Tailor-Made Top 9 Whisky Related Activities in Speyside (That Do Not Involve Visiting a Distillery!)


A trip to Speyside is always top of the list for whisky lovers. But there are only so many distilleries that you can visit in a day! How can you spend the rest of your visit? Fear not, because we have compiled our favourite whisky-related activities to do in Speyside that do not involve visiting a distillery.


Don’t forget that at Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting Speyside appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the whisky-related attractions of Speyside, or indeed, a general tour of this beautiful region of Scotland.

In no particular order, here is our top nine whisky related activities.



9. Whisky Stores


Speyside can boast of the most well-stocked and comprehensive whisky stores, not only in Scotland, but probably the world. The well-established Whisky Shop in Dufftown has a selection of over 600 whiskies, while the famous Whisky Castle in Tomintoul has a similarly extensive range. Aberlour enjoys hosting a couple of stores, with The Speyside Whisky Shop and The Spey Larder stocking a large, tempting selection of ‘the water of life.’



For a full shopping experience, you can visit the Logie Steading, near Forres, which offers several boutique-style country themed stores, which also includes the Logie Whisky & Wine store.



However, the Mecca for all whisky lovers is probably the Gordon & MacPhail store in Elgin, which has been operating for almost 130-years, purveying over 800 different whiskies.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Most whisky stores organise tastings, so it is always worth checking their websites before visiting to see if any sessions are being held.



8. Museums


The small Dufftown Whisky & Heritage Centre is a must see when visiting the hometown of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. The museum exposes the secrets of whisky making in days gone. It also gives a fascinating insight into the lives and times of whisky smugglers.


Dufftown Whisky & Heritage Centre
Dufftown Whisky & Heritage Centre


Another view into the past can be had at the Dallas Dhu Distillery museum near Forres. This well-preserved time capsule of the distiller’s art is typical of the many small distilleries built around 1900. Originally known as Dallasmore, the distillery filled its first barrel on 3 June 1899 and its last on 16 March 1983. Visitors get the rare chance to see a malt barn – a long, two-storey warehouse where the barley was turned into malt, and the kiln where the barley was dried. The museum also has the more familiar mash tun, six large washbacks and still house.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The Dava Way, a 24-mile trail that follows the route of the old Highland Railway line, goes past Dallas Dhu, making the museum a great stop off during the hike.



7. Whisky Bars


If there is one thing better than sipping a nip of whisky, it is having your dram in the surroundings of a great whisky bar and there are some fantastic examples in Speyside. The Dowans Hotel in Aberlour has ‘The Still’, where you can choose from its 500 strong collection of whiskies. A short walk from the Dowans Hotel is the family-friendly hotel and restaurant, The Mash Tun. Their whisky selection includes the exclusive Glenfarclas Family Cask Collection, with its unique choice of 52 single cask whiskies, with one for each consecutive year from 1952 to 2003.




The next village along, Craigellachie, can also boast of two great whisky bars – Highlander Inn and the Quaich Bar, at the Craigellachie Hotel. Highlander Inn’s selection of 300 whiskies has a strong focus on Japanese malts, while the Quaich Bar, which was founded over 120 years ago, has a massive selection of over 1,000 whiskies from around the world.



The highlight of the beautifully renovated Station Hotel in Rothes is The Spirit Safe, a stunning whisky bar that has its own spirit safe, hence the room’s name. With a choice of over 500 whiskies, including their very own limited edition 24-year-old single cask whisky, a visit is always justified.




A little out with the Speyside region, but well worth making a special trip for, is the Grouse Inn, which is located in The Cabrach. An iconic stop for whisky connoisseurs for years, the Grouse Inn offers over 235 whiskies on optics and a further 700 bottles.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The Grouse Inn is open seasonally, so phone prior to your trip to ensure they are open (Tel: 01466 702200).



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6. Whisky Art


How about taking home a unique memory of your whiskey-themed Speyside trip? The Artist’s Studio in Aberlour sells a fascinating selection of whisky related artwork, created by talented local artists. There are even whisky scented soaps and jewellery made from a mix of whisky staves and resin. Some great ideas for a vacation memento!


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Continue your gift hunt by checking out some of the other boutique shops along the Aberlour high street.




5. The Water of Life


Discover the magical ingredient of Speyside’s whisky – it's water. There are many idyllic walks that take in the streams and springs of this stunning region which feed the local distilleries, but our two favourites have to be the Giant’s Chair near Dufftown and the Victorian Gardens at the Glen Grant distillery.


The Giant's Chair is a rock feature carved out by the power of the Dullan Water in spate. The Dullan Water then flows down, feeding the Dufftown Distillery and Mortlach Distillery. There is a carpark near the historic Mortlach Parish Church. Follow the path over the stream, then hike up the path to enjoy some beautiful views of the valley.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Set aside 15-minutes to explore the graveyard of the Mortlach Parish Church. This ancient cemetery even has a millennium old Pictish cross, which is thought to celebrate a Pictish victory in battle.




The Glen Grant Distillery has an extensive and beautiful Victorian garden which was established in 1886 by past owner James 'The Major' Grant. Pick a nice day and set aside an hour to wander through the pleasant tree-lined lawns, then up the narrow ravine to the tumbling waterfalls of the stream that feeds the distillery.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: While in Rothes visiting the Victorian Gardens, make the short walk up to Rothes Castle to get a great view of the Spey Valley.



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4. Barrels of Fun!


