Travel

The lure of the Spey

In the latest in our series of places to visit we look at North Speyside.
By Rob Allanson
The northern region of Speyside is, of course, rich in distilleries to visit. It’s also ideal trekking and walking country, and offers a wide range of outdoor pursuits. The Cairngorm National Park lies within easy reach and offers a large range of sporting options, and Loch Ness, with its stunning scenery and loch cruises, is close by.But perhaps best of all, it’s an ideal area to explore if you or any of your party are interested in history, with several outstanding castles to explore.BENROMACH
The experience: Benromach is a small and intimate distillery and tours here are small and personal. There is the chance to fill your own bottle, and for a tutored tasting. The distillery has an excellent gift shop.Contact: www.benromach.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1309 675968 GLEN MORAY
The experience: Another small and informal distillery, Glen Moray offers daily tours, often conducted by craftsmen, or you can book in advance for a more in-depth tour and tasting. The distillery has a gift shop.Contact: www.glenmoray.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1343 542477 BENRIACH
The experience: BenRiach doesn’t have a visitor centre as such, but if you ring in advance the staff will attempt to accommodate a visit. This distillery is beautifully kept, has a malting floor, and offers a varied and unusual selection of whiskies for the region. Well worth a look.Contact: www.benriachdistillery.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1343 862888 GLEN GRANT
The experience: One of the most enjoyable distillery tour offerings in Scotland.The distillery itself is wonderful, the anecdotes about Major Grant add colour and personality, and in spring and summer the gardens are an absolute delight. If you’re lucky, enjoy a dram from a little outdoor safe on a pretty little bridge, and taste the clean and pure stream water.Contact: www.glengrant.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1340 832118
Tel: +44 (0) 1542 885000 STRATHISLA
The experience: Strathisla is both a very pretty distillery and home to one of the world’s greatest blends, Chivas Regal. A visit here gives you an insight in to the workings of one of the country’s oldest distilleries and information on how Chivas has won fans across the world.The warehouses, with their rare collection of special casks locked away in the corner, are particularly fascinating.Contact: www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1542 783044 CARDHU
The experience: Another pretty and impressive distillery and the home of Johnnie Walker. There are regular tours of the distillery and you can learn of its unusual history – it has the rare distinction of being established by a woman – and of how the Johnnie Walker dynasty was established.Contact: www.malts.com
Tel: +44 1340 872555 MACALLAN
The experience: The Macallan is set in fabulous grounds high above the Spey and has been upgraded in recent years to offer visitors the sort of tour worthy of such a fine distillery. The tour itself is extensive,but leave yourself plenty of time to visit the ‘story of wood’exhibition,and interactive treat built in to one of the old warehouses.Contact: www.themacallan.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1340 871471 WHAT ELSE TO DO
There are a large number of castles and historical points of interest in the region and they include: BRODIE CASTLE Forres Guided tours of this 700 year old castle take you through endless rooms across countless floors. The highlight is a 16th Century tower house. The castle is set in stunning gardens.www.nts.org.uk CASTLE STUART
Dalcross, Inverness Castle Stuart was built in the early 1600s and is set among lovely scenery. The grounds offers accommodation and the castle is said to be home to no fewer than four ghosts.www.castlestuart.com Tel +44 (0) 1463 790745 CAWDOR CASTLE
Nairn Cawdor is, of course, associated with Shakepeare’s Macbeth, and if you have a romantic view of what a great Scottish castle should look like then this castle won’t disappoint. Built as a fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor it remains home to the Cawdor family to this day. The house itself is beautifully maintained and within the grounds there are woodlands and three gardens.The castle has its own nine hole golf course and there is a cottage which can accommodate six people set within the grounds.During the summer Shakespeare’s plays are often performed in the grounds.www.cawdorcastle.com
Tel: +44 (0) 1667 404401 CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD
Culloden Few historic sites invoke such tragedy as Culloden,where the Jacobite uprising was finally quelled in 1746 in the most bloody and brutal way imaginable.A new visitor centre was opened in late 2007 and now it’s possible to relive the tragic events that led up to the battle and what happened in its aftermath.www.nts.org.uk/culloden
Tel: +44 (0) 844 4932100INVERNESS CASTLE
Inverness
The current Inverness Castle dates back only to 1835 but has links stretching back to the 11th
Century.The castle also has links to Shakespeare although there is no evidence that Duncan was murdered here. There have been several sightings of his ghost here,however.
www.castles.orgURQUHART CASTLE
Drumnadrochit
Set on a rocky outcrop overlooking Loch Ness, it is thought that a fortress of some kind or other has
occupied the site since the sixth century.The castle is as dramatic and imposing as anything Scotland has to offer,overlooking the loch and accessible by boat. What it lacks in complete buildings it makes up for in turbulent and dramatic history, and a new visitor centre brings the site to life in spectacular fashion.GETTING THERE
Inverness Airport is the best airport to fly to but the region can also be accessed from Aberdeen airport.
There are regular trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow travelling up to Inverness and Aviemore passing through the region. Check for local stations through www.thetrainline.com The main A9 from Stirling takes you by car to Aviemore and in to the heart of the region.