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Default Illicit Whisky Festival

NEWS RELEASE 24 October 2006

John Barleycorn Festival this Saturday 28th October

An unmissable day and night of events and activities for all ages at
Rothbury, Thropton, Harbottle, and Barrowburn to celebrate the unique
heritage of the Coquet Valley including the underground distilling and
cross-border trade of illicit whisky. Leave the car at Rothbury and get
the vintage bus for a "toor roond the valley". Event and toor tickets
from Rothbury Family Butchers or the National Park Visitor Centre Tel:
01669 620887. What's on Where see below.


Vintage buses 9am at Rothbury park at Cowhaugh riverside car park on the
south bank.

Living history participants in excise officer costumes, whisky-jar
making together with Tim Steward of Malt Master Class and his trusty
copper still will be available between 10am and 4pm on 28th October at
Barrowburn for photographs. Photographers and broadcast crews please
make prior arrangements with media contacts below.

Photos: To download pictures of traditional whisky distilling, go to:
John Barleycorn Whisky

A welcome new festival on 28th October offers a fun and fascinating day
of activities and events. The John Barleycorn Festival starts at
Rothbury and continues at historic settlements all along the whisky
trail of the Coquet Valley to Barrowburn in the Cheviot Hills of
Northumberland National Park.

For the first time, local communities and businesses will be treating
visitors to an exposé of Upper Coquetdale's rich cultural heritage,
particularly their ancestors' rather dodgy doings in illegal whisky
distillation and smuggling, which was carried on during the 17th and
18th Centuries in parallel with livestock reiving and to the despair of
the excise men trying to collect taxes for England's latest war.

Festival visitors can learn about the wily and colourful characters,
like Black Rory, who set up illegal stills in the remote hills and
traded their product on both sides of the border; watch the distillation
process on a historic copper still, learn about the importance of wood,
water, mash and peat; watch the firing of whisky jars; help Black Rory
get his whisky across the Border, and taste a range of single malt

The valley's more wholesome heritage is also celebrated in food and
craft markets, films, exhibitions, guided walks and demonstrations of
farming and time-honoured rural skills. With events taking place at
Rothbury, Thropton, Harbottle, and Barrowburn, visitors will have the
opportunity to travel by vintage buses that will ferry folk from one
venue to the next and back to Rothbury. An early evening Malt Whisky
Tasting session will be delivered by The Malt Masterclass in Rothbury,
and the day is rounded off with a ceilidh in Harbottle featuring
traditional music and dancing.

Coquetdale's John Barleycorn Festival is the inspiration of a group of
enthusiastic local community and business representatives who are keen
to welcome visitors and to distinguish the valley's singular heritage
against a backdrop of Northumberland and Cheviot culture.

What's On Where

ROTHBURY from 9.30am

Vintage Bus for a Toor Roond

Leave the car and join a vintage bus for the day, stopping off at each
village for more exciting activities. Bus Toor tickets £5.

Masses to See and Buy and Taste at Rothbury

At Rothbury enjoy the craft fair and farmers' market; rare local books
stall; corn dolly maker; local film show; Northumbrian Tartan; craft
demonstrations; history storyboards; refreshments and lots more.

6pm at the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury: In the evening join a unique whisky
tasting with 3 specially-commissioned malts. Tickets £7.

THROPTON from 10am

Visit a fascinating display of farming life and local culture. Old
postcards on sale, refreshments and lots more.


Whisky-distilling; farmhouse life recreated; spinning and dry stone
walling demonstrations; history storyboards; story telling and guided
walks on the whisky trail

Learn about Farmhouse Life in the Border Hills

From 16th to 19th Centuries it was a harsh and precarious life in the
border hills which led farming families to turn to the black economy to
make ends meet. Learn about the lives of the Coquetdale farming families
and see demonstrations of their traditional crafts.

Working illicit whisky still and whisky-jar making

Join the Malt Masters all day in the production of gallons of fine
border whisky in a fine (easily portable) copper still.

See a working kiln making the 'grey hen' jars used to smuggle the whisky
across the border.

Black Rory's Still At Large! Terrific family event.

Join the scurrilous smuggler on a guided family walk along the border
whisky trail and help him avoid the excise men. Will it end in

Walks start at 10.30 and 1.30 from Wedder Leap Car Park (NT 866103) near
Barrowburn in Coquetdale 6kms / 2.5 hours over moderate terrain. Sturdy
footwear and warm waterproof clothing essential. Children under 10 must
be accompanied by an adult. Walks are free but booking required, call
National Park Visitor Centre Rothbury on 01669-620887.

HARBOTTLE from 7.30pm

Start the evening with malt whisky tasting at Rothbury, then up the
valley to Harbottle Village Hall to let your hair down and swing your
kilt at a traditional ceilidh with Northumberland music, supper, late
bar and raffle. Tickets £5.


Ref: NR0678

Editor's Notes:

Background to the John Barleycorn Festival
Local community and business representatives attended a wildlife tourism
seminar in the Scottish Borders in 2005, and were inspired to develop a
festival based on Upper Coquetdale's unique cultural heritage. Rothbury
& Coquetdale Business Club, alongside Rothbury & Coquetdale Tourism
Association and a range of local community groups developed their ideas
early in 2006, and have been sharing ideas and planning activities, with
support from Northumberland National Park Authority, since then.

John Barleycorn is a British folksong best known in the 1782 version by
Robert Burns. The character "John Barleycorn" in the song is a
personification of the important cereal crop barley, and of the
alcoholic beverages made from it - beer and whisky. In the song, John
Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death, and indignities
that correspond to the various stages such as reaping and malting.

The Malt Master Class

Northumberland National Park - ASPECT
ASPECT (a sustainable process for environmental and cultural tourism) is
a two -year project, funded by the European Union and ONE North East,
which aims to bring different groups of people together to work towards
the development of sustainable tourism in and around Northumberland
National Park. Farmers and landowners, conservationists, local
businesses and community groups, and recreational users have all been
encouraged to share ideas and work together, and the John Barleycorn
Festival is an excellent example of what can be achieved as a result.

Media Contacts:

Rosalyn Tinlin

Festival Organisation Spokesperson

Tel: 01669 620577


Frances Whitehead, Communications Officer

Northumberland National Park Authority

Tel: 01434 611542 email:

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