Waterfalls, wild sea and whisky

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Waterfalls, wild sea and whisky

“When we seek to bring out the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” William Arthur Ward

We chose the remote Isle of Skye for our final gathering, because it is the home of the 200-year old Talisker Distillery; official sponsor of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The weekend visit promised remoteness, a brush with the elements, adventure, and an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the spirit of this premium brand of fine whisky, made by the sea.

 Talisker have been sponsoring this extraordinary, personally transforming event; a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic, for seven consecutive years.

Talisker have been sponsoring this extraordinary, personally transforming event; a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic, for seven consecutive years.

I knew I would love this other-worldly outer-Hebrides island, but I didn’t realise how wholly it would claim my heart.

For a short break, the journey to this Scottish outpost is not for the faint-hearted. And, to add a touch of drama, it was made during a wild storm in the dark of night. What a relief to navigate through the horizontal rain and gusting gale force winds to arrive safely at our destination. The warming welcome we received, long past midnight, from our host Andy, set our stay off to a great start.

 As you can imagine, my boys have been working and training frenetically for months, but far from being weary, they seem constantly filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm… rather reminiscent of a litter of excited puppies on red bull. The next 48 hours promised to be entertaining, at the very least.

As you can imagine, my boys have been working and training frenetically for months, but far from being weary, they seem constantly filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm… rather reminiscent of a litter of excited puppies on red bull. The next 48 hours promised to be entertaining, at the very least.

A quick explore

First stop was a visit to the magical Glenbrittle Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillins: On the agenda? Fording rivers, rock hopping, mud sliding and non-stop belly laughing! I’m sure Isaac will be back for a wild swim in these pools after the row.

 I think undercover agents Isaac and Cam were inspired by the “Skye-Fall” environment in this photograph…

I think undercover agents Isaac and Cam were inspired by the “Skye-Fall” environment in this photograph…

 A photo with Isaac? Erm, no - an on-the-mud-spot proposal! Much to Ben’s horror in the background… These boys are full of surprises and a laugh-a-minute. (PS: Don’t worry ladies, Isaac is just practicing for the real thing!)

A photo with Isaac? Erm, no - an on-the-mud-spot proposal! Much to Ben’s horror in the background… These boys are full of surprises and a laugh-a-minute. (PS: Don’t worry ladies, Isaac is just practicing for the real thing!)

Our Talisker Distillery tour

Scottish proverb: “Todays rain is tomorrow’s whisky.”

As promised, the distillery - which operates 24-7 at full capacity to meet demand - is perched on the edge of the Loch Harport. It’s easy to imagine, standing there, that it’s founders — the MacAskill brothers - rowed from Eig to Skye to establish the distillery two centuries ago.

 Tasting the golden spirit: Cam, Isaac, Jack and Ben discovering the different tastes and flavours of this award-winning whisky. They chose a special bottle to stowaway on  Ellida  for the crossing.

Tasting the golden spirit: Cam, Isaac, Jack and Ben discovering the different tastes and flavours of this award-winning whisky. They chose a special bottle to stowaway on Ellida for the crossing.

 A huge thanks to Lesley Taylor at Talisker for hosting our team on a private, and very informative, tour around the distillery. She says Atlantic Discovery is her top favourite team!

A huge thanks to Lesley Taylor at Talisker for hosting our team on a private, and very informative, tour around the distillery. She says Atlantic Discovery is her top favourite team!

Friendships forged by fire

This weekend was about connecting. About removing ourselves from the project management, negotiations and deliverables for two days of freedom and downtime. About remembering how much we enjoy each other. Touching base with our characters and strengthening our friendships. About how we’ve got each other’s backs now, and on the row, and how our different strengths have built a mighty powerful unit. And especially, about how much we need each other on this life-changing journey.

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The power of determination

While we were on the beach, something truly remarkable happened. Cameron spotted a buoy in the distance and decided we should all go over to it for a photograph. When we got closer, we realised the buoy was named Rose. BOOM!

 We are rowing the Atlantic for Ben’s mum Rose ( #row4rose ), and for all the 2.5 million people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) worldwide. We want more people to be aware of the varied symptoms of this condition and to raise funds for research so we move towards a world free of MS.

We are rowing the Atlantic for Ben’s mum Rose (#row4rose), and for all the 2.5 million people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) worldwide. We want more people to be aware of the varied symptoms of this condition and to raise funds for research so we move towards a world free of MS.

The Atlantic sea tides delivered this buoy to the Talisker beach for us to find this weekend. I am convinced this is a marker of the power of our determination to achieve our goal and make a difference to MS sufferers. We are ready to #row4rose.

I feel hugely privileged to have been included in the visit, along with my trusty camera, as an observer and facilitator, to learn even more about these incredible men - really my enlarged family - whom I affectionately call “my boys”. I am, as ever, deeply proud to be part of the Atlantic Discovery journey, and to be entrusted to tell their story. Thank you Ben, Cam, Isaac and Jack for sharing it with me.

Watch this space @virtualstowaway  Penny Bird is a professional photographer and writer documenting Atlantic Discovery's incredible journey.