The words ‘Speyside is famous for Whisky’ reverberate around travel and whisky magazines the world over. Because Speyside truly is one of the places on the planet where there are more whisky distilleries than any other. More than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are situated in the area. Therefore it’s hardly surprisingly that one of the highlights of the year is The Speyside Whisky Festival, which attracts people from all over the world. It has just taken place, but that doesn’t mean to say there is not plenty going on over the next six months in the area.
Speyside for the unitiated is the area that extends the length of the river Spet. You hang a right just past the popular ski-resort of Aviemone and head towards Grantown-on-Spey. It is one of the the most scenic routes in the country. The boundary lies beyond Keith, and Ardmore Distillery is right on the cusp. Drawing the water from the Spey.
While the distilleries are one of the draws for visitors to the area, its terrain and history lend itself to every excursion you could hope for. It also offers a range of activities for all ages and you can be as adventurous as you want. From mountain climbing to surfing, fishing or cycling and there are are no shortage of walks in the area, which is also renowned for its mountains, forests, lochs and glens.
We’ve highlighted a dozen things to do in Speyside… that is when you are not visiting a distillery!
1. Visit Culloden moor
If history is your thing then a visit to Culloden is a must. The Battle of Culloden remains one of the most significant battles in Scottish history, and the area where it took place is believed to be one of the most haunted. Despite the battle lasting less than an hour, it had around 2,000 victims, most of them Jacobites. You can visit the battlefield all year round, and the moor where it took place has been restored so that it replicates what it would have looked like in 1745. The Visitor centre is open usually from 9am – 5.30pm although it is open until 6pm during the summer months.
2. Explore the Clava Cairns.
These Bronze age burial chambers, standing stones and ring cairns are situated in a stunning setting and are famous, if a bit spooky, with some of the tombs having passageways leading to their centres. Information panels at the site explain all you need to know about the Cairns.
3. Visit a Castle
There are also castles a plenty for history buffs. Brodie Castle, in Forres, is a National Trust for Scotland property, and is considered a jewel in Speyside’s crown. It may be haunted but it does have a fine collection of paintings, antiques and porcelain. There’s also Ballindalloch Castle, owned by The Macpherson-Grants. They have opened their castle for visitors and it too is worth visiting.
4. View the UK’s only Polar Bear
At the Scottish Highlands Wildlife Park you can see the UK’s only Polar Bear. There are plenty of other animals too ranging from Red Pandas to Amur Tigers.
5. Ride a steam engine
The Strathspey Steam Railway winds through the Scottish countryside. If afternoon tea is your thing you can partake of it while enjoying sumptuous views.
6. Go mountain biking.
Either bring your own bike or hire one. There are plenty of cycle routes for all skill levels. There are also purpose-built trails at the heart of the Glenlivet Estate set in the stunning scenery of the Cairngorms National Park. And closer to the coast, the Forestry Commission’s Moray Monster Trails. There’s also Culbin Forest and Roseisle Forest. Check out http://www.morayspeyside.com/mountain-biking
7. Visit a few whisky bars.
Why not try the Copper Dog at Craigellachie Hotel in Craigellachie – it’s where the likes of Kate Moss and Nick Grimshaw have hung out recently. There’s also the Highlander Inn, just across the road from the Craigellachie Hotel. In Aberlour there’s the Mash Tun, and also in Aberlour there’s The Dowans Hotel which boasts a small glamourous cocktail bar and a whisky bar too. Nearby in Rothes the Station Hotel also has two bars – a bar and bistro called Toots and a whisky bar called The Spirit Safe.
8. Go surfing/white white water rafting
Apparently there is good surfing in the area when the tides and wind are right. Lossiemouth is a favourite location, as is Sandend Bay. Or white water rafting. You can try see aceadventures.co.uk
9. Play around
There are plenty of golf courses in Speyside, and there is nothing better than playing around when the scenery all around is wonderful. Try
Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club, Carrbridge Golf Club and the Spey Valley Golf Course
10. Walk your wee heart out…
The Speyside Way is one of the best known walks that stretches some 70 miles from Buckie to Spey Bay and continues onto Tomintoul, before reaching Aviemore. There’s also the Dava Way, a beautiful walk between Grantown-on-Spey and Forres which covers 24 miles.
11. Attend a Highland Event/Games
This month there is the Gordon Castle Highland Games and Country Fair which takes place on 20th May. From Highland dancing to piping, fiddlers and even a dog show as well as Archery
Laser clay shooting and clay pigeon shooting. There’s also Piping at Forres which takes place on 25th June – it plays host to the European Piping Championships.
12. And last but by no means least… Do the Whisky trail…
Visit Benromach, Cardhu, Dallus Dhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, The Glenlivet, Glen Moray, The Speyside Cooperage and Strathisla distilleries. You’ll be able to tell your friends you’ve done the only Scotch Whisky trail in the world.
Of course if you have any energy left there is always its wonderful beaches, sailing, bird spotting, sea life… Whew! I think I need a dram!