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Margot McMurdo Margot McMurdo Tourist Guide

Margot McMurdo, Blue Badge Scottish Tourist Guide.
Email: margot@ctem.co.uk

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Spirit of Scotland

The Spirit of Scotland Tour

7 Day Tour

Slainte mhath! Your very good health

(pronounced 'slange - ee-va' – A Scottish Toast)

You can enjoy the real Spirit of Scotland, the 'amber nectar, the 'water of life' on a wonderful tour of Scotland visiting some of the best single malt whisky distilleries in the world, and relax completely, taking in the scenery and enjoying the culture and other fascinating sites as you will be driven around by your own personal driverguide - you cannot drink and drive and most distilleries offer tastings of their products.

We can visit, amongst others, the smallest or the most northerly, or the highest by altitude. Scottish single malt whiskies all taste very different depending on where they are produced and this tour can take you all over the country, even to some of the islands.

You will experience different tastes in very different locations, meet the wonderful local people and can experience the warm welcoming Scottish hospitality as I will recommend accommodation to suit your personal requirements.

For those who would like to visit just one or two whisky distilleries along with historic sites, the tour can be tailored to suit your interests, maybe even including a round of golf or some fishing. Nothing is a problem, it is an opportunity for you to enjoy the very best that Scotland has to offer.

This is an example of a 7 day tour which covered a large part of the country taking in a variety of whisky distilleries with two whisky connoisseurs from the United States:

We started in Edinburgh and headed to St Andrews to satisfy the needs of a golfing enthusiast.

On the famous Swilken Bridge

On the famous Swilken Bridge

View over the Old Course

View over the Old Course

A delicious Scottish beefburger

A delicious Scottish beefburger

We enjoyed a good lunch at the Jigger Inn right by the side of the Old Course.

Then north to Perthshire and to Edradour Distillery, the smallest and one of the most picturesque whisky distilleries in Scotland. Edradour is a smooth Highland Malt. The amount of whisky they produce in a year, the bigger distilleries would produce in a week!

Our first distillery visit

Our first distillery visit

The pretty whitewashed buildings of Edradour

The pretty whitewashed buildings of Edradour

Click to enlarge any image

We then headed north through the Grampian mountains and into the area known as Speyside where some of the most famous single malts are created. Visiting The Balvenie Distillery for a 3 hour specialist tour during which you can bottle your very own wee personal bottle of whisky.

The Balvenie is a very mellow malt. We stayed overnight at a lovely guest house right next door to another distillery at Cardhu.

The Balvenie, our first Speyside distillery

The Balvenie, our first Speyside distillery

With like minded visitors at Balvenie, whisky tasting

With like minded visitors at Balvenie, whisky tasting

My very own personalised bottle of The Balvenie

"My very own personalised bottle of The Balvenie!"

We arrive at Glenfarclas Distillery

We arrive at Glenfarclas Distillery

An old still at Glenfarclas

An old still at Glenfarclas

We also visited Glenfarclas Distillery another of the well known Speyside malts. Glenfarclas is very rich and well-rounded with a mellow finish.

No whisky tour would be complete without a visit to The Whisky Shop at Dufftown. With over 600 whiskies for sale and 300 to try before you buy, it is a 'must visit'!

So many to choose from - how is our time schedule?

So many to choose from - how is our time schedule?

and that one too!

...and that one too!

Successful retail therapy, we can ship the rest!

Successful retail therapy, we can ship the rest!

After a lovely afternoon drive we had an overnight stay in the Highland city of Inverness. We then explored a little further north to Glenmorangie Distillery (pronounced Glen- morangey as in orangey flavour not Glen-mor-angie). Glenmorangie is smooth, delicate and slightly sweet.

Now we can pronounce it properly

Now we can pronounce it properly

Slainte mhath, our pronunciation is improving

Slainte mhath, our pronunciation is improving

A fine lunch and souveniers, now to the castle!

A fine lunch and souveniers, now to the castle!

We also visited the historic site of Culloden Battlefield where Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite followers met the Government troops led by the 'Butcher' Duke of Cumberland in 1746. Then we visited Cawdor Castle and Gardens, a stunning furnished castle, after a delicious lunch at the Cawdor Tavern.

We stayed another night in Inverness before travelling south down the side of Loch Ness, through Fort William and to Oban Distillery. Oban is a complex malt with a full Island character balanced by a soft Highland finish.

Viewing Castle Stalker en-route, Castle Aaaargh in Monty Python's Holy Grail!

Viewing Castle Stalker en-route, Castle Aaaargh in Monty Python's Holy Grail!

Decorative stonework at Oban

Decorative stonework at Oban

The Fickle Finger of Fate. Which way to the local pub?

The Fickle Finger of Fate. Which way to the local pub?

Now as we travel south which way to go, the finger points to Ardfern and a refreshment with the locals at the Galley of Lorne Inn.

Looking forward to meeting the locals  in the local

Looking forward to meeting the locals in the local

We discover the delights of Benromach single malt at the Inn

We discover the delights of Benromach single malt at the Inn

Everyone is welcome!

Everyone is welcome!

Refreshed we continue south through Kilmartin and overnight in a castle!

Our castle accommodation, Stonefield Castle

Our castle accommodation, Stonefield Castle

Early morning view from Stonefield over Loch Fyne

Early morning view from Stonefield over Loch Fyne

We wait in line to board the ferry

We wait in line to board the ferry

The next day is glorious, the sun is shining for our ferry crossing to the Isle of Islay, and home to 8 single malt whisky distilleries and each one produces a very different whisky.

