In addition to its popularity with nature lovers and keen hikers, Speyside also has a deep-rooted connection to whisky production. The region has a long history of distilling, with many of the world’s most renowned Scottish whiskies hailing from the area.
The historic distilleries are nestled in picturesque villages, each with tales of local traditions and stories that have shaped the Speyside communities over the years. The Speyside Whisky Trail, or Malt Whisky Trail as it’s also known, is the only trail of its kind and makes for the perfect adventure for whisky-loving groups of friends and family.
Organising the trail
The trail runs for 72 miles from Buckie to Aviemore, although you may choose to do only part of it, and if this is the case, many shorter routes are available.
Typically, it’s suggested that visitors spend a minimum of between five to seven days on the trail to allow plenty of time to sample the world-famous whiskies and take in the beautiful sights of Speyside.
When it comes to embarking on a route, you’ll need to decide whether you will go it alone or draft in some help! Self-guided tours are available, which will map out your route and provide accommodation along the way, but you and your group will be left to your own devices. If you don’t trust your navigational skills, there is the option of booking a guide who will not only plan the route but take you to each distillery and your accommodation.
If you decide to do things entirely independently, then you’ll need to factor in accommodation and transport – be aware that some of the distilleries can only be reached by car or public transportation.
If you’re travelling by train, the best stations for joining the whisky trail are Keith, Elgin and Forres, with regular connections from Aberdeen and Inverness. Train tickets can be pricey, so book in advance to get the best deals, and look into railcards if you’re travelling as a group or fit into the correct age categories to save further.
Whilst Inverness is technically the closest airport to the start of the trail, it isn’t necessarily the most convenient due to the smaller number of flights. Flight availability can also vary based on seasonal demand.
So, if you plan on travelling off-peak, your best will be Aberdeen Airport. As this is a larger airport, there’s plenty of choice regarding operators providing lower-priced flights. For example, a search on Opodo for flights to Aberdeen shows several are available with no-frills airlines like Flybe and easyJet. A travel booking portal like Opodo may also offer insight into when is best to travel – for instance, this page shows us that the high season for travel to Aberdeen is August, and indeed, that’s when you can expect the best conditions for your trip to the Granite City and nearby Speyside.
If you complete the entirety of the trail, you’ll be treated to seven world-class distilleries. We’ve taken a closer look at some of our favourites.
Cardhu is recognised as being one of the original distilleries to embrace visitors and tours. Dating back to 1824, the distillery has a long history and has gained popularity over the years for its well-balanced and drinkable profiles. Their Whisky is characterised by honeyed and light peaty notes, making for a smooth and mellow single malt.
In addition to whisky tours and tutorials, the distillery offers a host of events including live music nights, silent discos and afternoon tea.
If you’re a real whisky enthusiast, a trip to the Speyside Cooperage, the only cooperage with a visitor centre, is an absolute must.
Guests can witness the skilled craftspeople involved in the art of coopering and gain an insight into what happens behind the scenes within the industry.
After a tour of the cooperage, guests can visit the tasting room to sample a dram of the distillery’s label 10-year-old Speyside Malt Whisky.
Glen Moray Distillery
Glen Moray Distillery has made a name for itself on the Speyside Whisky scene due to its diverse range of whiskies, primarily characterised by a balance of fruity, malty flavours with a hint of spice.
Offerings range from more affordable and accessible options to more refined and complex ones, making it an excellent stop-off for some take-home bottles.
In addition to a distillery tour, several tasting experiences are available, including wine-to-whisky tasting and chocolate and whisky-tasting experiences.
Not only does this incredible trail give visitors a chance to experience a range of some of the world’s finest whiskies, but it also allows them to understand and appreciate the art and science that goes into making them.
Throw in a backdrop of beautifully picturesque landscapes, charming villages and an area steeped in history and ancient tradition, and it’s to see why the Speyside Trail is such a unique and enchanting experience for all.