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Following the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside – Part Two

On Day Three of our Speyside adventures, the four distilleries on our agenda make up somewhat of a superlatives list: most beautiful, most iconic, most modern, and most adorable (you’ll see what I mean). We started the day by simply moseying down the street a few meters from our hotel to the Glen Grant distillery. We read online that the distillery is also home to a beautiful Victorian garden, so we arrived about 45 minutes before the start of our tour in order to get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors.

It turned out that the “small path” that “winds its way up the garden” (per the website) is actually several acres of land and the path extends about a mile into the garden. It is indeed beautiful, but the garden is much bigger than I anticipated! It’s more like a park. If you want to see and enjoy the better part of it, you’ll need more than an hour. We started off at a very leisurely stroll and ended up practically jogging back to the visitors’ centre to show up on time for our tour.

Though it’s perhaps the most iconic distillery in Speyside, we chose not to tour Glenfiddich in exchange for eating lunch at the Malt Barn restaurant. Home to the largest pouring collection of Glenfiddich whiskies in the world, Chris ordered a whisky flight alongside our meals and I thoroughly enjoyed a Diet Coke.

We narrowly added The Macallan experience to our itinerary, because the new visitors’ centre only opened a month before we arrived and they weren’t taking online bookings until about two weeks before our trip. The state-of-the-art centre, also a production facility, is obviously the most modern distillery in the region. Our tour immersed us in the world of whisky with swiveling displays and flashy visual effects, and ended with a guided tasting at a sleek bar and lounge. Visiting The Macallan is a completely unique experience compared to the traditional distilleries and I quite prefer the old-school operations, but I appreciated seeing something different.

Last but not least, we made our way to Cardhu, the distillery I was most looking forward to the whole trip. Fun fact for you: Cardhu is the first distillery to be officially pioneered by a woman. But that’s not why I was excited to visit. You’ll see!

We actually arrived a little late and missed the first few minutes of our booked tour – note that four distilleries might be too much to squeeze into one day. We were offered the option to catch up to the tour group, or skip to the tasting straightaway. Since we had learned pretty much all we could learn about the whisky process, we opted to go straight to a tasting, and actually I opted out. I had reached my limit of even tiny whisky sips.

I patiently waited while Chris enjoyed the samples, because the reason I wanted to visit Cardhu was our next activity: find the cows that we heard live near the distillery! I asked at the visitor’s centre desk if there are cows nearby and if so, where we might find them. It turns out they were just steps down the road! We walked over to the farm and spent kind of a ridiculous amount of time there cooing over the coos, taking photos of these guys, and offering them pre-approved ginger biscuits.

Perhaps not as squeal-worthy as highland cows, I did yelp for Chris to pull over when we happened upon this cooperage while driving around. The geometry, colors, and textures of the barrels simply begged to be photographed. I took the Mavic up for a quick flight here, too, after business hours so no one was around.

Our dinner consisted of takeaway pizza near our hotel because that’s what sounded good at the time, but I don’t seem to have photographic record of it.

The next morning (Sunday), we got back on the road toward Glasgow to attend TRNSMT Fest, but not without stopping for photo ops a few times on the way. I didn’t find out about nearby Ballindalloch Castle until it was too late to plan it into our schedule, but we got to see the cute bridge and guard post – at least I think that’s what it is.

And that ends our time in Speyside! If you are a whisky lover, I highly recommend getting yourself to the Malt Whisky Trail as soon as possible. You’ll have such a good time! Please do feel free to let me know if you have any questions about planning your own trip to this region of Scotland. Cheers!

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