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JB Dodane via CC licence
There has been a long history of whisky distilling in the Highlands and Islands (traditionally out of the sight of the excisemen). While illicit stills are now confined to oral history, the area is slowly emerging as a whisky destination in its own right with some of the finest drams in the country now produced here.
Long in the shadow of more famous regions such as Speyside and Islay this area is now developing a first class reputation and has seen an explosion of exciting new distilleries. Two new upcoming events will highlight the very best that this distinctive whisky producing area have to offer.
The first ever Hebridean Whisky Festival takes place next month. Currently featuring 3 distilleries on Skye and one on Harris, this event is poised to grow in size and stature as more and more of the newer distilleries release their whisky to the market.
It’s a brilliant way to publicise the whisky as well as the islands and their heritage. The events are all free and include special tours, samplings and live music at Harris Distillery, Raasay Distillery, Torabhaig and Talisker. These are deliberately staggered to give whisky pilgrims the opportunity to take their time and venture along the 115 mile Hebridean whisky trail to take them all in.
From the peaks of the Cuillin mountains to Raasay’s beautiful coastline and the famous white sandy shores of Harris this will be a journey to remember. In addition to the excitement at the individual distilleries, throughout the festival, the Aros Centre in Portree will showcase drams from all the participants with a unique Hebridean Whisky Festival tasting stand.
The festival finale will take place at the Sligachan Hotel on Saturday 25th May in Skye. All four distilleries will come together here for a special day of whisky tastings, Hebridean whisky cocktails, cask displays, craft ales and a visit from the Isle of Skye pipe band. Festivities will conclude, in true Hebridean style, with a late-night ceilidh.
If you wanted to base yourself on Skye for the festival then you couldn’t beat the location of Teangue House. It’s only a few minutes walk from here to the island’s newest distillery at Torbhaig which also has a café and gift shop (and a resident goat). There are stunning views from the property and remote beaches are only a short drive away.
For those that would rather be on the Outer Hebrides then The Old Post Office is only a short drive from the Isle of Harris distillery in Tarbert. There is loads to do here but the highlight of any trip is returning home for a dram whilst sitting outside just staring at the sea before retiring to the open fire when night falls.
The Highland Whisky Festival is another new initiate that has been organised in conjunction with the North Coast 500. It brings together the 8 distilleries that are on or close to this iconic driving route for a week of celebrations starting on the 10th of May. Balblair, Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, The Dalmore, The Singleton of Glen Ord, Tomatin and Wolfburn will each host visitors from around the world, showcasing their centuries of tradition, process and craft through exclusive tastings, tours and events.
It’s an unmissable experience for even the most seasoned of whisky enthusiasts. Combine the awesome scenery with one of the best drives in the country and some of the most famous whisky in the world and you have a holiday it’s difficult to beat. To make it perfect you just need somewhere appropriate to retire to.
Sunset Cottage in Portmahomack is close to two of the biggest names in the north, Balblair and Glenmorangie. Located overlooking the sea in a quiet village just off the main NC500 route this luxurious hideaway has everything you need with a beach, museum, pub and seafood restaurant all within an easy walk.
Further south, The Press House at Tomatin is a rural retreat that sleeps 8. It is convenient for visiting the Tomatin distillery as well having brilliant access to all the superb outdoor activities the cairngorms are famous for. You feel like you’ve really earned a dram in the evening when you have been playing out in the mountains all day whether its skiing, climbing or hillwalking.