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The Whisky Trail

One of the most memorable tours one can take in Scotland also has the distinction of being the least memorable, depending on how much you ‘enjoy’ yourself. And in the morning after your head could feel a little tender. Intrigued? Well it is of course the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail; an amber-hued tourist trail through the heart of Speyside in the Moray region. And The Whisky Trail’s charm is not merely confined in cask, bottle or glass. Oh no. For the trail plots a course through some of the most picturesque scenery of the Scottish Highlands and Grampian regions, and if there’s a ‘wee nip in the air’ you’re never too far from a wee dram to warm the cockles of your heart. Pure spring water, sacks full of golden barley, patience and expertise are needed when making malt whisky. Scotland has always got time for its whisky, and there are few better ways of learning more about this most convivial drink by visiting the eight distilleries and Speyside Cooperage that form the trail. Each of the distilleries has its one unique character in their own wee pocket of the country, and the Speyside Cooperage , Craigellachie, services many of them; repairing over 100,000 casks a year. Benromach and Dallas Dhu lie in Forres ; the whitewashed walls of Benromach house the smallest working distillery in the area. Cardhu in Knockando was established by notorious whisky smuggler John Cumming, before the distillery become legitimate in 1824. The family owned Glenfiddich , in Dufftown , has its own cooperage and coal fired stills. In Rothes , the Glen Grant Distillery is fringed by a magnificent woodland garden, and visitors can enjoy a drop of the amber nectar in Major James Grant’s study. Glenlivet is found in the remote setting of the same name, ten miles north of Tomintoul . Glen Moray , in Elgin , sits on the bonnie banks of the River Lossie. And the grand old Strathisla in Keith is the oldest distillery in the Highlands, established in 1786. Strathisla may be the oldest, but all reveal a little of the history behind malt whisky production in Scotland, an industry that has enriched both the culture and economy of the country. Even better, they all offer tastings and entry to the distilleries is reasonably priced with most tours giving you change from a £5 note. There are no rules as to what itinerary is best, but taking one of the numerous coach tours round the region is a great opportunity to leave the car behind and fully appreciate the whiskies. And there is ample accommodation in the area, from bed and breakfasts to hotels. As with the whisky, there’s no hurry. There are plenty of walks by riverside and woodland, so if you do need to clear your head after sampling some of the local produce there’s no shortage of untroubled settings to have a moment of clarity.

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