Scottish Highlands & Islands

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Ardbeg Distillery

Like many of the island distilleries, Ardbeg looks to the sea, in a reminder of the days when deliveries by road were virtually impossible. And there's something of the sea about the whisky too, a salty tang which speaks of its birthplace, although it's easy to miss, so powerful is the peat-smoke reek of the malt.

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Black Isle Brewery

Founded in 1998 with the mission of producing top quality beer while also dispelling the image that "organic" is simply for hippies, David Gladwin's Black Isle beers are now found the length and breadth of the country. Located a few miles from Inverness in a stunning part of the Black Isle, tours are free, as are tastings. This is a chance to see one of Scotland's new breed of brewers.

It's "Save the Planet, Drink Organic" mantra lends inspiration to its beers. The Heather Honey Beer includes honey gathered from the heather-covered highland moorlands.

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Blair Athol

Blair Athol distillery, despite the name, sits at the lower end of the pretty tourist town of Pitlochry.

It is the home of Bell's blended whisky, and less than one percent of the distillery output is bottled as a single malt. Bell's is blended from three dozen different whiskies, but Blair Athol is the heart of the blend and its official home.

Blair Athol is a busy working distillery – there are sixteen mashes a day, seven days a week – and the sweet smell of malted barley is everywhere.

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Bowmore

Established in 1779, Bowmore was Islay's first distillery. A visit here offers a chance to experience its dramatic and inspiring Loch-side location and to find out what goes into making one of Islay's smokiest critters.

For the enthusiast, there's the Craftsman's Tour, with a visit to the legendary No.1 Vaults below sea level. And for those who don't want to leave, Bowmore rents out half a dozen self-catering cottages.

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Bruichladdich

As you approach Bruichladdich, the pretty whitewashed buildings running along the shore of Loch Indaal have a traditional Victorian feel to them, but they house one of the most innovative distilleries in Scotland.

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Bruichladdich Distillery

As you approach Bruichladdich, the pretty whitewashed buildings running along the shore of Loch Indaal have a traditional Victorian feel to them, but they house one of the most innovative distilleries in Scotland.

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Bunnahabhain Distillery

Tucked away at the end of the road to the North of Islay, Bunnahabhain has been quietly making whisky since 1883. Bunnahabhain is often called the gentle malt, since the barley that goes into it is very lightly peated, in contrast to the more usual smoky Islay style.

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Cairngorm Brewery Company

Amidst the dramatic scenery of the Cairngorms National Park you'll find the pretty village of Aviemore, home to the award winning Cairngorm Brewery Company.

Established in 2001, they brew a full range of beers both traditional and modern. Drawing on the pure mountain waters of the Cairngorms, and using top quality barley and hops, along with more innovative ingredients such as elderflower and thistle, the team produce beers for all palates.

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Clynelish

You would enjoy visiting Clynelish just for the lovely views out across the North Sea, but they make a fine dram here too.

Originally founded in 1819, the modern Clynelish was built in 1968 to replace the old distillery which sits just across the road and is still used to store the maturing whisky. The old distillery was renamed Brora, and ran for a few years producing a heavily peated style of malt. It's well worth taking the "Taste of Brora" tour just to try this rare delight (a bottle would set you back well over £200!)

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Dalwhinnie Distillery

Approaching Dalwhinnie from the south you climb through the Pass of Drumochter, with the Cairngorms looming to either side. The village sits in a high valley, making this one of Scotland's remotest distilleries – indeed, it's not uncommon for bad winter weather to close the main road.

Dalwhinnie's traditional whitewashed buildings with their distinctive pagoda roofs were built in 1897, although back then, confusingly, it was called Strathspey. Despite being refurbished in the 1990s it continues to use old-fashioned wooden worm tubs to cool the whisky during distillation.

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Dewar's World of Whisky

By the pretty market town of Aberfeldy, overlooking the River Tay, and concealed in the traditional guise of a Victorian distillery, you'll find Dewar's World of Whisky, where high tech exhibitions meet traditional craftsmanship.

The Aberfeldy distillery was built in 1898 to ensure the quality of the malt going into the company's blends, at a time when Dewar's were expanding around the globe. That expansion was masterminded by Tommy Dewar, a consummate publicist and wit, and the tour features a recreation of his office as it would have been one hundred years ago.

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Glengoyne Distillery

As you approach Glengoyne from Glasgow the change in the landscape is striking, the gentler Lowlands giving way to the more rugged Highlands. The distillery sits exactly on the line which divides the two, so that Glengoyne can say that it is distilled in the Highlands but matured in the Lowlands.

The style of the spirit seems to reflect this divide too – there is a delicacy to it which comes from the unusually slow distillation process, yet it also has the breadth of flavour of a true Highland malt.

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Glenmorangie Distillery

Sitting on the Dornoch Firth some 35 miles north of Inverness, Glenmorangie is in an area rich in wildlife. But its not just the seals and dolphins that are the attraction. 25,000 visitors head to the distillery each year, a number which will surely grow as word gets out about its gloriously revamped Visitor Centre. 

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Harviestoun Brewery

Six miles east of historic Stirling, the village of Alva, nestling at the foot of the beautiful Ochill Hills (a walking mecca), plays host to one of the world’s most renowned breweries – Harviestoun. 

From humble beginnings in founder Ken Brooker’s kitchen, through corporate ownership and back to independence, Harviestoun remains among the true elite in the craft brewing world.

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Highland Park

The most northerly distillery in the world, Highland Park still uses traditional methods to create its highly regarded whiskies. Established in 1798, it retains its own maltings, hand turning the malt and drying it over peat, and swears by the use of sherry casks for the all-important maturation phase.

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Isle of Arran Distillers

Hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Isle of Arran was home to over 50 whisky distileries, although most of them were illegal and well hidden. Arran's malt had a good reputation, ranked alongside those from the "Glen of Livet".

These days there's just the one distillery, but it keeps the torch burning brightly.

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Laphroaig Distillery

On approaching Laphroaig, it seems as if the distillery has its back turned, with only some unassuming warehouses to see. But head on down the road and the view opens out across the bay, and even, on a clear day, over to Kintyre or Ireland.

Laphroaig faces the sea, and on a stormy day it's easy to see where the iodine tang in the whisky might come from. The malt has always been highly prized for this intense flavour, both in blends, and in the pure form.

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Moulin Hotel & Brewery

Within a few years of buying the historic Moulin Hotel in the early 1990s – named after the old Scots word maohlinn, referring to local ancient hut circles – hotelier Chris Tomlinson decided to resurrect a brewery in the old coachhouse and stables. Until King George I took his road through nearby Pitlochry and the railways followed, Moulin had been the central spot on the way to the Highlands. Now it sits near – but not too near – the busyness of Pitlochry.

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Talisker Distillery

Even by the high standard of whisky distilleries Talisker has an outstanding setting, in the shadow of the Cuillin Mountains in Western Skye.

Founded in 1830, Talisker is now the only distillery on Skye. The remoteness of Talisker meant that – like many island distillers – in earlier times the sea was the main route in and out. Talisker has maintained these links in its association with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and in supporting boating and boat races.

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The Famous Grouse Experience

There's no mistaking the Famous Grouse Experience – a ten foot high copper statue of the iconic bird greets visitors arriving at Glenturret distillery. Grouse is Scotland's favourite whisky, and the Famous Grouse Experience, sited within easy reach of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, its most visited distilllery.

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