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Saturday, 24 October 2009


Rothiemurchus is the enormous estate that neighbours Inshriach. Last week I took myself on their Land Rover Safari to get a better idea of the workings of the place. One tour can't take in the whole estate, which stretches high into the Cairngorms, but you get an idea of what goes into such an operation in the 21st century, from farming to forestry, tourism and wildlife management, and through the various buildings such as the Doune, (the recently and beautifully restored Jacobean / Georgian pile where the Grant family now live), or Drumintoul lodge and the fascinating Victorian and wartime outbuildings thereabouts, it's a little window into the social history of the Spey valley. We also went to the red deer farm which supplies the amazing venison they stock at the farm shop, getting up close to a herd like that is a pretty special experience.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Active Spirit.

A group coming next month have engaged the services of Tracey and Ian Pullen of Active Spirit to run an archery session. They wanted to have a look at Inshriach ahead of time so brought round some targets and all the required kit so we could have a shot. Even though nobody here was under 30 it was surprisingly addictive. Tracey and Ian are a lovely couple and who gave us a few pointers and had us shooting pretty accurately after an hour or so (though not by the time this photo was taken). It's around £90 for a three hour session and happens right here on the lawn.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Location location.

Helen Abraham, a Glasgow based photographer, has been here this weekend to catch the autumnal colours and beef up her portfolio of fashion photography. She brought Rebecca, a beautiful flame haired model, coincided with Aimee on hair and costume, and caught a day, dawn to dusk, of the most astonishingly vibrant colour and light and mist. We used everything from the bracken in the woods to the river to the flat grey of the squash court to the interiors of the house, even some of the cars as backdrops, everywhere you turned was another opportunity. The results can now be seen on Helen's flickr page.

Balvenie revisited.

The brand ambassador for Balvenie invited me to the distillery for a personal tour this week. Balvenie is one of the last family owned distilleries, one of the last to have its own malting floor, its own cooperage and its own warehousing (43 enormous sheds stacked high for decades with maturing whisky). A tour there is a few hours of alchemy; brass, copper stills, furnaces and a little science applied to age honed techniques for combining (or just leaving) casks for the ideal balance of flavours or consistency. We finished up in warehouse 24, the oldest part of the distillery, where we drew ourselves samples direct from the cask. There are plans afoot for Balvenie tastings at Inshriach on a couple of occasions next year but in the meantime I would recommend a heading up there for a tour if you like your whisky (it's just over an hour away).

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Porridge.

Once a year the international porridge making community descends on Carrbridge to fight it out for the Golden Spurtle. Miss Scotland and a Robbie Burns lookalike make an appearance, a little whisky is tasted and you watch live and on a big screen as the combatants whisk through the rounds of speciality porridge making. We tried an Indian 4 spice porridge, some sort of porridge brulee and some other sorts of porridge. Lots of people turned out, there is a little music, (Rachel Sermanni from Carrbridge put on a lovely performance) and everyone gets right into the irreverent spirit of what has become known round here as 'The Porridge'.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Session A9.

Last week Session A9 took the house for a few days of rehearsals and to work on a some new tunes. Session A9 are a kind of Scottish super group, talented session musicians and multi instrumentalists who can all usually be found playing with other artists. They have also turned their hands to film scores and compositions and they recorded their last album here (Bottlenecks and Armbreakers). It was a bit of a privilege to have them back and they were good enough to let me record this wee video.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

More Yurts.

This time last week was the second of our Red Kite Yurt building courses. We just ran a one day workshop this time which covered assembling a yurt and steam bending or burning the components. We also experimented with coppiced green willow for the spokes of the crown. It's that time of year when the sap is starting to drop in the trees and coppicing is good so we might head along the river with a hatchet and landrover with an eye on building a wonky yurt entirely from Inshriach materials.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Going it alone.

Last week we parted from an agency we have been with for the last year. As Sally Shalam said in her review in the Guardian, it is unusual to find a house that isn't on with the big rental companies but we have an inkling that it suits us better to be off the books.

Now people have to contact us before they come here, exchange emails, perhaps explore this blog or these pictures and find something they like the look of. They probably have to look at our website, will probably find out that we have an excellent chef, that they can organise archery on the lawn, that the fishing is wild and all the better for that, or that there are sheds of old cars and weekends of workshops down in the farmyard.

This leaves us with listings on Sawdays and The Big Domain, both of whom give us a lovely write up and are better suited both to our character and our clientele. We might miss out on a few bookings but it leaves us more flexible with our prices and actually better able to cater to your needs.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Bothy revisited.

Anyone who has stayed in the bothy here on anything other that a balmy summers night will appreciate our latest endeavour. Being a contrary kind of recycler, having no budget and being almost unnaturally preoccupied with patina, when I decided to lay a new floor it was not simply a case of visiting Keyline. It's insulated with broken breakthroughs from Raven (conveniently made from 50mm floor insulation), then a layer of chipboard went down (we did have to buy that) then pine boards on top. The floorboards were recovered with a JCB from a house that had been knocked down on top of them (a year ago according to this post), which meant they were a total mess but scraped, ground, sanded and varnished they have come up looking like crazy parquet, all random lengths, a bit scarred but authentic in a mad kind of way, and almost free.

Next up, the gutters.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Ord Ban Presents.

Over the last few weeks Ord Ban have put together some extraordinary alternative dining. Most recent (and something they are planning on making a regular thing of) was their taster evening, six of their favourite dishes from the last 18 months, a musically accompanied tribute to the chefs to have occupied their kitchen and testament to Ross and Polly's resourcefulness and willingness to experiment. If you can book for the next one I would highly recommend it

A couple of weeks back they hosted an evening of Russian cultural philosophy and vodka, or more accurately, the cultural philosophy of vodka. We ate salty or pickled Russian food, gherkins, fish and eggs (or a Scottish slant - salted chanterelles anyone?) and worked our way through a series of toasts, lots of shots, Russian music and dancing. The evening was hosted by Dmitri Morozov, the man behind the Kitezh orphanage, 40 miles outside Moscow. This was an exchange, Polly visited Kitezh in May to teach the children cooking and partly due to the vodka and partly the rhetoric, this was an unexpectedly inspiring evening. Dmitri is an unusual and charismatic individual and I have enormous respect for what they have achieved there. When he promised that by drinking just vodka we would not have hangovers on Monday that was not the whole truth.

Then there was Sue Ryder Sunday. What happened on Sue Ryder Sunday stays on Sue Ryder Sunday.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Further Yurts and Chainsaw Carving.

This Saturday we are holding another yurt making workshop, there are still 2 places left if anyone fancies coming along, it's £75 for the day including lunch and there will be 8 people in total on the course. We will be condensing what we covered last time, steam bending the various components and burning the crown but because we nearly finished a 16ft yurt over the last workshop weekend we will still be able to see the finished results without needing to cut 110 wall poles, drill a million holes or tie a thousand knots.

The last course happened to coincide with the Carrbridge Chainsaw Carving championship and I have just come across this rather lovely film put together by Fergus Thom of Carrbridge Films.