Scotch Whisky Distillery Tours – Glenfiddich Tour & Tomatin Distillery

If you read our previous post about the Scotch Whisky Experience, you’d get the gist that whisky is an important part of Scottish life. Just how important is whisky to the country? Here are some astonishing figures about the whisky industry, according to the Scotch Whisky Association:

  • Nearly 1.2 BILLION bottles exported worldwide (that’s a lot of freakin’ whisky!!)
  • Brought in £4.3 billion, representing three-quarters of Scotland’s food and drink exports!
  • Third largest industry in Scotland, overwhelmingly larger than tourism or life sciences
  • Supports 40,000 jobs, many in rural areas with few economic opportunities
  • 20 million caskets are maturing in warehouses in Scotland!
Caskets waiting to be filled with Whisky!

So yeah, scotch whisky is a big deal! Where the heck does all of that whisky come from??

Be sure to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh for a comprehensive introduction of everything whisky!

All of the scotch whisky are produced in 115 distilleries categorized in 5 regions of Scotland: Campbeltown, Lowland, Islay, Highland, and Speyside. The location of the distillery within these regions will lend the taste and characteristics of whisky being made based on the resources available; for example, the Islay whisky is known to be smokey with hints of sea air and seaweed taste, while Speyside whisky tends to be more fruity and nutty. It all sounds pretty complex, which is really the beauty and art of this craft in that there are endless possibilities of what can be created.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

If you’ve already done the Scotch Whisky Experience or you’re a whisky enthusiast, then you should consider doing distillery tours at one or as many distilleries as possible throughout the country. Many distilleries will provide a full tour of their facilities, show what their whisky-making process is, and provide a tasting of several of their whiskies (just be sure to check which ones provide a tour). You can also do tours that will take you to multiple distilleries over a span of a couple days, or you can map your own route to hit as many distilleries as possible. We didn’t get to visit as many distilleries as we wanted since many are closed during the winter time or were out of the way with the time we had, but we did get to visit two very distinguished distilleries that are recognized worldwide: Glenfiddich Distillery and Tomatin Distillery.

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich was built in 1887 by William Grant and his 9 children and is currently run by Grant’s descendants, which makes it one of the few independently owned distilleries in Scotland. Glenfiddich, which is Gaelic for Valley of the Deer (hence, a deer on every bottle), is a Speyside distillery located in Dufftown that produces single malt Scotch whisky. Over the years, the distillery has been featured in several pop culture references and accrued numerous awards for its whiskies.

The distillery offers a free 1-hour complimentary tour and runs pretty frequently, so there’s no need to book in advance. We took the Explorer Tour, which at £10 per person, it is the cheapest of the paid tours, but it includes a full tour through the distillery and warehouse and a tasting of four of their whiskies. This tour does take about an hour and a half to complete and only persons age 18+ are allowed (on any of the tours).

Each whisky distillery has their own particular style and taste but goes through the same general whisky-making process: Malting, Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation, and Maturation. The Glenfiddich tour goes through each facility that covers these processes and explains in detail how it works. The Glenfiddich website shows a bit of their process, but a live tour really allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship of their work. You can tell from the tour guide that everyone is very passionate in what they create. My favorite part of the tour is being able to smell the different pleasant aromas along the way. I also loved going through their Warehouse 8 where stacks of barrels of whisky are being stored during the maturation process (photos not allowed unfortunately!).

At the end of the tour, we got four of their whiskies to try: Glenfiddich 12-year, 15-year, 18-year and Glenfiddich Malt Master Edition. Although in appearance they all look similar, each one had unique aromas, taste and characteristics. I don’t quite remember which one had what flavors, but some were more smokey while others had more fruit aromas and taste; what was common among them was they had varying hints of spice.

You are also given the opportunity to bottle your own Glenfiddich 15-year in the shop at a separate cost. It comes with a box and personal labeling, making it a really cool memento to have, and the shop has plenty of whisky-related items to fulfill any enthusiast. All-in-all, Glenfiddich Distillery provides a wonderful experience of what goes into this proud craft.

Tomatin Distillery

Tomatin is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery that was founded in 1897 by the Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd. and is currently owned by the Takara Shuzo Corporation. The distillery is in the Highland region and is 25 minutes southeast of Inverness and has won numerous awards in international competitions.

Tomatin does not offer free tours but its basic tour starts at £8 for about an hour and fifteen minutes and the “Taste of Tomatin Tour” at £20 gives you a tasting to 6 of their whiskies. It’s recommended to book in advance as spots tend to fill up. You can also get a personalized bottle of Tomatin at the distillery as well. For more about the distillery and their tours, you can check out the Tomatin website.

Unfortunately, we did not know about having to book the tour and there were no open spots when we arrived, so we didn’t get to do any of the tours at Tomatin. However, they did let us watch a short film about the distillery and gave us a free tasting of a couple of their whiskies. The staff was very friendly to us and the shop has plenty of whisky items to enjoy, which my brother took advantage of.

Making whisky is a proud tradition of Scotland, so if you want to embrace the Scottish culture and pride, then check out one or many of the distilleries in Scotland and see what goes into this passionate craft. If this is something you would be interested in, give us a pin and let us know what your favorite whisky or beverage tours that you’ve done!



