Another triple header of wine today, with a red, a white and a rose.
First up is the Argentinian red 2014 Zuccardi Brazos Malbec from Valle de Vco, coming in at 14% and we got it from Majestic. The label is funky and stylish, with the wine having an aroma of dark berries and vanilla. Tasting without food it is a bit sharp but still pleasant and it has a warming aftertaste. We had the Malbec with steak and it really brightened up and became much fruitier. Overall we thought it was a great wine and we would happily buy it again.
The white we also bought from Majestic and it is from the Paul Mas Estate Single Vineyard Colelction. It is a 2015 Viognier and it comes in at 13.5%. The label is nice and simple but it works and the aroma is elderflower and peach. Tasting without food it had lovely subtle fruit flavours and was very easy to drink. It was even more so when we had it alongside butternut squash risotto. Overall it was a fantastic wine and we would definitely buy it again.
Again from Majestic is the rose 2015 Haut Vol that comes in at 12%. As with some rose wines, it has a strange shaped bottle, though it has a simple label. The aroma is light berries and the taste without food wasn’t great at first, but the finish was really fruity – it really grew on me. We then had the wine alongside a Chinese pork stir-fry and it was significantly better and much fruitier. Overall I’d probably buy again, but only for a hot summers day.
Shrike is all about (you’ve guessed it) the Raven Guard Space Marine Shrike. It looks at Shrike in three stages:
As a line soldier
As Shadow Captain
As Chapter Master
This essentially breaks the novel down in to two novellas and a short story at the end. The overriding themes throughout each story is the Ork Warboss Gorkrusha and the brotherhood that the Raven Guard share.
If I’m being honest, I had never heard of Shrike before or read that much about the Raven Guard beyond novels in the Horus Heresy series. I bought it though because I fancied something a little bit different and this novel certainly gave that.
Shrike was one of those novels that took me a bit of time to get in to but after about 20 pages I was hooked. Shrike is a really interesting character and it is surprisingly easy to feel empathy for him, unlike quite a lot of space marines. His actions and thoughts are also surprisingly human; this isn’t a criticism at all, in fact I would say it is a positive. Too often Space Marines are portrayed as inhuman and perhaps too much. Although their superior physicality and minds take them a step above humans, it has to be remembered that they were human in the first place.
The empathy and humanity of Shrike makes him (and the novel a lot easier to understand). I particularly thought the relationship with Shrike’s brothers Corus and Kadus was really well done. This theme throughout the stories worked very well and tied each piece together. The flashbacks to the three of them as initiates and the revelation the final flashback makes Shrike’s actions even more understandable.
As for the Orks and Gorkrusha, I can’t say they were portrayed any better or worse than in other novels. Orks are Orks in the end but the final short story gave an interesting twist on Gorkrusha’s intentions.
Memorable Moments (no spoilers!)
Gorkrusha fight 1 – with Shrike as a line trooper
Gorkrusha fight 3 – with Shrike as Chapter Master
All of the flashback scenes with Shrike, Corus and Kadus
The interactions between Shrike and Kadus when he is Shadow Captain and then Chapter Master
Shrike is a really solid 40k and Space Marine novel. If you are a fan of the Raven Guard or love Shrike as a character from elsewhere then this a must. If you are a 40k and/or Space Marine fan I would also give it a go as it is something a little bit different from the norm. Non-40k fans would probably struggle but I wouldn’t discount it either.
I think the best thing I can say is that Shrike has made me want to know a lot more about the character and the Raven Guard and I will be looking to get some of the other novels and audio dramas relating to them.
Today’s drinks reviews are for a couple of old favourite beers of mine: Doombar and Treason.
First up is Doombar from Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall. Being from the South-West and having visited Cornwall a lot, I came across Doombar a long time ago. Now you can find it pretty much anywhere in the country and for a good reason – it is a really good beer. The label is pretty classic and the look of the beer when poured is dark amber. The aromas are lightly fragrant with hints of citrus and then the taste is lightly bitter, refreshing and again the hints of citrus. Overall it is a really solid beer that fills a number of roles: a drink at home, a pint at the pub or I think it also goes really well with a BBQ.
