The alarm went off at 6 am. Hubby muttered “No, no, no…” I mentally screamed “Yes, yes, yes!” I was out of bed in no time, full of excitement and joy. I had prepared for this day to come and I was ecstatic it had finally arrived. When you spend time in New Zealand you make sure to make the most of it – that includes a trip up Mt Roy. The country’s South Island is scattered with towering peaks, but few are as impressive as this one.
I’d seen awe-inspiring pictures of Mt Roy and God forbid my picture-hungry soul would drive by the town without stopping for a fine mountain hike.
We tend to be rather active on our adventures, however prior to arriving in New Zealand a tooth infection turned around everything. I had to take it slow, as ordered by the doctor. So we took a few days off to give my swollen face time to heal. The antibiotics helped but also turned my guts upside down. My body did not want to be bothered with food that morning but I knew I needed the energy. Hubby wolfed down his cereals while simultaneously packing his bag and searching for his boots. I had neatly packed everything the night before. I felt so well prepared.
And we decided to mark the occasion in the same way that he and his brother marked the occasion of my grandfather’s 70th, namely, a trip to visit our relatives in Campbelltown, Scotland. I had never been to Scotland and had always heard stories about our relatives from my dad and uncle, so as you can imagine I was very excited to take the trip.
Campbelltown itself is a highly isolated community, near the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula. your options in getting to the place are as follows: drive for close to four hours around the Loch from Glasgow, Take a ferry, or fly in a ten seat pond jumper to the dis-proportionally large Campbelltown Airport. The tarmac at the Campbelltown airport is, apparently so long because it is the first airstrip that a flight from west to east would encounter and is meant to accomidate any aircraft that has an emergency situtaion. It was also used, aparently as an RAF station for some years.
The town was at its height through the mid to late 1800’s and into the years just before the first world war. With a staggering 33 distilleries (mind you, thats just the LEGAL ones) the town became known as the “Whiskey Capital of the World” and the town itself became the namesake for an entire style region of Scotch Whiskey. The west of Scotland, specifically the peninsula, is not well wooded. Peet was (and to a point still is in rural places) the primary heat and energy source and of course therefore, was also used in the process of smoke-drying malted barley before that barley is distilled into delicious whiskey. That smoke leaves a heavy, distinctive flavor behind, a flavor that simply does not exist in Scotch whiskey outside of Campbelltown and the Isles.
The glory days wouldn’t last however. During the years of the First World War, resourses and provisions were rationed throughout the U.K., leaving the distilleries to fight for scraps. The severe shortage of supplies led to worse and worse whiskey quality until the majority of the distilleries could no longer afford to do business. Rumor has it that at the height of the supply shortages, some distilleries resorted to using fish barrels from the harbor as casks, you can imagine that this method only broadened the distilleries’ problems. By the end of World War 2, Campbelltown was a shadow of its former glory. A few did remain though, and today they produce an incredible product. Three distilleries remain in the town today: Glen Scotia, Sbringbank and Glengyle. The latter of the three was reopened only recently in 2004 and released its first 12 year whiskeys in 2016, the year we visited. With the opening of Glengyle, Campbelltown was added once again to the Scottish Whiskey map as its own style region for the first time since after World War 2.
My father and I had the privilege of trying all of the malts made in Campbelltown and we became instant fans. I can truly say that the smoky, wonderfully wholesome taste of the Campbelltown style made me a true believer in Scotch whiskey and i have kept a collection at home ever since. I will be writing an article shortly on the specific malts and there is more to come with regards to our wonderful time in Scotland.
on the west side of Lake Tahoe, is Cascade Lake. The lake itself is hidden away in a little valley just west of Tahoe and the hiking paths around the lake provide incredible views of both Lake Tahoe and the mountainous country around it. The wonderful thing about the Cascade Falls trail is that after a very established trail heads up to the granite stones around the falls, the trail ends; leaving you to decide where to explore and what to see. The falls themselves are not, perhaps what many would think of as a waterfall, but rather at large granite face of rock over which water from higher in the mountains flows and several small, serene mountain streams.
The trail is fairly popular in the summer months because of its relative ease and beautiful views, but you can easily find ways away from the people to more isolated ponds and quiet streams with large stones surrounding them which are perfect for picnics. The further up the slope you wander, the fewer people you will encounter and the more perfectly serene and beautiful places you can find. The higher on the granite slope you climb, the better the view of Tahoe and Cascade Lake, do be careful though to always keep yourself close to the water so you can find your way back, remember there are no established trails further up.
What to Bring
Always remember that in the mountains any hike can turn dangerous very quickly, therefore bring necessary provisions with you such as a small amount of trail food and at least 2 liters of water per person. In the summer Months the slopes here are rather exposed, although there is plenty of tree cover at the beginning and further up the slope. Bring appropriate clothing for whichever time of year you are planning on your hike here like Hats, Sunglasses, and sunscreen. Hiking poles are helpful but not strictly necessary, it is a short hike after all.
