With whisky makers experimenting with production methods and cask types, a number of distilleries bottling an array of different whisky styles and the accepted regional barriers are being increasingly broken down, there are those who question the relevance of geographical definitions.
Nowhere is this more the case than in the Lowlands, where just three distilleries remain, each of them miles away from the next. Glenkinchie, which is sited close to Edinburgh, is closer to Aberdeen and the Highland distilleries around the city, than it is to Bladnoch. Auchentoshan is nearer Oban than Bladnoch.
Just as relevant, the three distilleries have little in common with each other, and any regional characteristics are slight. Glenkinchie is a gingery aperitif malt, Auchentoshan is triple distilled and through its newish and impressive 12 Years Old and the established Three Wood, is the most robust. Bladnoch has gentle appley style all its own, and offers peated malts, too.
Should you choose to make the journey between the three, though, you will be rewarded with some of the most unspoiled and diverse landscape that Scotland has to offer. With careful planning, you can enrich your Scottish trek with a varied alternative take on the traditional Highland break.
Pencaitland, East Lothian
The distillery opens on week days until Easter and then daily during the summer. It offers tours of the distillery and there is also an exhibition housed in the old floor maltings.
How to get there
Buses run hourly from St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh to Pencaitland, and from there it is a two mile walk. A local taxi company also operates.
Tel: +44 (0) 1875 342 004
Glenkinchie to Auchentoshan
The route passes through Edinburgh and Glasgow, so plenty to do and see. In Edinburgh; a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia is a fascinating example of Upstairs Downstairs on water, and Dynamic Earth, a fun piece of environment education. In Glasgow; the Clydebuilt Maritime Museum at Braehead, which brings to life the story of how the city and its river was the beating heart of the Empire, but the art galleries at Kelvingrove are pretty special, too.
It is a very well-kept distillery with a modern visitor centre and shop, situated a short distance from Glasgow close to the Erskine Bridge. The distillery runs daily tours, a VIP tour that costs £18-£23 and lasts an hour and a half, or you can call to arrange a bespoke tour tailored to your own needs. Prices vary and depend on what exactly you want to do. The distillery is of special interest because spirit is triple distilled here, and Auchentoshan even brews its own beer now.
How to get there
Auchentoshan lies north of Glasgow off the main M8 heading up to Loch Lomond,just below the Erskine Bridge.
Tel: +44 (0) 1389 878 561
Auchentoshan to Bladnoch
Take the route down to the west of Glasgow and Ayr, past Prestwick Airport.
Culzean Country Park and Castle
Galloway Forest Park
Great cycling and trekking in a nature-rich and surprisingly varied and scenic corner of Scotland. Often over-looked by tourists, this region boasts bubbling brooks, small and stylish lochs scattered with small islands, and offers a plethora of outdoor activities and sports. If you have children then try the Cream ‘O Galloway, a farm making ice cream and offering tours of the facilities including the chance to taste several of the iced products and with enough outdoor and indoor play areas to keep children from five to 15 happy all day long.
The region from Ayr down to Dumfries & Galloway is littered
with references to Rabbie Burns and his work. Information on where
to visit is easy to find, particularly after last year’s Homecoming Scotland marked the 250th year since the great man’s birth. You can visit his house, see the places he visited, worked in or wrote about, and learn about his short and tragic life. There is a dedicated Robert Burns museum in the region, too.
Wigtown can lay claim to be being Britain’s book capital and each autumn it holds its internationally-renowned book festival, which last year had a whisky theme. When the festival’s not on, the town is still worth a visit, with a number of interesting book shops selling both new and second hand books.
Scotland’s most southerly distillery nestles by the side of a picturesque river and is quite delightful. The distillery has a visitor centre, offers several tours a day complete with a dram at the end, and has a well-equipped gift shop offering a range of gifts including a good selection of Bladnoch whisky and a number of independent bottlings unique to
How to get there
Set in deepest Dumfries, the distillery at Bladnoch is a few miles from the town of Wigtown.
Tel: +44 (0) 1988 402 605
Bladnoch to Glenkinchie
Drive east through to Dumfries and towards the English border and Gretna before linking up with the A7 which takes you through the border towns that rugby fans will always associate with the great Scottish teams – Galashiels, Selkirk, Melrose and Hawick This is a stylish and pretty route and if you’re in to fishing then there are lots of options to explore in the region.