As most whisky lovers know, much of the taste and colour of Scotland’s iconic spirit comes from the actual barrels the whisky is stored in. The production of this crucial component of the whisky production process is celebrated on the Speyside Cooperage tour. The Speyside Cooperage is the only working cooperage in the UK where you can experience the ancient art of cask making. The cooperage produces and repairs nearly 150,000 oak casks used by the surrounding whisky distilleries, as well as distilleries throughout Scotland and the rest of the world. Shaping, shaving, and charring casks is still done by many traditional methods at the cooperage, and you can see this first hand from the viewing gallery.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Visitors can also eat at the excellent café and peruse the gift shop.




3. The Whisky Trains


The early 1800’s saw many of Speyside’s illicit stills transitioning into becoming legally licensed distilleries. But this relatively isolated area had a logistics problem - the barrels had to be transported to the likes of Aberdeen via slow, horse-drawn carts. The stimulus for finding an answer to this problem occurred by the middle of the century, when blended whiskies started to be produced and became popular, which occurred at the same time as wine and brandy becoming scarce due to the phylloxera outbreak. The answer to this problem was the Strathspey Railway, which was opened in 1863 between Dufftown and Abernethy, and was further extended over the next couple of years, fully connecting Speyside with the rest of the Scottish rail network. Speyside whisky could now flow through the rail system to the population centres of Scotland and then on to the world beyond, swiftly, efficiently and in bulk, leading to a massive boom in the Speyside whisky production.


Keith-Dufftown Railway
Keith-Dufftown Railway

* Note: these are images from the Keith-Dufftown Railway that we have been given permission to use.


The importance of the Strathspey Railway to the development of Speyside’s whisky industry should never be underestimated. However, along with many other British railway lines, the Strathspey line was close to goods traffic in 1968 and much of the steel ripped up.


However, there are still echoes of the old whisky trains throughout Speyside. The ‘Strathspey Railway’ operates a steam locomotive along a 10-mile stretch of track that has been preserved from Aviemore to Broomhill, via The Boat of Garten. Although whisky tastings will not be on offer during the 2022 season, keep an eye on what is on offer in the future, and enjoy a chance to run along the old whisky line in the meantime.


* Note: these are images from Strathspey Railway that we have been given permission to use.


The Keith-Dufftown Railway gives passengers the opportunity to experience a ride on a 1960’s era diesel train. They often host special events, such as Ghost Trains and Santa Specials, as well as the Spring Whisky Festival where whisky and shortbread are served. The terminus of the line at Dufftown is also a short walking distance from both the Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries.

* Note: these are images from the Keith-Dufftown Railway that we have been given permission to use.


Then there is also the Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre, where you can dine in a static train carriage or take a short trip on their mini railway.


If you are feeling more adventurous, try experiencing the Strathspey Railway line by walking The Speyside Way. This long-distance path which begins in Buckie and ends at Newtonmore,137 kilometres (85 mi) away, follows much of the path cut by redundant railway.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Along the way you can examine the old stations, such as the Blacksboat Railway Station.

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2. Whisky-Related Beer


Whisper it quietly, but there may be people out there that do not like whisky! In which case, they could be introduced to local breweries that use the same water from which Speyside whiskies are produced. Indeed, the Spey Valley Brewery in Mulben, near Keith, was even co-founded in 2007 by a whisky distiller. In addition, the Spey Valley Brewery do a range of whisky-barrel aged beers available from their brewery shop and a few selected stores.

Another local favourite is the Grantown-on-Spey based Two Thirsty Men, which produces a range of other tasty craft beers made from the sweet waters of the River Spey.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Visits to the Spey Valley Brewery site are possible through appointment only, while the Two Thirsty Men have a bar and retail outlet on the Grantown-on-Spey high street.



1. Whisky Castles


The Whisky Castle store mentioned earlier, is not the only ‘castle’ you can visit in Speyside. The Glenfiddich Distillery has a castle on its very doorstep – Balvenie Castle. Cared for by Historic Scotland, the castle is an interesting side-trip when visiting the Dufftown distilleries.



Then there is Ballindalloch Castle and Estate, which established its very own Ballindalloch Distillery in 2015. But the history of distilling on the Ballindalloch Estate actually dates back to the early 1820s when a distillery was built where the nearby Delnashaugh Hotel is sited today.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Visits to Ballindalloch Distillery are by appointment and are available Monday to Friday.


Accommodation Suggestions


A wonderful day trip can be enjoyed in Speyside, but to genuinely appreciate this region and its attractions, we would always recommend spending at least two nights in the area. We have been lucky enough to stay at two great self-catering properties in Speyside and can highly recommend them:

**Disclosure: We have been guests of both properties. Regardless of this, please be advised that our recommendation is genuine and authentically our own.**



Conclusion


Hopefully we have demonstrated that Speyside is not just about trips to distilleries and that whisky aficionados can enjoy a fully formed experience when visiting this fascinating region of Scotland.


Comment below and let us know what your favourite whisky-related experience was.


Don’t forget that at Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting Speyside appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the whisky-related attractions of Speyside, or indeed, a general tour of this beautiful region of Scotland.


Join us next time on our family adventures when we discover the ancient and mystical Kilmartin Glen. We post every two weeks, and you can subscribe to our latest blog and newsletter here. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.

Barry

Contact Us: tailoritineraries@gmail.com


Tailor-Made Itineraries creates one-of-a-kind bespoke self-guided travel itineraries for adventurous and curious travelers.


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