In the heartland (Speyside)

In the heartland (Speyside)

Speyside falls in to two halves:that reached by flying in to Inverness,and that reached from Aberdeen.In this issue we take the Aberdeen route.

Travel | 18 Jan 2008 | Issue 69 | By Rob Allanson

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Approach Speyside from the Aberdeen side of the region and it’s worth making a short detour off to the right and to Old Meldrum.Here nestled behind an unimpressive housed street is Glen Garioch, a distillery owned by Morrison Bowmore and in something of a no-man’s land.In recent years it has been completely renovated,however, and it has promoted itself as the closest distillery to Aberdeen with some success.And the purposebuilt visitor centre, its intimate environment and a pleasant group of people at the distillery all make it worth the detour.Drive further north and you can detour once more to visit Glendronach, another picturesque and traditional distillery that was once a major part of the Teacher’s family and is now part of Pernod Ricard.The old floor maltings can be visited, the stills look like they’re from by-gone era and the visitor centre, one of Scotland’s oldest, is all 70s macho leather and dark wood. It is in turns a nostalgic and charming place to look round.Turn west at Huntley and you travel to the heart of Speyside where there are four distilleries to visit in the Dufftown and Craigellachie region.Glenfiddich and Balvenie are a William Grant double-act that offers something for every whisky tourist.Glenfiddich’s facilities are second to none in Scotland and offer the enthusiastic amateur the perfect modern and interactive introductory whisky experience, with beautifully presented illuminated murals and well designed displays not only providing an easy guide to the malt whisky process, but reinforcing whisky’s links to its homeland.The distillery’s not above name dropping either, with pictures of various celebrities enjoying their Glenfiddich.The Balvenie is a different experience. On the same site but hidden away behind its illustrious neighbour, it is a traditionalist’s dream distillery, with original floor maltings, dinky still rooms and labour-intensive production.A house on the site has been converted in to a tasting room and this is the focal point for an advanced and in-depth tour aimed at the connoisseur.The whole experience is tasteful and well considered.Travel further north and there are two more top quality visiting experiences.Aberlour offers a VIP tour that is restricted to small groups and which takes as long as it takes because the guides are knowledgeable and are happy to engage in discussion.The tour ends with a tasting and again, you never feel you’re on a timetable. For an additional investment you’re given the chance to fill and label your own bottle of cask strength Aberlour, choosing from bourbon or sherry cask.The Macallan has also benefited from some pretty serious investment in recent years and a warehouse has converted in to an interactive and very informative study of the importance of oak.The distillery itself is one of the most impressive in the region and the malt needs no justification.This distillery, set in wonderful surroundings, should feature on every whisky tourist’s itinerary.Another distillery well worth the trip is The Glenlivet and although it requires a bit of effort to get there, it’s most certainly well worth it.Its isolation isn’t coincidental and here you approach some of the most rugged and stunning terrain in this part of Scotland, travelling across the old smugglers’ routes to reach the distillery.And what a welcome you get once you arrive.A warm and cosy reception area, a stylish exhibition area and a tour round one of the world’s great malts all make this a complete and satisfying tour experience.Other distilleries in the southern part of the Speyside region include the independently-owned Glenfarclas distillery, another wonderful tour with the chance to sample the rich and warm sherried malts that the distillery is famous round the world.Two Diageo distilleries also offer tours in this region:Cardhu, spiritual home of Johnnie Walker, and Cragganmore, one of the most sophisticated malts in the region offer tours for a small fee redeemable against the purchase of a bottle of whisky from the shop.Despite a number of ownership changes the place to stay in this part of Speyside remains the Craigellachie Hotel.It’s an imposing masculine huntin’ fishin’sort of place with a whisky bar containing several hundred whiskies and a robust and hearty menu.The Craigellachie Hotel
www.craigellachie.com
Tel +44 (0) 1340 881 204
Elsewhere Aberlour, Glenlivet and Dufftowh have a number of bed and breakfasts and the following small hotels The Commercial Hotel Dufftown
Tel +44 (0) 1340 820 313 Fife Arms Hotel
Tel +44 (0) 1340 820 220
www.fifearmsdufftown.co.uk Highlander Inn
Tel +44 (0) 1340 881 446 The Mash Tun,
Aberlour
Tel +44 (0) 1340 881 771
www.mashtun-aberlour.com Minmore House Hotel,
Aberlour
Tel +44 (0) 1807 590378
www.minmorehousehotel.comWhat to do
Among life’s great partnerships are golf and malt whisky,and what better was to enjoy a round than in the shadow of some of the world’s best loved distilleries? Or to celebrate a successful day’s play with a dram of a malt made just a few hundred yards away? Aberdeenshire offers the golfer a range of challenging courses and there is a course to suit any standard of ability.With such a varied terrain and a coastline there are links courses and dramatic and
challenging ones. For a full list of courses in the region with a complete guide to contact details,accessibility and facilities,visit www.golftoday.co.uk/clubhouse/coursedir
But if you want to play golf in the heart of whisky country then you should consider the following courses:
Dufftown Golf Club
Tel +44 (0) 01340 820325
www.dufftowngolfclub.com
Described as a breath-taking 18 hole course a mile from DufftownHuntley Golf Club
Tel +44 (0) 1466 792643
www.huntleygc.com
A5399 yard 18 hole courseKeith Golf Club
Tel +44 (0) 1542 882469
www.keithgolfclub.co.uk
Described as a challenging 18 hole course close to the whisky trailRothes Golf Club
Tel +44 (0) 1340 831443
A4972 yard 18 hole courseThe Spey is the perfect place to enjoy that other sporting partner to whisky,fishing.Salmon fishing is one of life’s most therapeutic past times but the region boasts other styles of fishing too,including
excellent brown trout. Skiers arespoiled in the region because it borders The Grampians, and the resort of Aviemoreisn’t far away,though in recent years snowlevels have been patchy,so don’t plan your trip round the slopes.As you’d expect there is excellent walking,cycling and trekking and wildlife watching is unrivalled on the British mainland. If you’re after a more lively experience travel back to Aberdeen where you’ll find plenty of reasonably-priced accommodation and a lively city nightlife with some outstanding style bars and clubs.
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