A Scottish Jaunt: Whisky Travels Done Right

A whisky-lover’s tour of Scotland is the kind of venture that dreams are made of. Regardless of personal preference in terms of flavour profiles or preferred regions, visitors can take in a wide variety of distilleries with a bit of planning, all while taking in the sights and sounds that make the country such a special and distinct locale. Earlier this year we had the opportunity to venture across the pond for one such excursion, covering off both metropolitan centres as well as time in the countryside to properly embrace the Scottish experience. It was an eye-opening experience, providing impetus for SHARP‘s latest travel guide.

Start Central — Edinburgh or Bust

Any transatlantic adventure is best with a slow lead-in, and that’s precisely why Edinburgh is our preferred jumping-off point. For the sake of efficiency, you won’t want to base your entire trip from the art-filled, buzzy metropolis, nor will you want to play urban tourist after spending several days sampling your way through heaps of whisky. That in mind, we recommend giving yourself a day or two to explore Edinburgh, getting settled into the timezone, and finding yourself a solid bite to eat. Our Edinburgh travel guide will help you with much of that, but, sticking with the whisky theme, we’d also recommend poking into the Johnnie Walker Princes Street — hear us out here. Their experience centre tour is a great refresher on the history and method of whisky production, and their rooftop bar has one of the best views in the whole city.

Round One — Highlands & Speyside

Heading north from Edinburgh, you’ll want to choose a suitably central base of operations. The area surrounding Inverness is central enough to reach many of the distilleries without much fuss, and the area has a host of impressive accommodations that includes several historical estates that have since been converted into top-shelf accommodations. Culloden House, and the apartments in the Highland Club would be at the top of our list.

the highland club scotland

Inverness is also an easy jump flight from Edinburgh; however, if you have time to spare, renting a car and driving north alongside the isle’s eastern shore is worth it. Along the way you’ll have time to enjoy the scenic countryside, as well as take a pit stop at the V&A Dundee — Scotland’s museum of design, which houses an impressive body of work, including the two sculptural works from The Dalmore’s Luminary Series. There are a few other stops to make along the way, of course, including a stop in Aberdeen — Scotland’s third largest city — as well as a stop at the Fettercairn distillery, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2024.

Once you’ve settled in, the world is your oyster. Resting on the cusp of two of Scotland’s leading whisky regions, there are a multitude of leading distilleries at your doorstep — or at least a short cab ride away. You’ll want to plan ahead, and book tours as needed to avoid risk of not getting in. Remember that each distillery has a different approach to visitors, and these approaches can vary wildly. You might only get in for a tasting, or you may wind up in a mysterious barrel room sampling things that have yet to come to market. For example, The Dalmore’s distillery is slated to reopen at the end of this year with an all new visitor’s experience. Spots will be limited, so it’s one to keep on your radar once the reopening date has been confirmed.

the dalmore distillery

There’s no shortage of big names to visit in the region but one thing that sticks in mind is remembering where you are in the world. Sure, it’s great to experience the homes of your favourite whiskies that you enjoy drinking at home, but be sure to also reserve a moment for some of the smaller producers whose rare liquids don’t yet reach North America.

End On The Islands

Once you’ve had a proper dose of the highlands, it’s time to get moving again. If you’ve traveled by car, you’ll have a full day’s drive ahead of you; trust us when we say getting to our closing destination is worth it. You’re heading to Islay first (pronounced “ai-luh”, and not “eyes-lay” — don’t get that one wrong in front of a local). There are nine distilleries that run on the island, including Bowmore, Ardberg, and several others, but that’s not necessarily why we’re here. Once you’ve powered through the Highlands and Speyside, it’s time to wind down and relax. The trek continues a touch further, onto the mythical isle of Jura.

Getting onto Jura is tricky, with its single small ferry crossing that can be treacherous if the weather isn’t on your side. That said, it’s worth the risk of seasickness, without question. The postcard-worthy island was a temporary home to George Orwell, and is home to roughly 6,000 red deer and few more than 200 humans. A visit to the Jura distillery is a given, but more than anything a visit to the island is an experience in true disconnection. There are about 30 or so hotel rooms available on the entire island, and so much open territory that it’s easy to roam off and forget about the turmoils of modern society. If timing permits, spending a couple of nights on the island will provide time to unwind and properly relax before the inevitable road home.