Around Speyside Distilleries in a day – Part 1 (Day 10)

Note: Had to break this day’s personal experiences up into two parts due to high word count. The 2 halves of my day were contrasting experiences so it shouldn’t be awkward to read. If you just want Speyside travel, distillery & public transport details, go here to read my main regional writeup.

Date: July 7th, Thursday (note the day of week)

Day 10 Destination: My only full day in the Speyside region was spent visiting some of it’s famous distilleries (to enjoy some of my favourite tipple) & their surroundings. Surprisingly, I found the surroundings to be as captivating as the distilleries themselves.

Day 10 Map

map

Lessons Learnt

Never, ever distrust Google Maps: Google Maps told me to go in the opposite direction for a few stops & then catch the same bus the other way which does not make sense in normal circumstances. But it was correct as that’s how the first bus of the day is timetabled. I doubted Google Maps yet followed it and was rewarded.

The Speyside Region is beautiful: “Speyside, go for the whisky, stay for the view” – Dalek 2016. Rivers, valleys, hills, waterfalls, you name it, Speyside has it all. The bus ride from Dufftown to Tomintoul in particular gave me goosebumps. Do not miss the Packhorse Bridge in Glenlivet.

Glenfiddich & Balvenie are owned by the same company: Who knew? (it’s Grant & Sons for those interested) They’re also located physically next to each other in Dufftown. Aberlour & Glenlivet are also owned by the same parent company – Pernod Ricard.

Walk on minor roads in Scotland all ears: Backpacking this deep in rural Scotland, you may need to walk on a single track minor (B) road without a footpath. Walk on one side of the road trying to hear if traffic is approaching from behind you & look back every couple mins while walking.

Ramblings

I already rambled a bit about my early start in the ‘Lessons Learnt’ section (apologies). Craigellachie, my waiting bus stop for 20 minutes, is one of the prettiest Scottish villages I have ever come across. It’s literally 1 main street & may 1 more side street in size but the buildings (including it’s stylist hotel & charming Post Office) are very pretty. It was also home to a whisky bar & restaurant that was rated highly on TripAdvisor & something I’d have tried if not for self-imposed budget constraints. Took some pics of farmers in tractors as well as whisky trucks plying early in the morning, they’re the heart of the whisky trade.

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Farmers driving early in the morning through Craigellachie

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Village main road at Craigellachie

I had another 40 minute wait at Dufftown, the unofficial capital of the Speyside whisky region. It had 12 working distilleries at one point in time & is still home to some famous ones. Walked about the town & it’s famed clock tower while waiting. Visited the local butcher to get my pie lunch, it was quite nice 🙂

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Dufftown’s distinctive clock tower

Finally caught my connecting, 2x a week frequency bus. Showed the driver where I wanted to be dropped off on a map, a 30 minute walk from the Glenlivet Distillery. He was the friendliest driver I’ve ever met, did not even charge me a fare from Dufftown to Glenlivet & moreover gave a time & location (different from Google Maps) on where he’d pick me up in the afternoon. I did not get time to ask why this bus runs only 2 times a week, made a mental note to ask him on the way back. I sat back & enjoyed the very scenic bus ride as the only passenger on the bus.

The walk to the Glenlivet Distillery was part of the Tomintoul Spur of the Speyside way. It was enchanting from the moment I got off the bus & saw this sign. Walked a B road for sometime before finding a trail going over a stream in a rickety looking suspension(?) bridge.

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Signs to Glenlivet

There were lowland cows on one side of the bridge (they’re the rare species here) & highland cows on the other side. One cow in particular threw me a lot of shade. Took some pics & finally reached Glenlivet distillery after 2.5 hours of travel, just in time for the 1st tour of the day.

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Lowland cows

My first pleasant surprise was finding out the tour was free with a complimentary dram at the end. Score! The second surprise was a bit unpleasant, it was the quiet season, aka 2 weeks of non-production due to maintainence. Nevertheless, the scale of the distillery is by far the largest we had ever seen, fascinating to see. The best part of the massive warehouse that apparently stored only a part of their casks for maturation, it was almost like a big supermarket size that’s 4 storeys high. After enjoying my free dram, I sat in the lounge to rest a bit & got a dram of their peated range, it was surprisingly enjoyable. Got myself some whisky cake & hot tea before making my way towards the bus stop.

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Oh to have one of these bottles

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Some famous folk were fans of Glenlivet back in the day

The bus stop was close to the Glenlivet “Packhorse bridge” that I’d read about. It’s actually one of the most beautiful places I saw the whole trip. It’s a 16th century stone bridge that’s been taken back by nature. Moreover, the river was wide & raging on the other side. It was sunny & birds were chirping away. Sat there for the most amazing hour enjoying my lunch & missing Yoda. I’ll surely take her here someday 🙂 

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The raging river Livet

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Lunch spot

When I got the same bus for my trip back, it was chock full of ladies and their shopping bags (as opposed to the empty bus I’d boarded). I’ll explain why in the next post.

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