We went to Scotland at the end of our extended sojourn in London last year—spending time mostly on Skye and Islay. While planning that trip I’d thought that it would be my first and only trip to Scotland. There are many parts of the world we want to visit as a family, and as we can’t do international trips every year, it didn’t seem likely that we’d double up instead of going somewhere new. But we loved our time in London and our trip to Scotland so much, we’ve been plotting a return ever since we got back. As luck would have it, an academic conference the missus and I were both interested in is taking place in Edinburgh in June; we applied and were accepted. Accordingly, we will be in Edinburgh for four days in early June and will then go up for another week to the Speyside and then further north to Orkney. I have the broad contours of the trip planned but invite your feedback here.
This is the plan. We will be driving up from Edinburgh to Keith on a Friday. Along with good friends from our town in Minnesota who’ve been in Edinburgh for the past year, we are renting a house in the countryside there for three nights. They will then return to Edinburgh and we will continue north to Dornoch and then up to Orkney for three days before returning to the mainland and back to Edinburgh (from where we will return to London for another 10 days before coming back to Minneapolis). Here is my tentative whisky-related itinerary. Please to inform me if I’m making any major mistakes or if there are other things I should be considering.
Day 1: Edinburgh
Day 2: Edinburgh
Day 3: Edinburgh
Day 4: Edinburgh
There’ll be no whisky action here other than a trip to Cadenhead’s. Please to advise if there’s a whisky bar that should not be missed.
Day 5: Edinburgh-Glamis Castle-Keith. I was considering a stop at Ardmore along the way, but apparently they shoot visitors on sight. Accordingly, the plan is to get to our rented house via Strathisla. Not planning to tour the distillery, just to wander the apparently beautiful grounds and (hopefully) buy one of those Chivas Brothers 500 ml bottles to drink on the trip. (Should I be trying to get there early enough for the last tour at 4.30?)
Day 6 (Saturday): Up to Elgin. Elgin cathedral etc. and a visit to Gordon & MacPhail’s shop. From there to Brodie Castle in Forres. A few questions here: 1) Is Glen Moray worth a stop in Elgin? 2) Is Benromach worth a stop in Forres? 3) Is either worth touring? If so, as I won’t have time for both, which one should I do? 4) Eat lunch in Elgin or Forres? Where? Eat dinner somewhere in the Forres area? Where?
Day 7 (Sunday): Down to Glenfiddich/Balvenie/Balvenie Castle during the morning; lunch at the Glenfiddich cafe. In the afternoon down to Ballindalloch castle via a quick stop at Glenfarclas. I’m going to try to talk the group into a few hit and run stops at some other distilleries along the way—just to look at their grounds. Which ones would you particularly recommend?
Day 8 (Monday): Morning tour of Aberlour (booked), followed by rambling by the Spey and lunch at the Mash Tun. After lunch we carry on north to Dornoch (we’re staying at the castle hotel). The plan is to stop briefly at Glenmorangie to look at the grounds (worth it?) and at Balblair to look at the grounds and maybe get a fill-your-own (worth it?).
Day 9 (Tuesday): Up the coast to Wick. A brief stop at Clynelish along the way (not doing a tour) and then a tour of Pulteney at 2 (
booking request in booked). We’ll be taking the 7 pm ferry to Stromness (already booked). Questions here: 1) Where along the coast would you recommend stopping along the way to Wick to ramble? 2) Is there anywhere along the way worth stopping for lunch or should we plan on eating somewhere in Wick (where)? 3) We’ll have to leave Wick by 5 pm to get to Scrabster for the ferry check-in etc. Other than the Wick Heritage Museum is there anything else we should be doing in Wick in the intervening hours? Kid-friendly stuff particularly appreciated.
Day 10 (Wednesday): Orkney. I think we’re set on the sights we want to see. I’ll probably stop by Highland Park at some point. Everything I read tells me that their basic tour is as soulless as Talisker’s? Right/wrong?
Day 11 (Thursday): Orkney. Maybe a stop at Scapa (are their tours worth it?).
Day 12 (Friday): We’re taking the 4.45 ferry back to Scrabster so will have most of the day.
I know this is not very much time on Orkney but it’s the best we could do. Once we’re back on the mainland we’ll drive down to Edderton where we’ll stay the night. Where should we be eating on Orkney? Does it matter?
Day 13 (Saturday): Edderton to Edinburgh. Planning on stopping at Tomatin and Edradour to look at distillery exclusives. Might have time to do a basic tour at one of them—which should I do? Where would you recommend eating in Pitlochry?
Well, those are the questions I have. If there are things I have not mentioned at all that I should be doing, please pitch in with those as well. Thanks in advance!
Also: if any of you are in Edinburgh or within reach (James?), let me know if you’d like to grab a drink one of the nights we’re there. Traveling on work and with family, but I should be able to get away for an hour or two one evening.