Next is Treason; a West Coast IPA coming in at 6% from the Uprising Craft Brewing Range from the Windsor and Eton Brewery. I first tried a few beers from this brewery about six years ago and they weren’t anything special at the time, but now they have really upped their game. Treason has a very striking label and a nice clear look to the beer when poured. The aroma is very citrusy and pleasantly hoppy, with that repeated in the tasting. Overall it is a very flavourful beer and worth trying. I would say though that you would only drink one in a sitting, another would make too citrusy.
Continuing on from my short articles on Pitlochry and Easdale, next up is the beautiful island of Arran.
Arran is often called Scotland in miniature and this is true, with its highlands, lowlands, forests, glens and a beautiful coastline. Arran is a special place and many people fall in love with it and go back again and again.
Arran is just off the west coast of Scotland but east of the Mull of Kintyre. To get there you need to get a ferry from Ardossan which is just under an hour by car from central Glasgow. The ferry crossing only takes about an hour and takes you to the main settlement on the island – Brodick. All in all, this makes Arran the most accessible of the Scottish Islands and probably the only one you can really visit if you are taking a short break to Scotland from the south of England or further afield.
For accomodation there are numerous hotels and B&Bs but I’d recommend self-catering. The co-op supermarket in Brodick is big enough to furnish most supplies you would need and self-catering will give you the best freedom for exploring the Island.
Places to Visit
The main settlements to visit on the island are:
Brodick – the ferry port and it has many places to stay and eat, as well as the largest supermarket on the island. Touristy things to do include Brodick Castle, Brodick Brewery and the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum.
Lochranza – in the North of the island and also a small ferry port for journeys to and from Kintyre. Attractions here include the Isle of Arran Distillery and the ruined Lochranza Castle.
Lamlash – the main residential settlement on the island with nice views across the bay but nothing particularly touristy to see.
Things to Do
There is plenty to do on the island, particularly if you enjoy nature. Some highlights include:
Goatfell – the largest mountain on the island and also one of the most accessible, with clear routes available just to the North of Brodick
The King’s Caves – near Blackwaterfoot on the west side of the island are the gorgeous King’s Caves. It takes a while to walk there from a nearby car park but it is worth the journey with lots of hollowed out caves on the beach.
Glenashdale Falls – one of my favourite walks took us through a forest by a river and then eventually up to the gorgeous Glenashdale Falls. Again it is a bit of a walk to get there but it is worth it.
The Holy Isle – we didn’t go there but you can get there by boat on the east side of Arran. Even if you don’t go though, the views across to it are pretty impressive.
Arran Aromatics – Ok so it isn’t nature, but the Arran Aromatics shop on the road north between Brodick and Lochranza is worth visiting. You can also have a pretty impressive tour and create your own soap.
If you want gourmet dining, then Arran isn’t for you. If you just like good food though, then Arran has it in spades. A few highlights are:
Cafe Thyme – a lovely cafe on the west side of the island near Machrie. We went her a couple of times and had a nice lunch and some cake. Very friendly and helpful staff with a great children’s play area and a few shops nearby as well. The best bit though are the clear views across to the West.
The Sandwich Station – Near the ferry stop in the North of Lochranza is an unassuming shack that you wouldn’t think was one of the best sandwich places ever. We had some amazing sandwiches here and if you are anywhere near the North of the island around lunchtime, this is the place to go.
The Lagg Hotel – The Lagg Hotel is a cosy little place on the South of the Island and I would recommend it for a rainy or cold day. We had a nice lunch here and dinner looked good as well.
Arran is a lovely island and a great and accessible place to experience a Scottish Island. Whether you are a couple on your own or a family with children, there is something for everyone. I hope you enjoy Arran as much as I have.
June is a busy month in pro cycling but is mainly the calm before the storm that is the Tour de France for men and the Giro Rosa for women. There are also all the national championships that mean every country gets a couple of winners this month!
