This was my first tour with Atlas Travel Solutions and my first time guiding to a group through the use of an interpreter. It was also my first walking tour of Oban but thankfully not the first beautiful sunny day this year. They were 5-star tourists from Japan who knew exactly what they wanted – whisky! Armed with the knowledge that they were going to spend a few days on Islay, I took them for some tasting in the Oban Distillery, then James from the Whisky and Fine Wines shop provided an excellent review of alternative west coast whisky’s like Springbank, Jura, Tobermory and Oban. When asked what James thought of Japanese whisky he pointed to a section of shelving dedicated to Japanese uisge beatha or ‘the water of life’ and without a pause delivered a comprehensive review on each bottle on display – well done James! We had booked them into the Waterfront Restaurant for lunch after visiting the Green Shack. I wasn’t sure what they were most disappointed with, the fact that I wasn’t joining them for lunch or that I was returning to the Green Shack for my scallop fix.
In the afternoon we met again in Kilmartin Glen for a tour of the Cairns and Standing Stones. As a local who has returned to Argyll later in life, I find the Neolithic and Bronze Age fascinating and shocked that I’d never paid more attention to this period before. 3-5000 years ago we could only imagine how tough life was but these people appreciated beauty and ceremony. Like Kilmartin in North Argyll there are cairns everywhere. If you were to build a house on the site of a Carin you would command the best view and be located in a beautiful aspect of the landscape. Anchnaba in North Connel and the Carin next to the water treatment plant in North Ballachulish come to mine. As for the erection of Standing Stones, Sharon Webb the local archaeologist for Kilmartin and author of ‘In The Footsteps Of Kings’ suggested that they were used for sex, drugs and rock n roll. Well, she said they were used for community based ceremonies where rites and rituals may have mark celestial events but we knew what she meant – party time!!!
My only recent connection with the Japanese was during a Battlefield Tour of Kohima in Nagaland, on the Indian/Burma border 3 years ago. The battle is often referred to as the "Stalingrad of the East". In 2013, the British National Army Museum voted the Battle of Imphal and Kohima to be "Britain's Greatest Battle". Thankfully, I was