More Whisky Galore

16 May 2017

whisky galore

Photo: An original Whisky Galore bottle now on display in Beachcombers Cottage

The original black and white film version of Whisky Galore which was released in 1949 is a certified British classic. This endearing tale of enterprising islanders salvaging shipwrecked whisky was based on a real wartime incident and despite its comparative age it is still regarded as one of the most quintessential Scottish films ever made. Next week sees the release in cinemas of a brand new version starring some of the country’s top stars. This retelling of the story is intended to appeal to a whole new generation of cinemagoers as well as showcasing the stunning Scottish scenery in glorious colour.

The original was mostly filmed on location with the Isle of Barra standing in for the fictional island of Todday. This was particularly appropriate as it is very close to the site where the shipwreck and subsequent events that inspired the book are located. Nothing is left to see of the wreck of The SS Politician which ran aground just off the north coast of Eriskay in 1941 but, as a tribute to the infamous incident, the local pub on the island is known as Am Politician and has a number of salvaged bottles and artefacts on display. Eriskay Views Cottage is just a few miles away and has amazing views over the beach at Prince Charlie’s Bay. It is also walking distance to the Barra ferry where you can explore some of the original filming locations.

Eriskay has been connected to South Uist by a causeway since 2001 making travel between the islands a lot more convenient. Beachcombers Cottage near Lochboisdale has elevated views over the Sound of Eriskay and even has an original Whisky Galore bottle inside. It’s a fascinating link to the history of the area and a reminder of how events portrayed on the big screen quite closely follow the real story. The gentle humour of the original has aged over time like a great single malt and is a refreshing contrast to the current fashion for kinetic Hollywood blockbusters. Indulge in one of the simple pleasures in life, just like the islanders have for generations and take in the glorious landscape with a wee dram by a peat fire.

The Fife Coastal Path is a fantastic and at times challenging walk. It meanders around the coastline and passes a number of fascinating historical sites. The path goes right by St Monan’s Kirk which sits directly on the coast and which was the location for a number of key scenes in the new version of the film. Eddie Izzard, Gregor Fisher and a host of notable Scottish character actors were spotted here during principal photography last year. If you visit yourself, it’s not hard to see why it attracted the attention of the filmmakers as it’s such a perfectly picturesque spot.

The Secret Cottage is located in the scenic village of Anstruther, just a bit further along the coastal path, a delightful historical building, lovingly modernised to appeal to the tastes of the modern generation. A bit like the whisky galore film itself then. Perfect for couples it really does offer the best of both worlds.

Another key location for filming last year was the north east coast near Portsoy. This rugged coastline, popular with holidaymakers, was also where that other Scottish screen classic Local Hero was filmed. For those who want to explore the many delights of this area then Newseat in Huntly is ideal. About a 40 minute drive from Portsoy means you can easily make a day trip of it without having to rush. Newseat location is also central to the big attractions of Aberdeenshire, the mountains of the Cairngorms and the distilleries of Morayshire.

One of the distilleries that really typifies the hardy spirit of the islands is Talisker on Skye. Until the new distillery on Barra is completed and producing it is the closest whisky geographically to the spiritual home of Whisky Galore. Talisker Bay is on the wild and spectacular west coast and is not far away from the distillery in Carbost that shares its name. The perfect day out would be to visit both from the comfort of Saltwinds and return for a dram looking out over Macleod’s Tables.