Aileen Logie: Loch Coruisg … and whisky

Quite a few people who are not Johnsonville Club members get our newsletter—it’s really special to have a contribution on our website from one of those ‘extras’ who is a real Scot.

Musician Aileen Logie has played at our tartan nights and annual dances over the last few years, originally as part of Peter Elmes’ band, then as leader of her own bands since Peter’s retirement

Aileen in the band at the Johnsonville Annual Dance 2017 along with Hilary Ferral, Don McKay and Peter Elmes

Read what Aileen has to say below about a special area of Scotland where she has spent time out and about tramping.

A love for Loch Coruisg and its kelpie

You might be interested in a connection between two recent Johnsonville Club newsletter articles. On 16 April, Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye (and its kelpie) were mentioned – and on 7 May we had some words of Scottish origin (some gaelic and some Scots) including the word whisky.

Being at Loch Coruisg (to use its original gaelic spelling) often means an overnight bivvy, inevitably a wee dram or three, and potentially meeting the kelpie in the half light. Loch Coruisg also has a lovely slow air tune, in G minor, very fitting.

I couldn’t find a recording of Loch Coruisg anywhere online. I’ve played a short piece of the tune so you can get an idea of how it goes, .

Listen to Loch Coruisg on the piano accordion, and then on the piano

Loch Coruisg (to use its original gaelic spelling) is a magical, atmospheric remote loch surrounded by the crags of the Cuillin ridge on the Isle of Skye. It is relatively difficult to get to, unless you have a boat, and is one of my favourite places on Earth.

Loch Coruisg on the Isle of Skye

Easiest access is by a coastal path which features a potentially deep river crossing (bridge washed away) and the ‘bad step’ – a crag to traverse with two ledges, one for feet, one for handhold, a bit balancey and exposed with waves crashing below.

A climber traversing the ‘bad step’ on the ridge!

The Cuillin ridge is 10 miles of scrambling/rock climbing which is a challenge to complete in a oner. Route finding is tricky as the rock is magnetic gabbro with basalt dykes and your compass needle spins uselessly. The correct route is usually the way which looks impossible, and it’s often swirly misty.

At Loch Coruisg, it’s easy to believe a kelpie lives here – it’s wild place with often wild atmospherics. A kelpie is a celtic water-horse spirit – considered mischievous rather than malignant – able to adopt a human form.

That’s the background – now where’s the connection?

Cor’uisg is made of two gaelic words:

  1. Coire = corrie = a bowl shape in the flank of a hill caused by glacial erosion. They are common in Scottish hills and often have a loch or lochan (small loch) in them.
  2. Uisge = water. This is pronounced wooishke, and is the root of the word ‘whisky’. Whisky’s full title is uisge bheatha = water of life!

Talking more of whisky…

Scotch whisky is made from barley (malted) and local spring water. The water gives each whisky its own distinctive flavour.

Whisky made in the west tastes very different to say a Speyside on the east. The distillery Talisker is just round the corner from Loch Coruisg – its whisky is tangy and peaty.

Whisky is not to be confused with whiskey – which is American/Irish bourbon distilled from corn. They drink it with ice, on the rocks, which would be sacrilegious to a Scotch whisky – a warm drink to be taken preferably near a lively fire in convivial company!

Most Scottish distilleries have recently diversified their product and also produce ‘botanical’ gins. These currently outsell whisky … a sign of the times/changing tastes!

from Aileen Logie
13 May 2020

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