Scotland Distillery Tour: 3 or 4 day Speyside vacation package

Enjoy one of the best Whisky Tours in Scotland. Visit distilleries and castles on our fully escorted tour, staying in a small hotel close to Balmoral.

Highlights

  • Choose either 3 days/2 nights (Days 1, 2 & 3) or option to extend to a 4-night tour.  
  • Explore Speyside, an area famed for Scottish whisky; see the traditional processes behind whisky production and casking, and enjoy whisky tasting in renowned distilleries.
  • Hear the stories behind some of Scotland’s longest-running distilleries, including Macallan, Glenlivet and Fettercairn, along with the rich history of the Speyside and Aberdeenshire area.
  • Discover Scotland’s incredible landscape, with help from your Tour Leader.
  • Relax in comfort and style at a small, charming country house hotel with individually-decorated bedrooms and views of the Cairngorms and ancient woodland.
  • Taste the finest Scottish cuisine with a la carte dinner each night in the hotel included in the tour package.

Overview

Journey into the heart of Scottish whisky country with a three-day, two-night small group trip to Speyside and Aberdeenshire. Stay on the edge of the Cairngorms and travel to historic distilleries around Speyside. Option to extend to 4 nights.

See how the ‘water of life’ is made with informative tours of a range of whisky distilleries, and sample the finest whiskies in the company of your fellow guests.

Find out about the traditional ‘precision and percussion’ of cooperage on a visit to the renowned Speyside Cooperage, where whisky barrels are sent from all over the world for repairs and refurbishment.

Discover the sights and history of the area. Explore the Royal Family’s Scottish estate, and learn about the formation of Scotland’s iconic glacial landscapes.

Find outlaws’ hideaways and scenic lochs, castles steeped in stories and legends, and more in the shadow of Scotland’s spectacular Cairngorm Mountains.

Enjoy the finest accommodation at a country house-turned-hotel, boasting comfortable rooms and exceptional views of the surrounding mountains and forests. Dine in style in the hotel’s restaurant, which serves meals to suit all tastes including a wealth of seafood options.

Travel in the company of our accredited expert Scottish Tourist Guide, and gain added insights about history and geology as you travel across Scotland.

See the living history of Scotland through its places, people and culture, and enjoy traditional meals and folk music during your journey.

Activity level: Easy, with optional longer walks and hikes across Scotland’s landscape, including rocky paths, coastal outcrops. Walks are generally between 1 and 3 miles long. (see definitions here).
Transport: Getting there: Rail travel between Edinburgh and Stonehaven, and return from Aberdeen to Edinburgh on the final day. Getting around: Comfortable air conditioned minibus.
Accommodation: Two or four nights’ stay at Darroch Learg Hotel, Ballater, a picturesque country house-turned-hotel which boasts spectacular views of the Cairngorm Mountains. A la carte dinner at the hotel each night of the trip.
Weather: June in Aberdeenshire is typically warm. Rain is always possible, and guests should be prepared with warm and waterproof clothing.

 

Tour Map

Day 1 – Edinburgh to Aberdeenshire: Into Whisky Distillery Country

Meet your Tour Leader and local expert guide in Edinburgh, then travel to a scenic castle and onwards to distilleries and a warm welcome at the Darroch Learg Hotel.

Dunnottar Castle

This exciting Scottish whisky distillery tour starts in Edinburgh, where you will meet your Tour Leader and local expert guide at the first-class passenger lounge at Waverley Station.

After introductions, you’ll travel by train to Stonehaven, then by comfortable minibus to the ruined coastal Dunottar Castle. Just down the road from Stonehaven, this postcard-worthy castle is perched on a rocky headland stump, formed by the vast geological Highland Boundary Fault which cuts across Scotland from coast to coast. In more recent history, it held the Scottish Crown Jewels to keep them from the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Views from a distance are excellent, and you can also tackle the castle’s 209 steps to visit up-close.

After this exploration, we’ll visit the first whisky distillery of the tour, Fettercairn. Famed for doing things differently, Fettercairn received its official licence in 1824, but employed illegal whisky makers to get a head start on production!

There are plenty more points of interest on the way, including the scenic mountain pass of Cairn O’ Mount, the “Queen’s View” of the Deeside area, 16th century Crathes Castle and an ancient burial ground of a style found only in north-east Scotland.

We’ll travel to your hotel for the next four nights, Darroch Learg. With individually decorated rooms and a delightful restaurant serving quality local meals, Darroch Learg is perfectly positioned for exploring Scotland’s sights and significant distilleries. All the rooms have excellent views, too!

This packed first day ends at Darroch Learg with a hearty group dinner in the conservatory restaurant.

