For Umberto

April 2016.

The west coast of Scotland

Dear Umberto,

Scotland is a green and misty country, filled with a proud history and very welcoming people. Your time here will introduce you to the art of whiskey distilling, Scottish cuisine, hikes below jagged mountains ringed by low clouds—not to mention a bounty of wildlife and views of wild seas. Big nature, beautiful countryside and the charming town and village life of West Scotland await you.

Day 1: Port Appin

Upon arrival in Glasgow, your guide Stuart will meet you, and take you to Port Appin. You will enjoy his company immensely, as he’s a friendly and knowledgeable guide, who can discuss the history and geography of Scotland in great detail, and tell you all about the trip we have laid out for you.

Once you reach the lovely little fishing village of Port Appin, you will get some time to rest and grab some dinner. Your first day in Scotland will be a fairly leisurely one, as you get revved up for all of the travel and exploring to come.

Day 2: Isle of Skye

Stuart will meet you in the morning for a helicopter flight to the Isle of Islay. Your first stop will be at the Scotch whisky Bruichladdich Distillery, on the Rinns (a western peninsula) of Islay. Bruichladdich is one of eight distilleries on the island, and until the recent opening of Kilchoman farm distillery, the only independent one.

One interpretation of the Gaelic word Bruichladdich is “stony shore bank,” referring to a post-glacial raised beach, though an alternative, perhaps more pertinent translation may be “rocky lee shore.” Normally pronounced brook-lad-dee—or by some Gaelic speakers as broo-ee-clah-dee (depending on accent)—it incorporates a specific, extremely local soft pronunciation of the Gaelic ch element.

Once you arrive, you will be treated to an extensive tour of the distillery, and will be afforded time for a private chat with the manager and the master distiller. The distillery was featured in an episode of the BBC series “Oz and James Drink to Britain,” in which the hosts were given a tour of the distillery, and allowed to try some of the prized X4 Quadruple Distilled “Perilous Whisky,” of which the Scottish writer Martin Martin wrote in 1695, “the first taste affects all the members of the body; two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life.” The BBC team actually used this ultra pure spirit to run a Radical (a British brand) racing car.

After your visit, you will be served a hearty lunch in a local pub. Then, you will take a breathtakingly gorgeous helicopter flight up the coast to the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands.

Skye is famed for the hiking options: Cuillin Hills, the Red Hills, and the rock fortress of Bla Bheinn. This island is brimming over with wildlife, from the tiny goldcrest and magnificent golden eagles to otter, red deer and salmon. There’s always something to see and do.

After you land on Skye, you will meet up briefly with trusty Stuart, who’ll set you up for the next leg of your trip. Then you will have time for a stroll along the seashore. The Scottish coast is a wild place, perfect for watching seals in the frothing surf, and soaking in the island’s natural beauty.

Day 3: Cuillin Hills

Per your requests, this is the day I have arranged some exercise for you, and a real chance to work your legs. Biking in the Cuillin Hills (or Cuillin Mountains) can be a little daunting at first, but the starkly contrasting scenery makes it well worth the effort. Your local guide Malcolm will meet you in the morning with bikes in hand. He’ll then take you out for an exhilarating ride.

Some of the things you might see on the way to your ride, and during the ride itself, include the remarkable outlines of MacLeod’s Tables flattop hills, Loch Dunvegan by the seaside, moorlands and mountains in all shapes and sizes, more sheep than you will ever be able to count, and plenty of crofts (fenced in farms with lots of sheep and cows).

After your ride, you will be treated to a lunch or picnic, depending on your mood. And then, if time allows, you can visit the precipitous steps leading down to Neist Point Lighthouse, perched atop a cliff dropping into the sea, or else opt for a trip to Dunvegan Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. The castle boasts handsome gardens just beyond the grounds that you can swing by as you amble along the footpath to the white sands of the Coral Beaches.

With several days of travel under your belt at this juncture, you will likely have heard snatches of Scottish Gaelic, the indigenous language of the area, here and there. Gaelic culture and heritage pervade the local atmosphere, with each part of the island having its own tales of times past, and of plans for the future.

Come nightfall, after all that physical exercise, you will be ready for dinner, which I have booked for you with your desire to sample the best local fare Skye has to offer in mind. I’m sure you will appreciate the bounty of Scottish dishes to choose from.

Day 4: Portree and The Misty Isle

Mitchell, your walking guide, will pick you up bright and early to discover the Misty Isle’s (a nickname for Skye) scenic rivers, secluded lochs and striking landscapes.

Once you’ve had your fill of hidden coves, rivers, steams, and craggy cliffs, if there’s still some time remaining, you can wander around the humming port of Portree. Stuart will then escort you back to the mainland — either by ferry, or over the slightly vertigo-inducing Skye Bridge, and through the picturesque Kyle of Lochalsh.

Day 5: Mallaig and The Jacobite Steam Train

You will have the morning to explore Mallaig, a small port town located along the well-traveled Road to the Isles. I suggest taking a few moments to gaze out at the sea, and reflect on all that you’ve seen and experienced over the last few days.

In the afternoon you will catch the ever so delightful Jacobite Steam Train (made famous in the Harry Potter films), journey through charming Scottish countryside to Fort William, and then be met by Stuart, who will accompany you back to Glasgow.

Day 6: Glasgow

Alas, your time in Scotland has come to a close, and it’ll be time to head to the airport. One thing that you will have probably picked up on is just how friendly the people of Scotland are—even if the rainy weather doesn’t always match their cheery outlook.

Umberto, I have really enjoyed planning this itinerary for you, and it’s my sincerest wish that you have a wonderful time. If you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of help to you in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out.