The walk, we were assured, from Bruichladdich to the nearest pub at which the Sportsman's desire for rugby could be sated was but a stone's throw. No sooner would we have left the distillery than we would be ensconced by a fire with the permitted exception to the rule of Scotch on this trip: a pint of Guinness in honour of St Patrick's Day. This assurance, dear reader, was not worth the air used to form the words. The issues tri-fold: 1) By this point in the day there had been a not inconsiderable drop of the good stuff taken; (2) We had stopped by the unlikely emporium, Debbie's, to collect fire wood to sustain us through another night of howling wind; (3) Said wind was already out in force and making very forthright attempts to blow us into the sea. However, Shackleton, Drake and Magellan have nothing on a group of slightly inebriated Northern Irish chaps and so we set off.
Peat Head and myself offered, being the least interested of the group in catching the rugby, to drop the firewood and purchases from the distilleries (my own are pictured above) off to the house as it was only a short detour. This came at a cost of much distress to sheep in a neighbouring field as they assumed Peat Head was carrying a bag of feed and chased us on the other side of a hedge for a not insubstantial portion of the journey. We decided to take respite briefly in the house before taking the extra trek out to the pub (in all honesty it was about a 20-minute walk, but I would be lying to you if I said the thought of a taxi didn't cross my mind and lips). I took solace in a glass of the delectable Dalmore Cigar Malt and Peat Head, for reasons that I fear will never be clear to me, decided to opt for tea. His depravity truly knows no limits.
The only part of the journey that I wish to dwell on is the exceptionally creepy abandoned 4x4 that adorned the lane to the house. I will grant you that in this photo it doesn't look that bad but picture the first night we drove up that rickety, single-track lane with nothing but the car's headlights illuminating the seemingly never-ending path. It didn't fill us with much comfort either that we were going the right way or that our car would be able to finish the journey this noble vehicle couldn't.
When we met the other two the game was over, and I honestly can't remember what I was told the score was. Sportsman seemed happy so all was good with the world. The bar we were in, if I'm honest, was not somewhere I would normally choose. It was very bare and the kind of place that at home would serve one type of each spirit and a beer on tap. Oh no, not on Islay. Even the smallest and most modest of bars on Islay has an astounding selection of amazing scotch. As this was being rolled in to be a pseudo-stag do for yours truly, I wanted to treat the chaps to a dram. I spied a Black Art behind the counter and enquired how much four of them would be. Suitably chastened, I opted for a Port Charlotte and re-joined them at the table.
This is the part where I make a disclaimer. There had been drink taken on this day and, indeed, drink was being taken as the incident happened. However, I was not drunk. I got up to make my way to the bathroom and paid less attention than was required to the intricate floor design, having as it did a dip. A trip, a nearly collapsed table and a split lip later it was over. Do you know what I loved about it? I wasn't hurt and that was obvious so the owner's response was 'Aye, we've heard about your type around here - don't yae be tryin' to sue me!' All in good humour, of course, and he investigated my wellbeing the next time I was at the bar. He even poured me a wee dram of that Black Art that I had asked about earlier to make up for my troubles. That's the kind of compensation I like.
Another upside of this delightful little place was it had a curry night on - not traditional local fare but very welcome all the same. We topped the night off in a different bar playing chess, draughts and Islay Monopoly before trudging back to the Black House in the pitch black. Despite having another full day planned ahead, we decided that this was a perfect time for Mario Kart, more whisky and listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn into the wee hours. Nobody faded, but Sportsman and I sat up until around 3. Thankfully, this did not render us useless for the following day.
To be continued.