  • Check into Darroch Learg, Ballater, for four nights
  • Group dinner

Daily Walking Details:  0.2 miles  |  260 ft ascent  |  Approx. 1 hour

Day 2 – Royal Deeside: Royalty’s Retreats and Outlaw’s Hideaways

Enjoy a day of contrasts as you see royal residences and bandit’s lairs, ancient rock formations and granite used in the industrial age.

Balmoral Cairns Pyramid

Day 2 of your Scotland tour begins with a short trip to a natural pothole, Burn O’ Vat. Formed tens of thousands of years ago, this spacious, scenic and secluded rock formation is thought to have once housed notorious Scottish outlaws!

After returning to the civilised world, we’ll take a 1km stroll around a nearby loch before visiting the Cambus O’May Suspension Bridge to see how the area’s granite was put to use in bridging the River Dee during the Industrial Revolution.

Speaking of industry, the area is also famous for its royal rail connections, and we’ll be stopping for lunch in Ballater’s former railway station which holds replicas of the Royal Waiting Room and Queen Victoria’s personal railway carriage.

Royalty remains the theme of the afternoon, as we visit the royal family’s estate at Balmoral Castle (complete with a view of the local cairns and grand funerary pyramid), the royals’ local church of Crathie Kirk, and the nearby Royal Lochnagar Distillery. Founded in 1845, Royal Lochnagar benefitted from its location and was granted a Royal Warrant after being visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert only three years later.

  • Return to Darroch Learg in the evening
  • Group dinner

Daily Walking Details:  3.7 miles  |  590 ft ascent  |  Approx. 2.5 hours

 

Day 3 – The Cairngorms Road: Marvelous Mountains and Single Malt Masters

Enjoy a journey of mountains and malts as you head into the Cairngorms for some spectacular sightseeing, and visit one of Scotland’s most historic and renowned whisky distilleries.

Cairngorms bridge

If you've spent the last few days admiring the mighty Cairngorm Mountains, today is a particular treat as we’ll be heading up into Cairngorms National Park to see the area’s iconic landscape and geology. Although the present majestic landscape formed during the last ice age, we will go into deep geological time, when 420 million years ago, continental collision closed a wide ocean, joined Scotland to England and formed the rocks under this land of whisky.

Following the scenic and winding Snow Road route through hills and valleys, we’ll eventually arrive at the Glenlivet Estate and Distillery.

With an (official) history dating back to 1822, Glenlivet’s captivating story is entwined with the characteristics of the Livet valley, and the area’s loose-knit community of smugglers and illicit distillers who didn’t take kindly to the distillery become a legal whisky producer.

After soaking in the stories and engaging in some whisky tasting, we’ll head back with more Cairngorms driving, a stop at the renowned Whisky Castle shop (stacked to the ceiling with over 600 malt whiskies) before heading back to the hotel.

The two night guests will then be taken to Stonehaven railway station to catch a train back to Edinburgh. 

  • Return to Darroch Learg in the evening
  • Group dinner

Day 4 – Speyside: Castles and Cooperages

Head into the Speyside distillery area in earnest, visiting a famous whisky distillery and discovering how the all-important whisky casks are made.

The Craigievar Castle in Scotland

Your whisky distillery tour is headed right into the heart of Scotch production – Speyside. Named after the River Spey which flows through the area, Speyside is home to half of all Scotland’s single malt whisky distilleries and has earned its status as a mecca for whisky enthusiasts.

On the way up, we’ll stop in at Craigievar Castle, an ornate pink tower thought to have inspired the fantastical castles which are prominent throughout Disney’s films and animations. After the sightseeing, it’s off to see a stalwart of the whisky distillery world: Macallan.

Macallan came into being in 1824, and along with an ‘obsession with quality’, the company is also known for its spectacular new state-of-the-art distillery and visitors’ centre which you’ll be heading around.

Rounding off this day dedicated to the ‘water of life’, we’ll be seeing how Scotland’s whisky casks are made with a fascinating acorn-to-cask experience at the acclaimed Speyside Cooperage, and take a look at the ruins of Balvenie Castle.

  • Return to Darroch Learg in the evening
  • Group dinner

Daily Walking Details:  Approx. 1 mile  |  100 ft ascent  |  Approx. 1 hour

Day 5 – Heading Home

Time to head home. Savour a final breakfast at the Darroch Learg, then travel back to Edinburgh via Aberdeen.

Rail bridge at sunset

Today is the last day of your Speyside distilleries tour. Enjoy a hearty breakfast in the Darroch Learg’s restaurant, then travel by minibus to Aberdeen.

Wave goodbye to Scotland’s ‘Granite City’, then catch a train back to Edinburgh Waverley Station.

