Speyside whisky region

Moray | Speyside | Scotland's Malt Whisky Trail (sort of) | ★★★★★

[The still house at Glen Grant Distillery, Rothes]

The Malt Whisky Trail claims to be the only official whisky trail in the world. VisitScotland, the national tourist organisation, recommends splitting the route into three days. On the first, you travel from Glenlivet Distillery on the fringes of the Cairngorms National Park, through Speyside, to Craigellachie. The middle stretch takes in distilleries around Dufftown, Rothes and Keith, before finishing up with a whistlestop tour through Elgin and Forres on the main road from Aberdeen to Inverness. The trail is marked by brown tourist signs and is a popular way to explore a good number of Speyside distilleries.

Following the route in its strictest sense mightn't be a good idea. First of all, the trail doesn't incorporate all the distilleries open to the public in Speyside, a region with such a dense concentration of whisky producers that you half expect the local burns to run golden. Some of the best are neglected, as are a couple of "off the beaten track" producers where you've a much better chance of getting a personal tour rather than being rushed around one catering for the masses. Secondly, the trail finishes not with a bang but a whimper, at a distillery that closed in 1983; this is an interesting site, but we think it's a strange way to finish off a tribute to an industry currently undergoing major resurgence. Finally, exclusively drinking whisky, traipsing around still houses and marvelling at mash tuns for three days does a disservice to the huge number of other attractions around Speyside, not to mention to your liver!

So what's the best solution? We suggest creating your own whisky trail. Most of the Speyside distilleries regularly offering tours are listed below, ordered around the bare bones of the Malt Whisky Trail, but also incorporating some just missed by the official route. Glenglassaugh is the main exception - much further to the east and sometimes pushed into the Highland whisky region bracket - so we feature that separately. Try to book distillery tours in advance: even booking on the day gives you a head start over those who just turn up. Some of the area's magnificent castles, idyllic river walks, desolate ruins and lofty hills are also on route. They're covered by other posts, but linked to from this one (look for trail add-on in the text below). The straight line distance from end to end of the official route is only about 20 miles, so you needn't worry about travelling long distances or choosing different places to stay around the area. One base for all of Speyside is sufficient, if you have a car.

Set a limit for the number of distilleries you expect to get round - more than a couple each day and the added value decreases. If you live in Scotland, you can always come back. And if you live abroad, you can always come back...

[The Macallan Distillery is missed by the official route - this is the old complex, now redeveloped (22/7/13)]

Route, location & info

[Trail starts in Glen Livet]

📌 Glenlivet Distillery ★★★ (start point for the official trail)
💬 Large, modern distillery with a good exhibition area. The standard tour felt rushed to us - though probably revamped since our last visit.
By minor road 1 mi south of the B9136 / B9008 junction, Bridge of Livet, G.R.: NJ 195289 ///column.buggy.amused
Open daily, mid March to early November (2019) | £15+ adult (no children) depending on tour type

[Bottle sculpture at Glenlivet Distillery (4/5/13)]

>> Drumin Castle ★★ (trail add-on, 1 mi off route)
>> Old Bridge of Livet ★★ (trail add-on, on route)

[Drive to Knockando]

📌 Cragganmore Distillery ★★★ (trail add-on, 2 mi off route)
💬 Smallish distillery tucked away in the upper reaches of the River Spey.
At B9137 road end, Cragganmore, G.R.: NJ 163364 ///cascade.wobbles.lung
Open daily, late March to October | £12+ depending on tour type

>> Ballindalloch Castle ★★★★ (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Glenfarclas Distillery ★★★ (trail add-on, 1 mi off route)
💬 The largest whisky stills on Speyside, set against the backdrop of lofty Ben Rinnes.
Off the A95 1 mi east of Marypark, G.R.: NJ 211382 ///scrambles.apes.glaze
Open Monday to Saturday, July to September; weekdays, October to June | £7.50+ depending on tour type

>> Knockando Woolmill ★★ (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Cardhu Distillery ★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 Attractive distillery overlooking Speyside, and the first to be established by a woman, in 1824.
Off the B9102 3 mi west of Archiestown, G.R.: NJ 192431 ///discount.snacking.divisible
Open daily, April to September; Monday to Saturday, March & October; weekdays, November to February | £8+ depending on tour type

[Drive to Craigellachie]

