Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh Hi – Strathspey Safari
It’s true that the best weekends always take the longest to recover from and that’s why it’s Wednesday and I still feel like a badger’s bum hole.
But WHAT A WEEKEND. It was the Insider Strathspey Safari, those who’ve been to Insider festival at Inshriach will know just how relaxed, fun and friendly it is, so as soon as we saw the crowd funder page for the Safari we signed up, particularly when we spotted the Gourmet Explorer package which meant you got dinner the night before and afternoon tea on the day of the safari.
This was everything a festival should be – a joyous day-long mystery adventure with incredible music, wonderful people and the sort of experiences that’ll stay with you forever.
It began on the Friday night for us Gourmet Explorers with a four course tasting menu at One Pot Borrowed at Rothiemurcus. Since this is a food blog I’d best describe the food. It was great.
First up were sticky, soft cubes of belly pork with a fresh hit of mango, coriander and chilli.
Then came a crisp lettuce leaf stuffed full of citrusy ceviche and avocado, ceviche can go either way for me, sometimes the texture of fish can hit me in a funny way but this stuff was light and tasty and really well balanced.
The main event was a perfectly portioned bit of grouse breast wrapped in bacon and complemented brilliantly with local chanterelles and a lovely deep sauce.
We had double pudding, the first was a pair of beautifully stripped back acoustic performances from Admiral Fallow and Washington Irving members. The Roy Orbison singalong Louis led in that teeny wee dining room was a pretty special moment.
Pudding number two was a nicely uncomplicated peach eton mess, all chewy meringue and sweet peach which rounded the night off nicely.
A short walk took us to the Old Bridge Inn where Spring Break and Hector Bizerk both killed it, Scottish Hip Hop has never sounded so good, it was a struggle not letting all the dogs out on the Friday and holding some in reserve for Saturday because it was such a good night.
Saturday started with pints at the Old Bridge Inn, plenty of excellent safari suits and animal costumes to gawp at and a safari survival pack with some um bongo and a white lion bar. We all piled onto three coaches and I realised this was my sort of festival when our host (topless with a karate kid headband) offered us all a tot of Umbucko. Any festival with a bottle of buckfast based cocktail is right up my proverbial alley.
First stop was the five lochans, a wee walk into the forest clutching Thistly Cross exchanged for tokens from the back of a landrover by a leopard led us to lochside to listen to some spoken word from Neu Reekie, an acoustic set from Eugene from the Vaselines and a spot of dancing. It was magical, folk were foraging for chanterelles, the dug with two tales was wagging them both and everyone was loving life.
Next stop on the fun bus was Inshriach where Walter and his crew have built the most incredible (and award winning) complex of sheds where they brew their own gin (Crossbill). Here we ate raspberries off the bush while waiting for the portaloo, drank gin and cider, ate fancy (though pretty undercooked) sausages and watched Washington Irving. What Walter and his team are doing at Inshriach is absolutely top drawer, my sister got married there last year and it was great to relive some of the memories and check out all the work that’s gone on to make Inshriach a quirky, awesome and ethically wonderful place. And a worthy shed of the year winner for sure.
One of my favourite moments of the weekend happened next, we arrived on the platform for the steam train at Aviemore to be greeted by some excellent live samba. I haven’t danced that hard in ages, everyone was getting their dance on including a couple of tourists and their kids who’d got caught up in the infectious mayhem.
The steam train was a welcome pause, a chance to sit back and enjoy the view with our afternoon tea and whiskey.
A few sandwiches and a bit of caramel shortcake later we were ready for round 3 – the Dell of Abernethy. After a fond farewell to the steam train we found ourselves roasting marshmallows over an open fire and drinking whiskey and ginger beer while Louis from Admiral Fallow performed in the forest surrounded by hanging lanterns and hammocks. He was joined by Rachel Sermani and I can honestly say I had one of those moments where I was over brimming with joy (and probably booze, I’d been hitting the umbucko hard) and could have hugged every single person at the festival. It was utterly gorgeous.
Last stop of the day on our magical safari was the village hall at Nethybridge for a much needed feed of venison chilli and chicken bites (they were bloody incredible) and a couple more bands.
After that Duncan Harvey played all the tunes I wanted to dance to and we didn’t stop till we nearly fell down, by the time the fun bus came back to take us home I was dead on my feet and satisfied in the sort of way you only get after the best of all times.
Insider – you absolute legends, this festival was a triumph on every level, I’ll be talking about it for years to come, it was a celebration of all that is fun, exciting and friendly and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
WE SALUTE YOU!