that was the last time I thought about Ireland that way. 25 km out of Dublin as I accidentally took the wrong exit out of the motorway, my mind took the right turn I think. As the road got narrower, the idea got broader, and by the end of the day, I was convinced, Ireland needs at least 3 – 4 days in an itinerary with Scotland.
In the next one week of driving in Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way, two things happened. One, the equation reversed from 4 nights in Ireland and 8 in Scotland to only 4 in Scotland. Second, I had to (without wanting it) book a ticket out of Ireland!
As I sit to write an itinerary for Ireland and Scotland for next summer, the scenes keep flashing in front of me, much like the waters of the Atlantic, that splash on the rugged coastline of Ireland. They make a sound but from way up there you can only see them and the sound is that of only the wind. Both the wind and the water are wild, and that’s where Ireland scores I think. It feels a bit like the wilderness in Patagonia. Today, it is as much of a pleasure to put words on the screen, as it was to put the first gear and start driving every day in Ireland.