Men – June
World Tour – 2
Stage Races – 22
Stages – 104
One-day – 100
Overall wins – Multiple riders with 3
One-day wins – Multiple riders with 2
Stage wins – Malucelli with 2
Days in lead of a stage race – De Gent with 5
Distance won – Demare with 620km
Overall wins – Bora – Hansgrohe with 10
One-day wins – Bora – Hansgrohe with 6
Stage wins – Multiple teams with 6
Days in lead of a stage race – Multiple teams with 10
Distance won – Bora – Hansgrohe with 1653.9km
Overall wins – Multiple countries with 15
One-day wins – Belgium with 7
Stage wins – France with 12
Days in lead of a stage race – Multiple countries with 11
Distance won – Belgium with 2209km
Rider of the month – Demare with his impressive victories, including in the Criterium and French Nationals
Women – June
World Tour – 1
Stage Races – 1
Stages – 6
One-day – 74
Overall wins – Noskova with 3
One-day wins – Noskova with 3
Stage wins – Multiple riders with 1
Days in lead of a stage race – Niewiadoma with 3
Distance won – Noskova with 220km
Overall wins – Boels-Dolmans with 7
One-day wins – Multiple teams with 5
Stage wins – Boels-Dolmans with 2
Days in lead of a stage race – WM3 Energie with 4
Distance won – Boels-Dolmasn with 447km
Overall wins – Multiple countries with 4
One-day wins – Multiple countries with 3
Stage wins – Australia with 2
Days in lead of a stage race – Poland with 4
Distance won – Netherlands with 434
Rider of the month – Niewiadoma with her Tour of Britain win
Men – Season So Far
Overall wins – Multiple riders with 8
One-day wins – Van Avermaet with 4
Stage wins – Gaviria with 8
Stage race wins – Multiple riders with 3
Days in lead of a stage race – Dumoulin with 9
Distance won – Valverde with 1449.4km
Points jerseys – Multiple riders with 3
Climbers jerseys – Multiple riders with 2
Young riders jerseys – Bernal with 4
Time trial wins – Dennis with 4
Overall wins – Quick-Step Floors with 33
One-day wins – BMC Racing with 10
Stage wins – Quick-Step Floors with 25
Stage race wins – Multiple teams with 6
Days in lead of a stage race – BMC Racing with 28
Distance won – Quick-Step Floors with 5339.5
Points jerseys – Multiple teams with 4
Climbers jerseys – Manzana Postobon with 5
Young riders jerseys – Multiple teams with 4
Team Time Trial wins – BMC Racing with 3
Team classification wins – Movistar with 6
Overall wins – France with 78
One-day wins – Italy with 21
Stage wins – France with 60
Stage race wins – Multiple countries with 11
Days in lead of a stage race – France with 47
Distance won – France with 12106.54km
Points jerseys – France with 10
Climbers jerseys – France with 8
Young riders jerseys – Colombia with 10
Rider of the season so far – A hard choice between Valverde, Van Avermaet and Dumoulin – a tie I think
Women – Season So Far
Overall wins – D’Hoore with 6
One-day wins – Lepisto with 4
Stage wins – Multiple riders with 3
Stage race wins – Multiple riders with 1
Days in lead of a stage race – Multiple riders with 5
Distance won – D’Hoore with 652.8km
Points jerseys – Majerus with 2
Climbers jerseys – Hall with 2
Young riders jerseys – Klein with 2
Time trial wins – Moolman with 2
Overall wins – Boels-Dolmans with 17
One-day wins – Multiple teams with 5
Stage wins – Boels-Dolmans with 7
Stage race wins – Multiple teams with 2
Days in lead of a stage race – United Healthcare with 9
Distance won – Boels-Dolmans with 1536.4km
Points jerseys – Boels-Dolmans with 2
Climbers jerseys – Multiple teams with 2
Young riders jerseys – Cervelo-Bigla with 3
Team Time Trial wins – Boels-Dolmans with 2
Team classification wins – Multiple teams with 2
Overall wins – Netherlands with 23
One-day wins – Netherlands with 14
Stage wins – USA with 11
Stage race wins – Netherlands with 3
Days in lead of a stage race – Multiple countries with 10
Distance won – Netherlands with 2382.1km
Points jerseys – Multiple countries with 2
Climbers jerseys – USA with 2
Young riders jerseys – USA with 3
Rider of the season so far – Still Anna Van Der Breegan for her Ardennes triple
Continuing my series of wine reviews, here are another three today, two reds and a white.
