Crossing the lines

Crossing the lines

If you fancy visiting some unusual distilleries,why not base yourself in a town and take in the tourist sites too? Here we pick four base camps

Travel | 22 Jul 2008 | Issue 73 | By Rob Allanson

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WIGTOWN THE DISTILLERY Bladnoch Bladnoch is Scotland’s most southerly distillery and one of its most sedate and prettiest. In addition to standard tours and a distillery shop that is open all year during the week and on weekends during July,August and Bank Holidays the distillery periodically hosts a three day weekend whisky school.Participants learn every aspect of making whisky, from mashing and fermenting on day one to filling the casks and signing them on the third day.Bladnoch also sells casks containing about 170 litres of spirit at just £1000.The price includes eight years’ storage at the distillery but not the tax duty.What else to do in the region Wigtown is Britain’s book capital, and should you bother to count you’ll find about a quarter of a million books on sale in its wide range of shops.There are also two book festivals, one in Spring and one in Autumn and this year the Autumn one will take place between September 25 and October The region also boasts Britain’s biggest national nature reserve.Galloway Forest Park covers 300 square miles of forest land and has some of Britain’s best cycle-ways.There are three visitor centres in the park and there is a unique viewing gallery to help observe wildlife.Unsurprisingly there are a broad range of golf and fishing options and for the more adventurous there is an off-road driving school nearby,where participants are given one to one instruction before attempting to navigate a Land Rover Discovery round challenging tracks.More details at Fifteen miles to the south is the medieval town of Whithorn,home to Scotland’s first saint, St Ninian.The pretty town is of archeological significance, too, and the fully history of this important region can be explored in the town’s visitor centre.Accommodation There are a range of camping, hotel and bed and breakfast options in the region though forward planning is advised on and around book festival time.Details can be found at Getting there The best way to get to Wigtown is to drive.The nearest railway station is 25 miles away.Prestwick Airport is 65 miles by road,Glasgow Airport 95 miles.FORT WILLIAM THE DISTILLERIES Ben Nevis Ben Nevis is the most northerly distillery on the west coast mainland and offers tours and the opportunity to visit the Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis visitor centre and its gentle giant Hector McDram.The distillery charges £4 for adults for admittance to the interactive visitor centre but the money is redeemable against the purchase of a bottle of whisky.Ben Nevis also offers the chance to buy a 500 litre sherry butt to be matured over 15 years and producing about 600 bottles at the end of it.Oban Oban distillery is tucked away on a side street sloping into the cliff close to the seafront, and it’s a wonderful distillery to visit.Tours are held most of the year but you should check details because times vary.An in-depth visitor experience has been introduced looking at how Oban malt gets its unique flavour and there’s a chance to taste both new make and cask strength Oban.What else to do in the region Fort William and the Lochaber region are known as the outdoor capitals of Britain and there are limitless opportunities to walk and cycle in the region.Fort William lies at the foot of the mighty Ben Nevis so there are also lots of climbing routes to explore, as well as canyoning and mountain biking.With the town hugging the west coast there are also a number of different sea fishing and water sports to try,and cruises along the coast.Fort William also forms one end of the West Highland Way.Fort William has its own 18 hole golf course but there are also other courses at Traigh,Spean Bridge and Ballachulish.If you’re not too keen to try your hand at dangerous sports but like to watch them, plan your visit to coincide with the six day motorcycle trials,where some of the world’s top riders compete on and off road.Accommodation The west coast region is a prime tourist destination so there are accommodation options to suit every budget.More details can be found at Getting there There is a good train service to Fort William from Glasgow and Edinburgh and some overnight sleeper services run from some of England’s major cities.The West Highland line is regarded as one of the most picturesque in Europe so the train option is a good one.PITLOCHRY THE DISTILLERIES Aberfeldy Two for the price of one – Aberfeldy is a beautifully maintained and traditional distillery, and the attached Dewars World of Whisky is a state of the art interactive family visitor centre.Both experiences are excellent and heartily recommended.Blair Athol The home of Bell’s, this pretty distillery is geared up for visitors and contains a Bell’s exhibition.Scotland’s smallest distillery and one of its most loved, Edradour is everything you’d want a traditional distillery to be, its dinky still room, scattered warehouses and flowing stream all lending themselves to being photographed. It’s a friendly place, and there is a modern café and a brand new shop.Glenturret Another distillery linked to a blend, this time The Famous Grouse.Glenturret distillery is a little bit overwhelmed by its high-flying blended neighbour but it’s another artisanal traditional Highland distillery worth a look round.The Famous Grouse Experience is fun for the whole family and includes a virtual flight across Scotland on the back of a grouse.Tullibardine The Tullibardine Distillery is part of a major shopping complex so it’s ideal for keeping all members of the family happy. It offers a half an hour basic tour and a two hour connoisseur’s tour which includes nosing straight from the cask and a tasting of vintage malts.The connoisseur’s tour costs £20 including goodie bag and must be pre-booked.The distillery has a café which sells soups and sandwiches and a small amount of hot food, and a shop.Tullibardine is another distillery that sells casks – three sizes are available.What else to do in the region The Pitlochry region is renowned for its beauty, and boasts among its attractions The Queen’s View. It is also an excellent area for walking and includes short and interesting walks as well as more challenging ones. One short walk from the centre of the town takes you up past the salmon ladder and along the banks of the River Tummel.Other walks take you through forests and alongside lochs and rivers.The town’s famous Festival Theatre stages six plays during each summer period and is worth a visit, and close by is the famous Blair Castle, home to Britain’s only private army The Atholl Highlanders.The castle has fantastic grounds where it’s easy to spot the rare red squirrel, a modern restaurant and the castle tour is excellently organised, very thorough and very informative. If you’re in to castles,Castle Menzies atWeem is a 30 minute drive away.Accommodation The region offers accommodation to suit all pockets.Details can be found at modation Travel There are regular bus and train services from Glasgow and Edinburgh.Pitlochry is also an easy drive from Edinburgh Airport INVERNESS THE DISTILLERIES Glen Ord Glen Ord is situated 15 miles north of Inverness and is unusual because it is home to large scale industrial malting to serve a range of Diageo’s distilleries.Tours are conducted through most of the year and as with other Diageo distilleries there is a small admission charge redeemable against a purchase of whisky.The Singleton of Glen Ord, a 12 Years Old version of the malt originally only available in South East Asia, is now sold at the distillery.Dalmore Dalmore is one of Scotland’s quirkiest distilleries. It’s situated by the side of the Cromarty Firth and is a fine example of Victorian splendour.The malt’s excellent and the still room is one of the strangest you’ll find anywhere.Other things to do in the region Inverness is a bustling and lively city that blends modern city experiences such as first class shopping, dining and bars with more traditional Highland and historical activities. Outside the city there are a large number of sporting opportunities.Cruises on Loch Ness are close by as is the historic and tragic battle site of Culloden. If you want to experience some genuine Highland music, regular ceilidhs are held in the town and there are a number of pubs where music sessions take place.Getting there Inverness has an international airport and is linked to discount airlines so it’s easy to fly to. It’s also served by train services from England and Scottish cities in the south, and there is an overnight sleeper service from London.
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