Note: If required for reasons beyond our control, GeoCultura reserves the right to substitute alternative accommodation of equal or higher quality or adapt the itinerary if required.

Single Supplement

There is a charge of £255 / $319 for the 2 night tour or £410 / USD $513 for the 4 night tour for solo travellers.

Rail Ticket

For an extra charge of GBP £300/ USD $375 per person, we can arrange first-class return rail tickets between London and Edinburgh.

Activity Level and Transport

The activity level is rated as EASY, suitable for occasional walkers (see our definitions here). The tour will involve walking in generally easy terrain, along trails and around towns and distillery sites. Some optional walks include lots of steps and walking over uneven ground. Hikes are 1-3 miles long,

Transport will be by first-class train and comfortable minibus with air conditioning.

June in Aberdeenshire is typically warm. Rain is always possible, so you should bring light waterproof clothing.

If walking is an issue, alternative arrangements can be made during the scheduled longer walks, so please let GeoCultura know in advance. To enjoy the full experience, a reasonable level of fitness is required – please call us to discuss this if you have any concerns.

The Tour Includes/Excludes

The Tour Includes:

  • The services of your expert guide and tour host who will be with the group throughout the tour.
  • All transportation costs when travelling from Edinburgh on the first day, and when returning, along with all transport between locations.
  • All accommodation costs for two to four nights, assuming two people sharing a double room. Single occupancy rooms are available for a surcharge. See Single Supplement in ‘Need to Know’ tab.
  • All breakfasts and a la carte dinners.
  • Entry fees to all whisky distilleries and attractions visited on this tour.
  • All service charges and most gratuities.

The Tour Excludes:

  • Travel insurance. Guests should carry their own health and travel insurance.
  • Extra or optional activities not described in the tour.
  • Lunches 
  • Personal expenditures, any alcoholic drinks with meals, and extras at hotels such as laundry bills.
  • Transportation to Edinburgh before the start of the tour and from Edinburgh after the tour concludes.
  • Passport and visa fees.

Alternative Activities

Our tour leader is happy to provide suggestions for alternative activities for guests who prefer not to participate in certain parts of the tour walks or visits, or group dinners.

Accommodation

Nights 1-4: Darroch Learg Hotel & Restaurant, Ballater

Darroch Learg Hotel & Restaurant, Ballater
Darroch Learg is a treat of a country retreat, offering spacious, individual bedrooms and excellent views of the Cairngorm Mountains or closer-to-home forests. With a storied history and a variety of owners over its 130-year history, Darroch Learg has plenty to capture your imagination and showcase the area’s local history. The hotel’s conservatory dining room serves meals shaped by local, seasonal produce, paired with an extensive list of wines.

Note: If required for reasons beyond our control, GeoCultura reserves the right to substitute alternative accommodations of equal or higher quality.

Deposit and Payment Terms

Deposit: A deposit of 10% of the tour price is due upon registration for a tour.

Final payment: Full payment is due 60 days before a tour begins, or upon registration if within the 60-day window.

Cancellation by participant: A participant may cancel a registration after securing a confirmed place on a tour for any reason. The following refund terms will apply:

  • Greater than 60 days before tour begins: Any monies paid plus half of the deposit will be refunded
  • 30 to 59 days before tour begins: 35% of tour price will be refunded
  • 15 to 29 days before tour begins: 25% of tour price will be refunded
  • Within 14 days of tour or during the tour: No monies will be refunded

Cancellation by GeoCultura: GeoCultura reserves the right to cancel any tour due to low enrolment, inability to run the tour or concerns about the safety, health or welfare of participants. If a tour is cancelled before it begins, all monies paid will be refunded (including any deposit).

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions page for additional details.

Alison (Ali) Motion

Alison Motion 

With a lifetime of working in the great outdoors and an enviable knowledge of the best places to visit in Scotland, Ali has more than enough experience of guiding people around her homeland.

As a Blue Badge-accredited guide with the Scottish Tourist Guides Association, Ali delights in showcasing Scottish landscapes, wildlife, culture and history.

Career highlights for Ali include working as Education Manager for the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), and running the Discovery Centre at the Royal Highland Show, Scotland’s biggest annual agricultural show which attracts visitors and exhibitors from across the country.

Ali’s Hill and Moorland Leader (HML) qualification means she is perfectly placed to take you on and off the beaten track in search of spectacular landscapes, captivating wildlife and history-rich sites in Scotland.

Upcoming tours
06 - 10 Jun 2024
Prices from GBP £1,699.00
(TWO OR FOUR-NIGHT OPTIONS AVAILABLE)
PRIVATE TOUR OPTIONS