The parking lot is fairly sizable but in popular months could fill very quickly. If you chose to park somewhere else, be aware that the roads around Emerald bay are very narrow and curvy, walking to the trailhead from another location is seriously dangerous so have a back up plan if you cant get a spot. The parking lot is very often in summer, full of wasps. Be aware and try to have your food and sweets pre-packed in your bag before you leave the car because let me tell you, they will follow you.
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We decided to go out for a day of exploration anyway. We were on Wernberg at our hotel and My wife, Luise looked at me and told me “My uncle lives Weiden, that’s pretty close.” So we packed up our cold weather stuff and hopped in the car.
Weiden is a small city in the Oberpfalz, about 1 hour North of our home. The city was first mentioned in the 1200’s and has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over that long period. Specifically once again, by the Swedes. The city’s old section is a vibrant marketplace with a prominent City Hall, or Rathaus (Pictured above on the right), at the very center of the Marketplace. The Market place, as it does in many medieval cities, stands as the direct center of town and extends all the way from one gate to the opposite side of the city. I have never seen a Rathaus quite like the one in Weiden. It stands out like a sore thumb, directly in the center of the city and just begs for attention. Today it has shops and a passageway underneath it with tourist information, its a great place to stop if you appreciate medieval/renaissance architecture.
We walked up and down the Marketplace and windowshopped in the early afternoon. We had no other place to be so we took our time just walking through the city and experiencing the sites and the sounds and the people. it was a welcome relief from our last few hectic weekends. Weiden is definitely a good place to people watch, especially on farmer’s market days. Eventually we wandered to the older church in the City, a large yellow plastered catholic church with a large onion dome but unfortunately it was closed. When we walked around the corner we saw a site too good not to photograph…
Above on the left, you will notice a picture with a bicycle. The text above the bicycle reads, “Bitte kein fahrrad anlehnen” which means, please do not lean your bicycle here… but someone didn’t seem to mind the warning. CLASSIC.
Later in the afternoon we made our way back into the old marketplace from the newer side of town to find a coffe shop to enjoy a warm drink in before we headed back to Wernberg. We had seen a couple that looked interesting before when we had been wandering the marketplace amd decided to go back to one of those. It was called, “The Beanery”, and the moment we walked through the door I knew it was one of THOSE places. I was surrounded by hipsters. The shop itself was small and quaint with a definite hipster vide all around the place, but the coffee… Oh that coffee was good. I had ordered a Café Latte and Luise ordered a Hot Chocolate. I was just about to ask for a brownie I saw in their case when an employee brought out a platter of FRESH BAKED COOKIES. I died a little inside when I ate that cookie… SO GOOD. believe me when I say that this is a spot to hit up if you find yourself in Weiden.
After our coffee we gathered ourselves up in our car and made our way on back to Wernberg, the long way of course. I honestly kind of hoped to get at least a LITTLE lost on the way back, maybe see something ele awesome.
You know, every once in a while you just have to go somewhere you never pictured yourself at in a million years. This weekend was one of those “Once in a While” deals. The castle above is called Wernberg Castle and was built originally in the late 13th Century. Originally it was owned by the king of Bohemia (Modern day Czech Republic) and passed hands quite a few times over the years until it ended up in the hands of the Bavarian kings. Everything seemed great until…
The Swedes destroyed it in its entirety during the 30 Years war… Ouch
So then a family named Konrad picks up the ashes and builds the new castle that you see today in the late 1600s. Long story short, the family still owns the property but it doesn’t see much battle anymore because today its a one of a kind, Super high class 5 star hotel with a 5 star French restaurant inside one of the castles incredible vaulted rooms.
I knew that I wanted to do something really special this year for Valentine’s day since last year I kind of started a trend with my wife when we went to a super nice Hotel and Restaurant in Ansbach called Buerger Palais. Last year I had tried to get us reservations in a castle closer to where I live called Colmberg but it seems like the day before Valentine’s day is not the day to try and get a room in a sweet castle hotel, go figure. So we ended up in the Buerger Palais and let me tell you, it rocked. Classy furniture all decked out in the style of the 1700s… My wife was in Heaven.
This year I learned my lesson about procrastination and started searching much earlier than the day before. I remembered that the last year I had tried to get us into a castle hotel so I thought I would search for another one and see what I found, maybe even surprise my wife completely. MAN DID I FIND ONE. Wernberg was the first option I came to and when I looked into it, I found out it was only 45 minutes away. PERFECT! So I booked the room and made us dinner reservations at the restaurant too. I figured, go big or go home so we went big (though much bigger than I was planning). I managed to surprise her big time and we had a lot of fun. The grounds were beautiful, the room was wonderful, the food… Oh God the food, the food will be another post I think, I want to go course by course for that one. Also, the first morning, after we came back from breakfast, we found these adorable (and delicious) cookies left for us by the hotel staff on our nightstand. Man what a place.
We even managed to get some wandering in to a neighboring castle ruin which was a pretty good hike. Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the castle, not the way. I will do some more posts about the other activities on that weekend but trust me, if you aren’t strapped for cash and want an incredible hotel to stay in, look up Wernberg. I promise, you wont be disappointed.