After the pre-BILT Hackathon on Wednesday, there were still three full days of the main conference to be experienced in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. My family was with me – at the start of our 2-week Scottish adventure – so I wasn’t planning (or able) to spend the full 3 days at the conference.
I did make it along to the opening keynote, however, which was largely run by Marcus Fich, who introduced two Danish psychologists who talked about (among other things) our response to stressful situations. It was a very different and interesting session.
After that I went off to meet my family at around lunchtime. I walked across Edinburgh – it’s a very walkable city, as far as it goes – to meet them in the old centre.
They were at the National Museum of Scotland, a genuine national treasure. We mainly went around looking at their fascinating historic artifacts (we were mainly interested in the Scottish ones, but their collection is highly diverse and impressive), but there was also an exhibition on fashion design that I popped through, snapping this shot of some crazy cantilever shoes designed by Zaha Hadid.
I headed back to BILT for the evening event, which was held at the stunning Gosford House. They asked us not to post pictures of the contained artwork on social media, so here’s a shot of Ben and Javier from Herzog de Meuron – who are also based in Switzerland – checking out the locally distilled whiskey. (Yes, at my request they were hamming it up for the photo.)
On Friday I spent a bit more time at BILT, at least during the day. I caught up on a few bits and pieces during the opening keynote (I would have liked to have seen it, but had a blog post to write, among other things).
I then went along to Dieter Vermeulen’s session on Generative Design. It was nice to see him give a shout out to Dasher 360:
As well as highlighting some of the work Autodesk Research has done on GD, too.
During the afternoon I had the honour of being Matt Jezyk’s teaching assistant. He did a truly amazing job of stepping people through using Refinery. And the best thing is that his entire class material is available online. Check it out – it’s (unsurprisingly) an excellent resource.
Despite having a secondary role in the proceedings, by the time it was over I was a little tired. I headed off to meet my family for an evening ghost tour of Edinburgh (ooooooo) and opted to head back with them rather than come back for BILT’s networking reception. That was it for my first BILT… hopefully next time I’ll get to experience more of it (although the next European event is in Valencia, which sounds like another good family destination ;-).
On Saturday morning, we picked up a hire car (actually a 9-seater minibus, but that’s another story) and headed off to explore. Our first stop was actually back south of the border: we headed down to Brampton (near Carlisle) to catch up with family. We stayed at a lovely B&B/hotel that we first stayed at 5 years ago.
From there we headed back up to Oban, the home of one my favourite non-Islay whiskeys. The flat we ended up with wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the one we’d enjoyed in Edinburgh, but the location was fantastic.
Firstly, the view:
And secondly, the distance from the distillery. Or maybe that should have been first? Anyway.
The distillery has been around 225 years, and it was a real treat to hear (and taste) its history.
Here’s our guide, Jim, extracting some 9 year-old spirit (which couldn’t yet be called whiskey) for us to taste.
We did get some of the Oban 14 year-old to try, too (although this wasn’t strictly needed… I know it well enough).
Aside from the distillery, the town of Oban (which apparently means Little Bay in Gaelic) has a lot to offer, especially outside of peak tourist season. Here’s a view across the harbour:
We also went for a walk around the village of Kilmore, just to experience something a little less touristy.
On our last morning in Oban, I decided to get up early and go for a run. I ran up to the nearby Pulpit Hill – which had a great view across the bay – and decided to run onwards from there. I spotted a walking path that said it went to the ferry for the Isle of Kerrera (which I knew to be across from Oban, so I thought “why not?”).
It turned out to be a great – albeit tricky – choice. The run was amazing, but at times it turned into a bit of a steeplechase: I found myself splashing through bog every 20 metres or so. Still a lot of fun, though.
When I finally got to the end of the boggy area, I was rewarded with a gorgeous view across to Kerrera.
On the way back I had the chance to snap a few more nice photos. Here’s one of the morning light hitting a sailing boat in the bay.
From here we headed to Skye. We stopped a few times to stretch our legs, on the way. One of these times was to see the Glenfillan Viaduct – which was made famous by the Harry Potter movies (yes, this was part of the trip’s theme, after all).
The view the other way – out across the sea – was just as impressive.
Back on the road, we saw some amazing scenery. Travelling through the Highlands in autumn is an incredible experience.
We did have to put our foot down a little to get to Mallaig for the ferry to Armadale. (You can also take the bridge, but we’d have had to do quite a few miles back round, and the ferry sounded fun.) But we got there in good time, which was good (the following ferry left 2 hours later, which meant we’d probably have had to drive the long way round, after all.)
We’re looking forward to discovering Skye and all it has to offer. Yes, including the Talisker distillery (which really is my favourite non-Islay tipple).
But more on that next time!