The Final Fling - IPA UK’s Ceilidh Friendship Break 2020 in Kingussie

22 Mar 2020

ukfsw3The first Iconic Event to start the 70th Anniversary celebrations for IPA Section UK was the Tayside Branch annual Ceilidh Friendship break at the Duke of Gordon Hotel, Kingussie, from Thursday 30 January until Monday 3 February, 2020.

There were 76 guests from 6 countries, USA, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the UK, and everyone enjoyed the Scottish hospitality.  We were honoured to be supported by 3 National Executive members from section UK, 3 International Presidents from Austria, Ireland and Sweden, and 3 members from the International Executive Board.

On Thursday afternoon people arriving gravitated towards the hotel bar where they met up with old friends and were introduced to new ones.  Dinner was followed by entertainment where we mainly listened to Scottish music as most preferred to relax and catch up with friends, some having had very early rises and long journeys.

ukfsw2On Friday morning a coach full of guests left the hotel for Fort George, Ardersier near Inverness, the home of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland.  It was built in the wake of the Battle of Culloden (1746) as a secure base for King George, and covers 42 acres. The group were met at the entrance by Lance Corporal Scott McCaskill who piped us into the Fort. In the glorious sunshine he played several tunes and many photographs were taken. After a tour of the museum, dining room, chapel and the mile of ramparts, the heavens opened and the café became a very popular place.

The group then went on to Inverness for some retail therapy, local hostelry visits and a trip to the World of Whisky shop. Back at the hotel, we met up with those guests who had arrived earlier that day.  

Following pre-dinner drinks we made our way to the dining room, and during dinner guests contributed a considerable sum of money for the Tombola, which was later drawn during the entertainment.

We had an early start on Saturday morning for the visitation to Speyside Distillery.  The first group consisted of guests who had previously participated in a tour and did the tasting only.  A further 2 groups enjoyed their tour of the distillery where many unique malt whiskies and gin are produced.  The tours culminated in a tasting of the products, most opted for the malt whiskies, with a few sampling the gin.  I would like to thank the volunteer drivers who ran shuttles to and from the distillery.

The theme of whisky and gin continued at the hotel after lunch, where Ewen McIlwraith from Robertsons of Pitlochry hosted a tasting. 51 guests had an entertaining and educational time. 

The afternoon culminated with many of our guests watching Ireland play Scotland in the 6 Nations Rugby Championships being televised live from Landsdowne Road, Dublin.  The Hotel bar did a roaring trade.

For our Gala Dinner, our group assembled in the function room, many looking resplendent in their IPA Tartan kilts, skirts, dresses, sashes and ties, before being piped into the dining room where Ronnie, the Piper, ‘addressed the haggis’, much to the delight of the guests.  Our thanks go to Pete Connolly, IPA UK, who proposed a toast to Arthur Troop in recognition of our 70th Anniversary, and everyone raised a glass of whisky in Arthur’s honour. The 5 course dinner, with the Haggis on the menu, was followed by a Ceilidh and dancing, with many of our guests taking part in traditional Scottish dances.

ukfsw4We had an excellent rendition of Robert Burns’ ‘Holly Willie’s Prayer’ by Harry Morton. No 1 Region (Scotland) was presented with a slate plaque by Stanley Titterington on behalf of IPA USA, Region 48 in recognition of the IPA’s 70th Anniversary.  This will be displayed at IPA HQ. An excellent night of friendship, across many nations, in the true spirit of Arthur Troop’s vision.

A cold Sunday morning dawned and guests had a free day. Unfortunately we had to bid farewell to some people who had to return home or head further south to catch early morning flights.  Of those remaining, several drove to Loch Ness in search of the Monster, visited the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, some went for a walk to nearby Ruthven Barracks which is a ruined relic of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, while others visited the nearby town of Aviemore.  David and I, along with Tayside member Max Fordyce, his wife Ann, Tom and Meg Ciurlik and his 2 guests from the USA, along with Jane from Selby, visited the Highland Wildlife Park and thereafter we headed to the Cairngorm Mountains where it was blowing a hoolie and was freezing. 

Each evening, David and I hosted pre-dinner drinks in our apartment, where the main activity was tasting and discussing a variety of whiskies.  Due to the large numbers we had to divide the guests into individual groups.  Thursday was for the International guests, we envisaged Friday to be for past guests however many of the others joined in making it an exceptionally busy evening.  Saturday was for the IPA Whiskey Forum members, this being the largest gathering so far of this group and coincidentally the first Saturday of the month which is traditionally their Facebook ‘meeting’ night.  The group raised a glass to the Forum’s founder, the late Kevin Gordon, Section USA.ukfsw5

Various fundraising initiatives raised £6084 for our nominated charity, the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance.

Sadly on Monday morning we had to say goodbye to many friends, both old and new, who we intend to keep in touch with in the coming years.  David and I have concluded that after 5 years at this magnificent location, where we have been very warmly welcomed by the management and staff, we have run out of attractions for our guests and we will not be returning in 2021.  A new venue may be found, but not until 2022 at the earliest.

We have come a long way since we started 6 years ago in Nethybridge with 26 guests, with this year having received 84 reservations and 76 attending. Quite an achievement for a small Branch.

Until we meet again.

Yvonne McGregor, Vice President IPA UK