Kicking us off is the red , coming at 13.5%. It has a traditional label as expected from a french wine and the aroma is very pleasant, with hints of vanilla and red berries. Without food the wine was dry and slightly sharp but drinkable enough. We then had the wine alongside some lamb and it improved the wine but not significantly. We finished the bottle off the next night alongside some steak and it was significantly improved. Overall though I found the wine slightly disappointing and I’ve had much better Cotes du Rhone for cheaper prices.
Next up is the Yalumba 2016 Viognier from South Australia, coming at at 13.5%. The label is quite classy and well done, with the wine having an aroma of soft cheese (!) but only very lightly. The taste without food was floral and sharp, but in a good way. Tasting with food (a cauliflower curry), the wine cut through it perfectly and I would recommend it alongside Asian food. Overall it was a great wine and I would buy again.
Finally we have the 2014 La Chapelle de Bordeaux, coming at 12.5%. As per usual for a French wine, the label is of a chateau. The aroma of the wine was of slightly sharp fruit, in particularly blackberries and spicy plums. The taste without food was fruity but it wasn’t a drinker on its own and became blander the more you drank. We then had the wine with steak and was even sharper and blander. Overall it was a disappointing wine and one I will not be buying again.
A few wine reviews today from three bottles we tried earlier this month.
Kicking us off is the 2015 Recchia Red Bardolino from Waitrose that comes in at 12.5%. The label is minimalist yet stylish and the aromas from the wine are light berries, particularly sharp blackberries. Tasting without food it is a very nice and drinkable wine, almost refreshing and very summery. We then had the wine with some Greek salad and Lamb and it was just as good. Overall it is a lovely wine to drink on its own or with food and also very reasonably priced at £7.99.
Next up is Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference White Gavi from 2016 and at 12.5%. It has a classy label and lovely aromas of elderflower and peach. The taste without food was dry but also refereeing with low acidity and overall very easy to drink. We then had the wine with roast chicken and the flavours really burst forth and improved the wine immeasurably. Overall it is a good wine to have with the appropriate food and not badly priced at £8.
Last and unfortunately least is another Sainsbury’s wine, the Marques de Montino Rioja from 2015 at 13%. It has a nice traditional label and a light aroma of strawberries. The taste without food was slightly sharp but quite well rounded. We then had the wine alongside the pasta and it softened the taste a bit but there was no measurable improvement. Overall the wine is fine and reasonably priced at £5.50 but I did expect better and I won’t be buying again.
Pitlochry is a special place for me, having been there numerous times during my childhood and when I lived in Scotland a couple of year ago. Although special to me for nostalgic reasons, it is also an excellent place to visit in its own right. If you do decide to go to Pitlochry it is worth going for a long weekend, or if you are exploring the wider area it might be worth using it as a base for a week.
Pitlochry is in the heart of Scotland, just before you reach the Highlands. It is in North Perthsire, approximately a 1hr 40min drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow. You can also reach it by train from Edinburgh.
Part of what makes Pitlochry such a good place to visit is what it is nearby:
The Cairngorms are just to the North
Perth is only 45 mins away
Blair Atholl is 15 mins away with attractions including a castle, working mill and the excellent House of Bruar
The lovely town of Aberfeldy is 25 mins away
Loch Tummel is just to the West with some excellent views and walks
Pitlochry isn’t a huge town but it has enough to keep anyone entertained and well-fed for a while. The high street has numerous shops and restaurants as well as more mundane (but essential) facilities such as good car parking, a post office and a petrol station.
Shopping highlights on my last trip there (early 2016) included:
As for accomodation, the one place I can recommend is where we stayed on our last overnight trip – Craigatin House B&B. It is easily one of the best B&Bs I’ve every stayed in, with excellent rooms and fantastic breakfasts. The owners and staff were also very helpful and friendly. Highly recommended
What to Do
As noted above there are lots of places near Pitlochry to do things but there are also plenty of places you can walk to in and very near the Town. My favourites are
Black Spout Wood and Waterfall – we had a lovely walk round here in the autumn and the waterfall was amazing.
Blair Athol Distillery – the home of Bells Whisky. We had a great guided tour round here with an excellent guide. Worth checking out the single malt of Blair Athol whilst you are here.