📌 The Macallan Distillery ★★★★ (trail add-on, 1 mi off route)
💬 One of the world's most famous whiskies, recently helped by an appearance in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall. Good tour - especially relating to how cask wood influences the finished product - with new premises and visitor experiences for 2018.
By the B9102 1 mi west of Craigellachie, G.R.: NJ 277444 ///that.continues.oppose
Daily - advance booking recommended | £15+ depending on tour type

[The (old) Macallan Distillery (22/7/13)]

>> Craigellachie Bridge ★★ (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Aberlour Distillery ★★★★ (trail add-on, 2 mi off route)
💬 Picturesque distillery offering one of the best tours and tastings on Speyside, on the edge of an attractive village.
West end of Charlestown of Aberlour, G.R.: NJ 264425 ///repeating.familiar.trickled
Generally open daily except over Christmas & New Year period - booking recommended | £20+ depending on tour type

[Aberlour washbacks: distillery not on the official trail but has a superb tour / tasting experience (6/6/13)]

>> Walk: Aberlour's waterfall waterfalls ★★★★ (trail add-on, 2 mi off route)
>> GlenAllachie Distillery (trail add-on, 3 mi off route) (not yet featured)

📌 Speyside Cooperage ★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 Fascinating, good value tour where you can experience the traditional art of building (and refurbishing) whisky casks.
By the A941 half a mile south of Craigellachie village centre, G.R.: NJ 293442 ///mimics.handyman.curiosity
Open weekdays - booking advised in summer | £4+ depending on tour type

[Drive to Dufftown]

>> Dufftown page: Dufftown ★★ & town sites (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Glenfiddich Distillery ★★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 The world's most popular single malt - need we say more?
At the A941 / B975 junction just north of Dufftown, G.R.: NJ 324410 ///ripen.cocktail.jetted
Open daily | £10+ depending on tour type

[Glenfiddich Distillery (23/6/12)]

>> Balvenie Distillery (trail add-on, on route) (not yet featured)
>> Walk: Giant's Cradle & a Linen Apron ★★★ (trail add-on, on route)

[Drive to Rothes]

📌 Glen Grant Distillery ★★★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 One of the best all round distillery experiences, with a quirky and interesting tour as well as stunning gardens. Unmissable.
North side of Rothes, G.R.: NJ 276496 ///relishing.sharpness.simulates
Open daily, April to October; Monday to Saturday, November to March | £7.50 adult / free for children

[Glen Grant's beautiful gardens are an essential part of visiting the distillery]

>> Walk: Walk it off up the Dounies ★★ (trail add-on, on route)

[Drive to Keith]

📌 Strathisla Distillery ★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 The oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland and the spiritual home of Chivas Brothers, on a photogenic site easily accessible from Keith.
Seafield Avenue, 5-min walk north of Keith town centre, G.R.: NJ 430512 ///dissolves.visions.insist
Open daily | £15+ depending on tour type

[Strathisla Distillery is one of Speyside's most beautiful (23/6/12)]

[Drive to Elgin]

>> Elgin page: Elgin ★★ & town sights (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Glen Moray Distillery ★★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 Compact distillery close to Elgin town centre with an excellent tour (and generous at the tasting stage), but we don't rate the "Classic" expression sold widely in supermarkets.
Bruceland Road, 1 mi west of Elgin town centre, G.R.: NJ 200624 ///crunch.young.forest
Open Monday to Saturday, May to September; weekdays, October to April | £7 adult / free for children

[Spirit Safe at Glen Moray Distillery (4/7/12)]

[Drive to Forres]

>> Forres page: Forres ★★ & town sights (trail add-on, on route)
>> Forres green spaces page: Grant Park ★★; Nelson's Tower ★★; Sanquhar Loch ★★ (trail add-on, on route)

📌 Benromach Distillery ★★★ (on the official trail)
💬 Cute distillery, producing less whisky than any other in Speyside.
Invererne Road, 10-min walk northwest of Forres town centre, G.R.: NJ 033593 ///hindered.relax.euphoric
Open Monday to Saturday except Christmas & New Year period | £6+ depending on tour type (2019)

[Garden display at Benromach Distillery (15/8/12)]

📌 Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery ★★★ (end point for the official trail)
💬 A traditional whitewashed distillery which closed in the 1980s - but this allows you to get up close and personal and explore at your own pace, helped by a good audio guide and the promise of a (blend) tasting at the end.
By minor road 1 mi south of Forres, G.R.: NJ 036567 ///outhouse.acted.outdoors
Open daily, April to September; Saturday to Wednesday, October to March | £6 adult / £3.60 child / free for Historic Scotland members

[Trail ends at Dallas Dhu]


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