Loch Ness – Urquhart Castle and Finding the Monster, Nessie

Loch Ness is one of the most well-known places in all of Scotland. Located in the Highlands, the loch is the second largest lake in the country, spanning almost 23 miles long and reaching depths of up to 755 feet, and surrounded by beautiful landscapes of hills and trees. It is also the site of maybe the most notable attraction around the loch, the Urquhart Castle, which has beautiful views that overlook Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

However, many will know that’s not what made the loch so famous. Loch Ness is infamous for the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, which was affectionately named Nessie. Though records show claims of monster sightings dating back to the 6th century, the monster grabbed international attention in 1934 when a photograph, known as the “Surgeon’s photograph,” showed the creature’s head and long neck protruding out of the lake.

There have been many theories to what the creature could be, the popular suggestion was that it could be something like a plesiosaur, a dinosaur with a long neck and flippers for swimming. After years of searching and research, however, Nessie has yet to be discovered.

Before we delve further into the monster, lets first take a look at the Urquhart Castle. For us, we drove about two hours from the Oyster Shed the day before to the town of Lewiston, just a few minutes away from the castle, and crashed for the night there. It’s also located 30-35 minutes southwest of the city of Inverness, the capital city of the Highland area.

Note: Along the way, we did pass by the Eilean Donan Castle (photos below), a very picturesque castle during the day but we only could take a look at night with lights illuminating it.

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands

The next morning, we went to check out the Urquhart Castle. We were pretty much the first ones there, as we arrived little earlier than the 9:30 AM opening time and admission for adults was 9 euros. Eventually, a few other people checked out the castle, though no more than 10 people were there at any given time that we were there, which made the visit very serene and peaceful. The castle is actually the third most visited castle in Scotland, but the crowds really die down during the winter time. The receptionist told us during the winter, they sometimes only see as few as 100 visitors a day.

The castle dates back to the 5th century and is one of the largest castles in all of Scotland. It had a very active history spanning the 13th and 16th centuries, which includes enduring several invasions and takeovers between England and Scotland. By the late 16th century, the castle had been blown up so that it could no longer be a military stronghold and then pillaged for materials to the point where the castle is mostly in ruins.

Despite the damaged state of the castle, you can still take the stairs to the top of the Grant Tower, which gives ones of the best views of Loch Ness and the castle grounds. It is still impressive to see the grandness of the entire grounds, but it also makes for some stunning photography with the landscape and sunrise.

As we walked around the castle grounds, we struck up a conversation with the security guard about the Loch Ness Monster. He told us that although the lake has been thoroughly searched and scientific research has 99.875% ruled out the monster from existing, most locals are still hopeful that it’ll one day show up, or until it is 100% conclusive that it can’t be found. At the very least, they want to keep the folklore alive for hopeful tourists and those with an imagination.

We were indeed one of those hopeful ones, regardless of how unlikely it was. After exploring through the castle, we decided to go down to the lakeside if we could get any glimpse of activity on the water surface. When we got there, the lake was very calm, very quaint, but seemed pretty void of any lifeform, especially when temperatures were around below freezing.

We hung around the edge for a couple minutes just to enjoy the peacefulness and take a few photos. It didn’t seem like anything would show up so we started to head to our car. But all of a sudden, we heard a splash of activity on the lake’s surface and turned to see what it was. INCREDIBLY, a creature emerged on the surface in the distance!! I told my brother to quickly grab a shot before it went under and was able to capture the creature on camera! We screamed to other people to look over the lake but by the time anyone else got there, it went back into the depth. But at least we got a photo of the creature. HERE IS THE DEFINITIVE, 1000% COMPLETELY REAL PROOF THAT THERE IS A LOCH NESS MONSTER:

The Loch Ness Monster is Real!!

So, there you have it: the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is real! No disputing it whatsoever! (Unless asked for further inspection…which I doubt it…because it’s real…for sure!!)

But if you have no interest in the monster, you can still check out the Urquhart Castle, which is a fantastic place to visit and immerse yourself in Scottish history. Give it a pin if you are inspired to check out Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and even Scotland’s other collection of castles.


Neist Point Lighthouse & the Oyster Shed, Isle of Skye

When visiting the Isle of Skye in Scotland, you can find something to see or do in just about any direction. If you head west on Skye, you can visit two amazing spots: the stunning coastal landscape at the Neist Point Lighthouse and the Oyster Shed for some fresh seafood.

Also, check out our previous post in Skye hiking to Old Man of Storr. 

Neist Point is the furthest west part of Skye near the town of Glendale, about an hour from the town of Portree. The directions will take you to the end of a single track road where you’ll find some parking, albeit very limited in the number of spaces. Just from the parking lot, you are treated to spectacular views of the cliffs and bays, as well as see plenty of sheep grazing and possibly being herded.

You cannot see the Neist Point Lighthouse from the parking area (although if you walk towards the right along the cliffs, you can see it in the distance). To get close to the lighthouse, you need to follow the path towards the cliffs that extends furthest towards the sea. The path is not particularly dangerous, but there are several steep parts and some steps along the way. I suggest taking your time since it is a really pleasant walk with the sound of the ocean and the beautiful surroundings.

