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Issue 51 - On the road again

Scotland Magazine Issue 51
June 2010


This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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On the road again

Summer is coming and so is a Victorian inspired challenge.

Well I am guessing that not many of you know that I have an MA in Scottish Literature. For some an odd degree but for me one of the best aspects was focusing in on the Medieval period. Scotland was tapping into the courtly literature coming out of France, Italy and Spain.

At the edge of my study period was the Enlightenment, which swept across Europe’s thinking classes. This shift fed into the Victorian period, the era really of science, progress and romance. The Victorians delighted in noting, detailing, observing, prodding, poking and generally gathering knowledge about the world.

Now the rub of where I was getting to... Alfred Barnard and his impressive tome The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom.

While it many not feature on any reading lists, studying the great man is an incredible insight into the distilling world and how the Victorians viewed this technological and industrial advancement.

I had wanted to read him for a while but, not having the available cash to lavish on a first edition, the lovely people at Birlinn sent me a copy. It was worth waiting for that’s for sure. Part travel journal, part historical record I think it’s essential reading now.

That said no one seems to have tried to update it. Misako Udo’s book, The Scottish Whisky Distilleries, while invaluable to the whisky connoisseur does not really have that travel or observational element to it. I think the closest thing to it is the BBC’s Tom Morton’s Spirit of Adventure.

However Tom and I are going to have a good attempt later this summer as we embark on another motorbike road trip, this time travelling from Orkney, through Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and back to Scotland again.

We hope that this will establish The Barnard Challenge as a non-competitive charity event to be undertaken in the future.

Just to add to the fun, Scottish comedian Paul Sneddon will be popping up at various other Scottish distilleries, masquerading as Mr Barnard himself. And Whyte and Mackay legend Richard Patterson will be appearing at Belladrum to conduct a guided tasting. The main charity partner this year is Spirit Aid, the group aimed at helping children worldwide, set up by actor David Hayman.

More details of the route will appear at Also Tom and I will be using twitter, facebook and a rolling blog. So if you are out and about at the end of July and the beginning of August and fancy a ride out, or joining us for a distillery visit then feel free.