Runner-up debut drinks book in the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards 2017
Winner of the Gourmand award for best UK spirits book 2017
Fiona’s latest book, Whisky Island is a celebration of the whiskies of Islay and of the beautiful island that shaped them. With a population of just over 3,000, Islay produces some of the finest whiskies in the world. It is perhaps best known for its smoky, phenolic spirits, such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. These have been distilled in rocky coves off Islay’s sheltered east coast for at least 200 years, and probably much longer. But in truth Islay produces a dram for every palette, and its vibrant and expanding whisky industry is a constant source of renewed excellence and taste innovation.
With stunning photographs by Konrad Borkowksi and 10 original poems by Fiona, Whisky Island transports you to the magical island of Islay and its legendary whisky distilleries.
Last weekend, Dougie the Dug took my husband, Peter, and I to An Cladach bothy on the Sound of Islay for a couple of nights away from it all. “Away from what?” I hear you cry, you pair of feckless freelancers, you. Well, Dougie had discerned a certain flagging in our spirits, a doon-heidedness, a pall of despond.
The blues started on the morning of 19 September and would not lift. In truth, they affected me more than Peter, for I am afflicted with being Scottish, whereas Peter is originally from Brighton. As everyone knows, it’s sunny in Brighton and it’s shite being Scottish.
Metabolising the result of the referendum on Scottish independence was, for me, a bit like dealing with a bereavement. There were grief and tears. There was anger. With the Labour Party. With John Lewis and RBS. With the Daily Record and the BBC. With no voters – the hardest part, as some of them were, gulp, quite good friends of mine.
What there wasn’t – what just wouldn’t come – was acceptance.
Instead, I began to wish I were not Scottish. For it’s not just shite being Scottish. It’s hard and complicated too. I began to fantasise about being, say, … Read More »
While out walking near Huisnis on the Isle of Harris on a particularly clear day last summer, my husband Pete and I caught sight of St Kilda – a mesmerising silvered smudge on the horizon. It’s easy to think you’ve seen St Kilda, only to discover later that you were contemplating some other outer isles that do not excite the imagination in the same way. That day there was no mistake; those distant vertiginous outlines could be nowhere else. We realised then both how stupid and wrong our previous ‘sightings’ had been, and that it was inevitable we would now go to St Kilda.
We travelled there in mid-June aboard the MV Cuma, a restored 12-berth former marine research vessel operated out of Uig on the Isle of Lewis by Murdo Macdonald, a former fisherman and sure-handed skipper. The Cuma chugs across the permanent swell between the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda at a stately pace, allowing passengers to grasp something of the archipelago’s remoteness.
“It is St Kilda’s shimmering farawayness that constitutes its allure”
Along with its haunting human history – Hirta, the main island of the St Kilda archipelago, was inhabited for 4,000 years until the 1930 evacuation – it is … Read More »
The tiny beach-fringed settlement of Hushinish on the north-west shore of the Isle of Harris is quite literally at the end of the road. The winding single-track B887 peters out here, its final stretch subsumed by fine, silver sand. Stationed at one of Scotland’s most westerly points, the four-house settlement has the feel of an outpost; across the sound is the now uninhabited island of Scarp; on clear days, St Kilda can be seen shimmering on the horizon from a nearby hillside path.
Hushinish is separated from the main Tarbert to Stornoway road by a majestic landscape of rugged mountain and sodden bog, punctuated by teeming fishing lochs and tumbling, peat-reddened burns. Here the eagle soars, the stag bells – and the feisty W12 minibus bounces gamely past on week days. For Hushinish, though remote, is very accessible, lying only 46 miles from Stornoway, the largest town on the Western Isles archipelago with a population of about 6,000.
The W12 bus is absolutely the best way to get to Hushinish. Glance out the window as it rounds one of the B887’s many high-perched hairpin bends and you’ll see why. The views south across Loch a Siar – turquoise on sunny days, a … Read More »