To the Highlands – Second Stop: Stirling & Dufftown
Stirling Castle is renown for historic reasons and Dufftown is well-known for the Glenfiddich distillery. You must stop at both on your way up into the Highlands.
Let’s recap, I have just left Edinburgh and the next logical thing according to the schedule was to visit the historic castle of Stirling. Then head to Dalwhinnie distillery for whisky tasting and afterwards straight to the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown for more tasting. Don’t worry, as I mentioned in my previous article, I can barely even drink a couple of drops of whisky, so I was fit to drive.
You need to visit Stirling on your Scotland trip. This historically important castle that sits on the edge of three steep cliffs, cannot be missed. Unfortunately on my visit, half of the castle was shut down for renovation which wasn’t mentioned to us at the beginning and we still had to pay a full priced ticket for half a castle (so annoying!). Nevertheless, I don’t want to dwell on how annoyed I was whilst strolling around.
A Guided Tour is included in the price of your ticket and takes place each hour. It’s an easy way to learn about the history of the castle and all the fascinating stories about the Stewart Kings. Plus, at £16 a single adult entry, you must do the tour to get your money’s worth. Wander around the rest of the castle and try to take in as much of the history as possible. The castle is pretty empty of artifacts and installations, unlike Edinburgh castle. That’s why (cleverly enough) they rent it out for weddings, events and for photoshoots. During my visit, a very surreal photoshoot was going on and it sort of enhanced the experience. Also, you need to take pictures in the beautiful gardens and on the fort’s walls with the staggering views behind you.
We made a stop at Dalwhinnie distillery to try out some of their malts. The rest of the group did a whisky tasting with chocolate. They tasted 6 different whisky paired with 6 different mini chocolates. An employee explained each step of the tasting and described the flavors and how the chocolate enhances the experience. I enjoyed the tasting without tasting myself. I did treat myself to a rich hot chocolate accompanied with a shot of whisky, that I eventually poured in my hot chocolate as it was very rich and I could barely taste it. If you are whisky lovers, you need to make a quick stop and try out their 6 malts at only £24 along with the free pairing.
If you are choosing only one distillery to do a tour of, it must be Glenfiddich. Surrounded by beautiful flower gardens and stone buildings where the whisky process takes place. A small lake is at the entry and you cross over a wooden bridge to get to the distillery. The lake is pure clean Scottish water that they use in their whisky, that comes from the Robbie Dhu spring up in the nearby mountains. In the tour, they stress quite a few times the importance of clean water for creating their whisky. The tour starts with an interesting video of the history of the Grant family who started the distillery and how their whisky became world-widely acclaimed. Then you proceed into the actual distilleries and follow the whisky process whilst the guide explains it step by step. I particularly liked it when we went in the storage room and got to smell the different casks and to understand what kind of wood they use to make them. At the end, they put us in a tasting room and we tried the 12 year old, 18 year old and 21 year old. Again, I barely tasted a couple of drops, but I enjoyed the talk and explanation by the tour guide. At £10 per person, this whisky tour is definitely recommended as it is 1 hour and 30 mins and the tasting is free.
We only stayed in Dufftown because of Glenfiddich Distillery, as it’s a small village without much to do. They literally have 5 restaurants and 3 pubs, which makes it hard to pick where to eat especially taking into consideration that one of the restaurants is very high end. However, their clock tower is a must see and, in the evening, you can stroll around the small cobbled streets and just relax. The accommodation is cheap and you can get a large 3-bedroom beautiful cottage with a garden for £60 per night, fully stocked with food supplies. I definitely suggest the one we stayed, the owners were super friendly and we had a jacuzzi in the garden.
My conclusion is, you can do all of the above-mentioned stops in one single day. The best part is that once your out of Edinburgh the road leading to Stirling and then subsequently to the rest of the stops is breathtaking. Loads of forests and animals to watch from your car window and you can stop at random lochs (the Scots call Lakes Lochs) for some rest and of course pictures.
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