Tour a Dozen Scottish Distilleries for Free!

Friends of the Classic Malts Free Pass
Friends of the Classic Malts Free Pass

This past summer, I spent a glorious two weeks in Scotland.

The primary object of the trip was to partake in the incredible Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Because I also wanted to see the countryside, I signed up for a small group tour to the Isle of Skye with Rabbies.

One of the surprise stops on the tour was a visit to the Dalwhinnie distillery.  Whisky isn’t my cup of tea.  But who could resist sampling an intense glass of hot chocolate with a wee dram of whisky?

A basic tour of the Dalwhinnie distillery costs £12 but you can get in free if you join their club, the Friends of the Classic Malts.

What’s more, as a Friend of the Classic Malts, you are eligible for a free tour of twelve Scottish distilleries, along with a complimentary dram of single malt Scotch whiskey at each stop.  Basic tours at the distilleries can cost between £5 to £12.

Most locations also offer a more extensive tour that typically includes extra tastings.

To take advantage of this great offer, you can sign up  with Friends of the Classic Malts online.  Download your pass, and bring it with you when you travel to Scotland.

The following classic distilleries participate in the program:

  • Blair Athol
  • Caol Ila
  • Cardhu
  • Clynelish
  • Cragganmore
  • Dalwhinnie
  • Glenkinchie
  • Glen Ord
  • Lagavulin
  • Oban
  • Royal Lochnagar
  • Talisker

At your first distillery visit, show your pass and request a “Friends journal.”   You can collect stamps in the journal at each distillery that you visit.  If you collect all twelve stamps, you are rewarded with a Quaich, the traditional whisky sharing cup!

Montana On My Mind, But Not With Miles and Points

Headed to Montana Soon
Montana bound on miles and points, not!

When I think of Montana, I think of mountains and rivers, glaciers and prairie, cowboys and grizzlies.

Our upcoming trip will not focus on any of those things.

Instead, we will be touring cement plants and factories, dams and bridges, historic forts and industrial ruins.

Traveling to Montana with Miles and Points — Not!

We will be participating in the Society for Industrial Archeology’s Fall Tour.  When we saw that Great Falls, Montana was the site for this year’s tour, we signed up right away.  My sister lives in nearby Helena.   This will be a great opportunity to see my sister and her family!

We will not be utilizing miles or points for this trip.  We’ll be flying in to Great Falls, and out of Helena.   I could not find a decent itinerary using frequent flyer miles.

I was very excited however, to see the Staybridge Suites in Great Falls on the IHG “points break” list for this fall.  This is a new hotel that is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor’s ranking of hotels in Great Falls.  5,000 IHG points per night would be a nice bargain.

Where to Stay in Great Falls, Montana

Sip & Dip Bar with Live Mermaids
Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge with Live Mermaids at the O’Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls, Montana

We decided against the Staybridge Suites, because we wanted to stay at the conference hotel.

The conference hotel is in downtown Great Falls.  It is the O’Haire Motor Inn.

Aside from the convenience of staying with the rest of our group, the O’Haire Motor Inn looks to be a hoot.

Believe it or not, GQ Magazine named the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge at the O’Haire Motor Inn the number one bar on earth worth flying for!

This honor wasn’t just because of the live piano bar or the umbrella drinks.

The unique feature of the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge is the glass wall between the bar and the swimming pool.  There are live mermaids swimming in the pool!

* * *

This will be my first trip to Montana, but it won’t be my last.  I hope to return during the summer months to visit the National Parks in the Big  Sky state.

Free Tour of the Historic Woolrich Mill

Woolrich Factory Tour
Woolrich Factory Tour

As soon as I opened the email from my husband (see picture to left), I knew a road trip to central Pennsylvania was in my future.

Factory tours are de rigueur on our family vacations.  I’ve been to an aluminum smelter, a silk tie factory, a newspaper printing operation, an airplane factory, a ski-doo factory, a cheese factory and a toothpaste factory.  If we ever make it to Japan, we’ll probably go to the Toto toilet factory, the Ramen noodle factory and the Toyota factory.

We are members of the Society of Industrial Archeology which often arranges small group tours to industrial sites.

2014 Woolrich Woolen Mill Tour Dates

Woolrich Woolen Mill in Woolrich, Pennsylvania has been in operation since 1830.  It is the oldest continuously operating mill in the United States.

Several times a year, Woolrich offers tours of the mill to members of the public.  The tour shows how wool is spun into yarn and woven into fabric and blankets.Woolrich Factory Tour

The 2014 factory tour dates are:

  • Saturday, June 21, 2014
  • Saturday, August 16
  • Saturday, September 13
  • Saturday, October 18, 2014

There will be four tours offered on each date, at 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, and 2:00 p.m.

You must register early, and in advance, by calling 570-769-7401.

On the day of the tour, you’ll receive a $10 gift card to use at the Woolrich Outlet Store.  The best values are found in the Back Room, where Woolrich fabric is sold by the bolt, yard or pound.

Photographer Christoper Paine has chronicled a few of the remaining textile mills (as well as some of the closed mills) in a photo essay for the New York Times, entitled “Fruits of the Loom.”

Here are links to a video and blog post about the Woolrich Mill Tour.

Springtime in Hershey

Hershey Gardens Photo by Joel Shprentz
Hershey Gardens 

In April, we stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a day to break up a road trip from New England to Virginia.  We had visited the amusement park ten years ago, and wanted to explore other three different attractions on this trip.

First up was the free tour of the fake “Chocolate Factory,” because we love corny rides, factory tours, and chocolate!

The Chocolate Factory is a Disney-style animated ride that tells the story of how chocolate is produced from the growing the cocoa beans to producing Hershey Kisses.  On a Saturday morning, we were able to walk right in without a wait. The ride in little carts through the “factory” was lots of fun. The ride ended with a free sample and let us off in a gigantic chocolate gift shop with all manner of Hershey candy.

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