Charles enjoys princely nip at distillery

Last updated at 15:54 01 August 2005

The Prince of Wales enjoyed a trip to the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland today during a tour of the Highlands. Charles flew into the newly upgraded airport at Wick before visiting the market town.

He was given a tour of the refurbished terminal and unveiled a special plaque to commemorate the £800,000 revamp.

Charles, who disembarked the royal flight wearing full Highland dress in Lord of the Isles tartan, was greeted by a number of delegates including Lord Lieutenant for Caithness Anne Dunnett.

He was shown the new artwork in the terminal building and met its creator, Orkney artist Sheila Scott, who created three panels depicting the area around Wick and Caithness using flooring materials.

Later Charles visited the Old Men's Rest in the harbour area of Wick which his grandmother, the late Queen mother, had toured in 1956 to officially open a community centre.

Arriving in a grey-green Audi, the prince was greeted by a small number of locals and schoolchildren waving Union Jacks.

Many in the crowd had come out in April when the visit had been scheduled to take place but was postponed due to problems with the royal helicopter.

As well as meeting members of a craft class run by Pulteneytown People's Project and unveiling a plaque, the prince was presented with a framed photograph by Katrina MacNab of the Queen Mother when she visited the site.

To mark the final part of today's visit the prince was given a 40-minute tour of Pulteney Distillery, run by Inver House Distillers.

Here he was shown the distilling process in a number of production areas by manager Fred Sinclair and group manager Graham MacWilliam and was also invited to complete the filling of a whisky barrel marked to commemorate his visit.

Joking with staff member Michael Miller as the poplar cask overflowed, Charles was told that when the spirit had matured in around 15 years it would be given to Clarence House.

Charity auction

Speaking later, Mr Miller said as well as speaking about pigeon racing and rare breeds, the Prince had indicated that upon receiving the cask, which could contain between 250 and 300 bottles, each bottle could be auctioned off for charity.

Later Charles bottled his own whisky in the distillery's visitor centre under the instruction of manager Tanya Fraser.

He was then given the bottle to take away before toasting the visit with a 12-year-old nip. Finally he met a number of students from the local college.

Charles will be staying in the Caithness region all week leading up to the Mey Highland Games on Saturday, to which his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, is expected to accompany him.

Royal watcher Brian Bradley, who had made the journey up from Edinburgh for today's visit, said he was glad the prince had finally made the trip, as he had been disappointed when the engagement was cancelled in April.

He said: "It is very nice that he is here, and also that it is not pouring with rain. We've got a good week for him coming up. "I think it is a good thing for Wick and the community."

Nat Anderson, spokesman for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, which manages Wick airport said staff were delighted that the prince officially opened the new terminal.

He said: "The upgrade has been at least two years in planing because the terminal was operational throughout the project.

"We are very pleased that Prince Charles has been able to do this and it is appropriate as his grandmother was a regular here coming up to the Castle of Mey. We are pleased he has been able to fit us in."

Pulteney Distillery operative Michael Miller assisted the prince fill his barrel with spirit, which after three years in the cask can be referred to as whisky.

He said: "I do pigeon racing and he was quite interested in it as he is the patron of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

"The barrel will be put into one of the warehouses and sit for 10 to 15 years. "I think the prince said he was going to put it to auction for charity."

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