Chalkmarks: The dram team: Bottles of Glen Garioch on the bar

I’M going to die in a whisky distillery. I am drinking Scotch straight from the cask. All of a sudden comes a roar of fire. I squeeze my eyes shut. I almost stumble backwards.

Then I come to. It’s 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and I am learning how to drink the perfect dram at the Glen Garioch (pronounced geery) distillery in the whisky producing region Speyside, Aberdeen, in Scotland.

A second inch of neat whisky is served up and another blaze of heat. How can the Scots drink this stuff?

I can’t think. I can’t breathe.

Chalkmarks: The whisky shop: Last-minute gift shopping
The whisky shop: Last-minute gift shopping
Chalkmarks: In the cellar: Three casks of single malt
In the cellar: Three casks of single malt
Chalkmarks: Warm weekend: Fit a rare dram
Warm weekend: Fit a rare dram
Chalkmarks: Finally arrived: Glen Garioch distillery, Speyside, Aberdeen
Finally arrived: Glen Garioch distillery, Speyside, Aberdeen

I’m new to whisky drinking so this rare, 59.7 per cent proof single malt is wasted on me.

In this dark cellar filled with whisky barrels, the bracing smell of malt fills the air. It’s in the walls.

Over the rattle and whirring of machines, the guide assures me that there’s a whisky drinker in everyone so next she pops open a 12-year-old bottle to convince me.

I thought I knew the drill with alcohol but we’re advised not to knock the spirit back but to hold it in our mouths for a few seconds to experience the burn.

That way the warming vanilla and spice notes can come through.

With a clink of glasses, I try again. My senses still go numb but some sweetness comes through.

Time slips by as we take our time going through their traditional Highland tipples to find one that tastes right.

With the day beginning to fade away, I head back to the three-star Caledonian by Thistle on the mile-long Union Street.

A hotel in this city centre prime spot is a must as it makes it simple to hit the shops, stop at the nearby Courtyard restaurant for their smooth creamy fudge or visit the Maritime Museum. Even the beach isn’t too far away.

My room is spotless, smart and felt expensive with white walls, dark wooden furniture and a deep red throw on the huge bed – cosy enough to lie in all morning if you’d stayed out for a nightcap too many.

Chalkmarks: Most haunted: Natalie outside Fyvie Castle
Most haunted: Natalie (not the ghost) outside Fyvie Castle
Chalkmarks: Masterpiece: 800-year-history woven into the tapestry
Masterpiece: 800-year-history woven into the tapestry

It’s on the third floor with a view onto the elegant Union Terrace Gardens with its elm trees and designer floral displays.

Known as the Granite City, on Scotland’s north east coast, there’s an antique richness, a tartan class and dark deep secrets around each corner.

Even the silvery buildings glint in the sunshine as you walk past. A touchstone of past riches and today there’s still a lot of money with Aberdeen listed as one of the most expensive places to live in Britain thanks to its strong oil industry. Because of this the best time to visit in on the weekend.

It can be impossible to find a hotel room during the week with hundreds of workers arriving to talk big business and shuttle to the offshore rigs.

But keen to fill beds the prices can drop dramatically at the weekend.

I splash some water on my face before dining at Malmaison for another famous treat from this city – Aberdeen Black Angus steak.

The restaurant is buzzing with business people and waiters carrying trays of drinks to big groups of tables.

My eyes speed around taking in the portraits of farm animals, stag heads, a refrigerated glass cabinet of raw meat, an open kitchen and the decor was tartan – patterned seats and dark floors.

Chalkmarks: Granite city: King’s College, Aberdeen
Granite city: King’s College, Aberdeen
Chalkmarks: On the chalkboard: Steak at Malmaison in Aberdeen
On the chalkboard: Steak at Malmaison in Aberdeen

On a chalkboard is the list of steaks – fillet, rib eye, t-bone, cote de boeuf and club sirloin, cut to order.

After a change of silverware comes a five-star, soft but charred and oozing rib eye served with a peppercorn sauce and truffle mash. It really is a national treasure.

Feeling satisfied my last stop for the night is bed.

The following day I join Castle Tours for a journey to Fyvie Castle – the most haunted in Scotland. The 40-minute drive with Lady Martha Moar at the wheel takes us into deep countryside passing the grazing Angus and Highland cattle in the fields.

Built in the 13th century, the castle with its five towers is surrounded by forest and a loch.

At the entrance our group oohs and ahhs at the sheer size of everything. The cathedral sized front door, the great staircase, the life-sized portraits, stuffed animals and huge volumes of cracked leather books and suits of armour.

It looks, sounds and smells of a world from 800 years ago. I knew that if the walls could speak they would tell me to bolt.

The house has featured on the television show Most Haunted because of the legend of the Green Lady.

She is thought to be Dame Lilias Drummond who died in 1601 – starved to death by her husband. Her initials are clearly carved into the stone outside her bedroom. Noone knows how they got there. She is said to now walk the corridors leaving a scent of rose petals as she passes.

I tiptoe from room to room, afraid to fall behind. Our guide is a perfect trove of information about dates and family histories but I am watching out for blowing curtains and sniffing around for the flowery perfume.

After seeing the portrait of Colonel William Gordon with the tip of his shoe that follows me around the room, it is time to leave. It feels like the shadows and the immense windows are watching.

It’s good to get back out in the sunlight with the sound of birds in the sky and distant mooing.

We take refuge at nearby Meldrum House for lunch and their perfect hot desserts. With its homely brown sofas and roaring fire it was the ideal place to calm my nerves after my close encounter with the spirit world.

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