Ah, the sights and sounds of the beautiful Carse of Gowrie countryside. Rolling green fields shimmer in dappled sunshine, clusters of Cow Parsley nod on a delicate breeze, succulent fruit plumps for the picking. Listen really carefully and amongst the gentle lull of bird song, you might just hear the delicate and unmistakable sound of…bottles smashing against a (2ft diameter) rock. Yes, that’s right.
Welcome to Bottle Smash. Take everything you know about a trip to the countryside and well, thwack an (empty please) glass bottle at it. Think it’s all just pastoral bliss and gingham picnic blankets? Think again. For 19 years, Cairn o’ Mohr winery in Errol has played host to the world’s only bottle smashing fiesta, For 19 years, Cairn o’ Mohr winery in Errol has played host to the world’s only bottle smashing fiesta.bringing together have-a-go heroes and heroines from across the globe to smash up bottles.
What started as a humorous solution to disposing of the winery’s empty wine bottles has now become an annual event, so beloved by its participants that champions continue to return each year to defend their hard-won titles - and to secure the coveted gold painted trophy.
Despite the temperamental weather this past weekend, a merry crowd thronged the winery, vying for their chance to toss some bottles. It was a real mini-festival scene – local band Bruach were strumming, kids were whooping and clambering in the playground, cute dogs were sniffing, couples were dancing, there was great food c/o the Alibob Café, punters were tipping back the winery’s delicious fruity wines and ciders and there was the most brilliant selection of hats.
So, I know what you’re thinking. Chucking a few bottles? Piece of cake, right? Wrong! There are rules and everything. Only competitors and event staff can pass the rope leading to the netted arena (safety first.) Head to the designated Nervous Gate (knees-a-knocking) and wait for your name to be called. Competitors are up one at a time. You get seven bottles. You’re to hurl the bottles underhand towards the Rock – the aforementioned 2ft diameter rock suspended from a specially netted frame several feet away. There’s a line etched on the ground you can’t cross. ‘Good luck’ I was told.
One of my wee girls chimed ‘Go mum’. I stepped up to the bottle crate, got a grasp, took a deep breath and heaved that bottle with all my might. Miss. It thudded unceremoniously against the netting and plinked to the ground – remaining intact.
I tried a run up, squatting down, sidling left a bit, screwing up my face a little, sucking in my stomach. Nothing. Miss after miss after miss. Despite the disappointment, it was good, strange fun chucking that glass about. Chatting to winery owner Ron Gillies afterwards, he offered some consolatory words, “The thing about this event is nobody gets the chance to practice at it.” I’ll take that. The closest I get to limbering up for Bottle Smash is my local bottle bank (I’m quite the regular) and that hardly cuts the mustard on the thrill stakes. I mean, what’s a wee dark hole and a disappointing smatter when the world can be your full-throttled smash-up, netted arena?
We all come at the Bottle Smash on an even playing field which makes it all the more exciting when someone does hit the Rock. I got totally absorbed in the event as it was happening. Dozens of would-be trophy winners had paid their £4 to take part and were streaming through the Nervous Gate.
I can’t say I watched each and every throw but despite fetching bacon rolls, keeping track of my kids, pouring another glass of Gooseberry and Elderflower wine (hello, happy tastebuds!) my ears became perfectly tuned in to the seismically satisfying shatter-smatter of bottle cracking against rock. The sound prompted the whole place to erupt into celebratory mode – a riot of hand clapping, back slapping and cheering. A glass-themed group hug of sorts.
When my hubby got his chance to throw, I did wonder if he’d have an advantage having been on the non-alcoholic Braes of Gowrie Sparkling Elderflower with our daughters. Also, he’s an ex-rugby player. Surely we could leave this place with our heads held high? It wasn’t to be. Another seven misses. Oh, the shame!
The winery hasn’t achieved its self-titled Scotland’s Strangest Winery status for nothing. It’s quirky, unique and lovingly bonkers.
So it was left to our kids to bring it home. Understandably, kids under 12 can’t chuck glass so instead have the chance to participate in the Bottleum Event – to see how many bottles they can push off a wall with a weighted, pendulum-y shaped thing. Turns out our girls were naturals and family pride was restored. Phew.
Be warned, bottle smashing is oddly exhilarating and addictive. In over 30 years of business, the winery hasn’t achieved its self-titled Scotland’s Strangest Winery status for nothing. It’s quirky, unique and lovingly bonkers. Couple that with friendly, warm staff, a welcoming band of regulars, great food, drink and the world’s only known Bottle Smash, well it all makes for a great, alternative day out in the countryside. Just don’t bother with your gingham picnic blanket…
We found out more about Cairn o' Mohr owner Ron Gillies in our Workdays & Weekends Interview >
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