Islay is world-renowned for its distilleries but the island also offers a rich, colourful landscape with sandy beaches, towering cliffs and a huge variety of wildlife, making it a perfect place to relax. You might catch sight of seals, dolphins , buzzards or eagles or you can just sit back and take in the spectacular views all around.

Islay is a small, beautiful island with 8 whisky distilleries

Islay is a small, beautiful island with 8 whisky distilleries

Islay was also the birthplace of Alexander McDougall in 1732. He rose through the ranks to become a Major General- and George Washington's right hand man. He also became President of the Bank of New York. Small world!

We travel to the south of the island to visit Laphroig Distillery, located right on the coast line . Laphroig whisky is robust and full bodied with a trace of seaweed and it has a strong peaty flavour.

Our first of many Islay Distilleries

Our first of many Islay Distilleries

This whisky barrel is made of granite stone

This whisky barrel is made of granite stone

With a dram of Laphroig we can enter the Friends Lounge

With a dram of Laphroig we can enter the Friends Lounge

During prohibition, Laphroig could still be bought in America. Ian, the distillery owner at that time, persuaded the authorities it was for medicinal purposes - lucky for the American consumers!

Friends of Laphroig site

Friends of Laphroig site

We stake our American claim to a piece of Laphroig land

We stake our American claim to a piece of Laphroig land

Friends of Laphroig have a lifetime lease of an unregistered plot which is recorded at the distillery and are entitled to a yearly ground rent of one dram of Laphroig to be claimed in person at the distillery!

The Kildalton High Cross

The Kildalton High Cross

Grave stones of ancient warriors at Kildalton

Grave stones of ancient warriors at Kildalton

Close to Laphroig we found the Kildalton High Cross which was carved around 1,300 years ago and is one of the finest and most complete early Christian crosses in Scotland.

Our Islay base was the pretty little town of Bowmore. Here too is a distillery, many small shops and a good choice of places to eat and drink. There is also a circular church, no corners for the devil to hide!

Bowmore from the harbour

Bowmore from the harbour

Bowmore harbour looking out over Loch Indaal

Bowmore harbour looking out over Loch Indaal

Gaelic is spoken by some of the islanders and many road signs are in Gaelic and English.

Gaelic. It is not written as it is pronounced!

Gaelic. It is not written as it is pronounced!

Here at last, one of our connoisseurs favourite malts

Here at last, one of our connoisseurs favourite malts

Lagavulin Distillery is located at the south of the island. Lagavulin is a powerful, dry, peat smoky flavour and slightly sweet.

'Slainte! Sitting in the old malting room

Slainte! Sitting in the old malting room

This will look very well on my bar at home

This will look very well on my bar at home

We travel to the west side of the island and visit Bruachladdich. This single malt is more subtle than the others from Islay, less medicinal and light, dry and fresh tasting. The distillery also makes their own Gin!

Wow! The Pyramids of Whisky and Gin!

Wow! The Pyramids of Whisky and Gin!

Not an easy distillery to pronounce

Not an easy distillery to pronounce

There are so many to taste!

There are so many to taste!

Our last visit on Islay, and again a tricky one to pronounce, bun-a -haaven

Our last visit on Islay, and again a tricky one to pronounce: bun-a -haaven

Bunnahabhain Distillery is on the east side of the island. Their whisky is less peaty, mellow and aromatic.

Kilchoman – the new kid on the block!

Kilchoman - the new kid on the block!

We also stop by Kilchoman Distillery, a farm distillery and the first distillery built on the island for 124 years!

We take our leave of Islay and meet up with some of the Classic Malts ladies waiting at the ferry.

Whisky and Friends gang the gither - whisky and friends a great combination!

Whisky and Friends 'gang the gither' - whisky and friends a great combination!

Not goodbye to Islay simply ''au revoir until we meet again!

Not goodbye to Islay simply au revoir until we meet again!

Back on the mainland we drive to Stirling via Loch Fyne and Loch Lomond and stop for a refreshment at one of Scotland's oldest inns, The Drovers, before heading to our overnight hotel accommodation which was built in 1787 as a school for boys and is located right next door to Stirling Castle.

Historic accommodation

Historic accommodation

We had to visit this wonderful castle as the Royal Apartments have been fully restored as to how they would have looked in the 16th century, complete with characters.

A manservant tells us of his daily chores

A manservant tells us of his daily chores

Kings of the castle in the Great Hall

Kings of the castle in the Great Hall

This is the last day of the tour and time for one more whisky visit, Glenkinchie Distillery. This distillery is the closest to Edinburgh, our final destination. Glenkinchie whisky is a lowland whisky, fine, pale and smooth and ideal as an aperitif.

Behind the bar at Glenkinchie

Behind the bar at Glenkinchie

I need a vehicle with elastic sides!

I need a vehicle with elastic sides!

Left to Edinburgh

Left to Edinburgh

We have run out of space in the luggage department, so before we visit the beautiful and historic Roslyn Chapel a diversion to acquire badly needed extra suitcases!

A man can never have too many bags!

A man can never have too many bags!

Of course you can taste here too!

Of course you can taste here too!

Now we have just to get everything home safe and in one piece so we can reminice about our Scottish Whisky Adventure at the other side of the Atlantic!

Journeys end, but haste ye back! We have to return for our yearly ground rent at Laphroig!

Special Whisky Events for 2016

You may like to incorporate these events into your visit.

  • Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 28th April – 2nd May
  • Islay Festival of Malt and Music 20th – 28th May
  • Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival 22nd – 26th September

To enquire or book:

Email margot@ctem.co.uk or call/fax +44 (0)1899 880207

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Margot McMurdo Blue Badge Scottish Tourist Guide. Email: margot@ctem.co.uk

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