My father used to say that whiskey and water were a perfect mix. Growing up in Scotland, ladies did not drink whiskey, so I don’t have a taste for which one is the best. He said you must never put ice in the glass. He had a “wee dram” (little sip) between each fairway. He said it helped his score.
I send a lot of clients on the Malt Whiskey Trail, which has nine distilleries, fantastic golf, great shopping, beautiful coastline, historical towns and villages and weather–well, take a brolly (umbrella) to be on the safe side.
Speyside, is the north east of the land, is home to more than half of Scotland's distilleries. Plus there's Benromach, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, GlenMoray, Speyside, and Strathisla, so take your pick of who to visit. There are some lovely hotels and old mansion houses to stay at with wonderful gardens.
I learned to ski in the Cairngorms National Park which is close by, and you can see ospreys, Golden Eagles, red deer and take wonderful hikes. There are lots of castles and quality product visits to Johnston’s Cashmere factory in Elgin, Walker’s Shortbread, and Baxters Preserves.
Entertain yourself with a visit to a Ceilidh (Kaylee a Scottish gaelic evening) if you can put up with bagpipes and dancing. I grew up practicing sword dancing using two brooms.
Make your choice of route, discover the signposted and hidden routes and rediscover the pleasures of driving where traffic jams are unheard of and the air is fresh and clear. Everyone should stay at a castle for at least one night; there are lots to choose from. One of my favorites in Borthwick comes with a ghost.
If you really are a whiskey lover, then you should visit the island of Islay. This is on the West Coast. There are nine distilleries to visit, even the seagulls walk with a wobble. Lagavulin is one of the best tours, along with Bowmore. Bowmore was built in 1779, one of the oldest in Scotland. Barley is still turned by hand using a traditional wooden malt shovel. Fascinating to watch them do it. Bruichladdich, my father said “that is pure class in a bottle” and of course, you get a sample at every distillery. You can smell the peaty aroma all over the island.
There is one inn in the highlands which has supposedly 1,500 bottles of whiskey for you to choose from. It has a sign about the door “all are welcome, except a Campbell”. The MacDonalds haven’t forgiven the Campbells for a massacre in 1692.
You can start off with a few days in Edinburgh, go to the Whiskey Museum by the castle, then drive north covering both the Whiskey Trail and the Castle Trail in one itinerary if you want to. Great scenery, lovely hotels, smashing food, refreshing pots of tea and something a little stronger if you want it, and a shoppers paradise.
Maureen Jones, Scotsmaster
Maureen Jones is president of All Horizons Travel at 160 Main Street. Members of her staff are experts in business travel, cruises, and all types of leisure.