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Scottish walking tours for whisky lovers

Scotland has two wonderful things in abundance, great whisky and great scenery, wouldn't it be great if we could combine them?

Published: February 22, 2017
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One of our favourite things to complement whisky is fresh air and there are few better ways to enjoy the outdoors than by indulging in some walking.

Thankfully, our distilleries happen to reside in some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer.

From the sweeping glens and soaring bens of Speyside to the stunning beaches and rugged coastlines of Islay and Jura, the areas of distilling offer a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

Go traditional

There is no more famous Scottish walking route than the West Highland Way and thankfully, the walk itself is book ended by two great highland distilleries, meaning you'll have the perfect start to get you going and the perfect reward for finishing your epic trek.

Running from the outskirts of Glasgow to the foot of Ben Nevis, the Way begins in Milngavie (pronounced Mull-guy), going through Mugdock Country Park, along the shores of Loch Lomond, past Ben Lomond, across Rannoch Moor, and past the pyramid shape of the mountain Buachaille Etive Mor to Glen Coe.

It then climbs the Devil’s Staircase, which is the highest point along the way, at 1850 ft, before descending to cross the River Leven at Kinlochleven, entering Lairigmor and Glen Nevis, and finishing at Gordon Square in Fort William.

You never know who you'll meet on the West Highland Way. Picture: Wikimedia

You never know who you'll meet on the West Highland Way. Picture: Mark Strength Wikimedia

Start with a dram at the excellent Glengoyne Distillery (£9 per person for the basic distillery tour) which is located at the foot of Dumgoyne near to where you set off, and finish with one too at the equally great (though slightly more rustic) Ben Nevis Distillery (£5 per person for the basic distillery tour).

Finish off with a tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery. Picture: Wikimedia

Finish off with a tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery. Picture: Jonathan Billinger\Wikimedia

Sign up with a tour company

There are plenty of amazing tour companies in Scotland with several offering advice and catered tours for those looking to try something different.

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Walking holiday specialists Mac's Adventures, do a number of walking tours specifically catered for whisky fans.

Laura McAlpine, their Scottish Trail Specialist, said: “As a specialist of Macs Adventure’s Scottish walking holidays, part of my job (a part I love!) is to try out the trails, and one of my favourites has to be the Speyside Whisky Trail.

"A visit to a distillery is a captivating insight into Scotland’s finest export, and it’s fascinating that each has its own story to tell. A walking tour in Scotland is as much about appreciating the hospitality as the landscapes, and a taster session at a world-renowned distillery is the perfect companion to a day of activity in the highlands.

"Suitably fortified, continue your way on the trail before sinking into an armchair at a cosy B&B with a dram in hand. It will feel well deserved after those hiking efforts!”

The Speyside Whisky Trail - Available from March to October, including bed and breakfast accommodation, daily door to door baggage transfers, maps, guidebooks and route-notes, this walking tour takes you on a trek through the beautiful Spey valley.

Picture: Mac's Adventures

Picture: Mac's Adventures

The self guided walk follows way marked trails between distilleries is specifically chosen to provide the best combination of walking and whisky.

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Each days' walking allows you to visit distilleries and experience the processes and products that have made Scotch whisky famous around the world.

You'll have the chance to visit around 13 distilleries, including Aberlour, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Cardhu, Cragganmore and Macallan, all of which offer visitor tours as you hike across the original smuggler’s trails in the shadow of the Cairngorm mountains.

Price: £420 per person

Another tour operator who offers trips in Speyside, is Make Tracks Walking Holidays who offer tailored walking holidays around the region focusing on distilleries and the production of whisky.

With customised trails, distillery tours, accommodation and a comprehensive information packs you will have everything you need to help you enjoy your walking holiday.

Perhaps a trip to the famous Glenfiddich distillery is in order? Picture: Flickr\Travelmag.com

Perhaps a trip to the famous Glenfiddich distillery is in order? Picture: Flickr\Travelmag.com

The experts will design the walk itself around your requirements before looking at adding in the distillery tours along the way which fit best with the walking itinerary.

They also offer the possibility of tours of the famous Speyside cooperage, where you can learn how each cask is prepared before being sent to many of the distilleries in the area.

Price: Available on request 

Go rogue

Islay

Don't want to take on one of the more established Highland routes or join a tour? Why not create your own unique trip with a jaunt across to the island of Islay?

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With a decently sized area to cover (the island is around 40km in width by 25km in length) and some of truly stunning coastlines, Islay is home to no less than eight distilleries, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity to sample that wonderful liquid the island is famous for.

With plenty of accommodation and walking routes, the island is easily accessible from the mainland by ferry and the perfect place to lose yourself.

Start in Port Ellen and make your way along the Three Distilleries Pathway to try out the 'big three' of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg or start at Port Askaig and wander down the coast for a visit of Caol Ila and  Bunnahabhain.

There is a list of enjoyable walks to be found here, while you are on the island.

Chivas Brothers

Picture: Wikimedia

Should be looking for something a little more structured then Donald James MacPhee, the excellent guide who runs the Islay Outdoors website, offers custom walking tours around the island and one particular tour features a trip to Baldy's cave, one time home to the illicit stills of one of the most famous illegal in the history of the island. Along the way there's also the opportunity to see a medieval crannog, old sheilings, caves and natural arches, and a whole host of wildlife.

Skye

Another fun trip is to the isle of Skye, home of the Talisker distillery alongside some of the most breathtaking scenery available anywhere in Scotland.

The Isle of Skye website offers a selection of great accommodation and travel advice and in particular, this walk on Talisker Beach, which would be expertly finished off by a trip to the distillery of the same name and the delightful drams available there.

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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