It takes about 20-25 minutes to reach the lighthouse from the parking lot. Once you get to the peak of the path towards the ocean, you will start to see the lighthouse in the distance.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1909 and is still currently operational. Although it didn’t appear that anyone was working within the lighthouse, it is open to the public to view and walk around. You should definitely spend some time around the lighthouse and the surrounding area to admire the landscape. We were fortunate to also have stunning skies to provide such a beautiful backdrop. It’s also one of the best sites to see whales or dolphins in the ocean.

Although we would’ve loved to explore the area more, we did not have too much time on the short winter days and the short trip duration. So we capped our day by driving an hour southeast from Neist Point to one of the best-hidden gems on the Isle of Skye, which is the Oyster Shed in the small village of Carbost.

This small family-operated establishment is tucked on a small road that can be a little tricky to find. Open from 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM every day, the Oyster Shed is appropriately named: it really is just a shed that sells a lot of oysters. Not like it needs to look aesthetic as it makes up for that with its incredibly fresh and delicious seafood at very reasonable prices.

Aside from oysters, you can get anything from crabs, lobster, salmon, scallops, mussels, langoustine, as well as other food products like meats, cheeses, honey and more. My brother and I pretty much ordered everything that was on the seafood menu so we could taste a bit of everything. (It’s also right next to the Talisker Distillery for whisky tours, but they are not open during winter).

For everything that we ordered, we spent around 50-60 pounds, which included a dozen oysters, crab meat and claws, steamed mussels, grilled salmon, scallops, langoustine, and lobster. As we were going through the seafood, my brother and I agreed that it had to be one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had! The oysters, which are farmed, were phenomenally delicious, and everything else was so fresh since they were harvested or bought right from the village harbor. We also sat in the seating area, where we enjoyed the beautiful views of the countryside and also had the company of a few nearby cows. Although it’s busier in the warmer seasons, during winter business can be slow, as we were the only ones there for at least an hour and a half. It was definitely one of our favorite dining experiences and we hope to be back there someday.

So, if you’re visiting the Isle of Skye in Scotland, be sure to visit the Neist Point Lighthouse and the Oyster Shed! Pin our post if you think you’d want to visit these spots and let us know of any other hidden gems or favorite spots around Scotland.


Old Man of Storr, Scotland – One of Skye’s Iconic Hikes

In the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye alone in Scotland features some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and it would take a long visit to soak it all in. If you don’t have that much time to visit all of Skye, then there’s at least one place that you’d have to visit: Old Man of Storr, a giant rock within a cluster of rock formations known as the Storr.

Before or after going to the Storr, you can also make a stop at the town of Portree, a small town with less than 1,000 residents. It’s particularly well known for its colorful houses that sit in the harbor and you can also enjoy a nice meal at the Portree Hotel restaurant where we ate. There are also some very charming shops and several bars/restaurants to enjoy a variety of Scottish dishes and whiskies.

From Portree, it’s only a 15-minute drive to the hiking spot to Storr. At the gate, there is information for the hiking path. The winter days were very short for us so we only took the straight path to the Old Man of Storr and returned the same way.

From the gate to the Old Man, it’s about an hour to ascend there. The first 15-20 minutes of the path is pretty clear and even but the further you go, the path gets rockier and steeper. On top of that for us, it was foggy and raining, so there were many slippery rocks and puddles of mud (it’s actually not really advised going on rainy days because of this and also for falling rocks). Along the way, we enjoyed spectacular views of the lochs, the golden terrain, and views of the rock formations. When we got closer to the formations, the fog started rolling in and covering the entire landscape, which made for some eerily beautiful scenery and photographs.

As we hiked towards the Old Man, the path was no longer even, but very rocky and slippery. Eventually, we did make it there. When we approached the massive rock, we noticed that there were people walking on it! So we just had to do the same and make the climb up.

Old Man of Storr

The climb to the top of the Old Man of Storr is not an easy one. The terrain is very steep, rocky, (slippery when raining) and you could easily slide back down with one wrong step. However, it is totally worth the effort when reaching the top, as you are afforded some incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

On our way back down, the fog had cleared quite a bit to finally see all of the rocks together clearly. There was a small rocky area that we climbed to the top to get a great vantage point of the rocks and landscape. Though a little treacherous, the view is definitely worth it.

So, if you’re visiting the Scottish Highlands and are going through the Isle of Skye, make sure you plan a hike to Old Man of Storr for some amazing landscapes and photo opportunities. Give us a pin if this looks like a good hike to you and let us know what are your favorite hikes in Scotland.



9 Things To Do During Your Edinburgh Visit

What I really enjoyed about visiting Edinburgh, Scotland was how charming the city was in just about everywhere we went. We would walk down any street or around every corner and we would find something interesting, whether it was the architecture, Scottish shops, small restaurants/cafes, whisky bars, or a unique attraction. With so many things to do and see, it’s easy to get lost and fall in love with the city.

Unfortunately for us, we were only able to spend two days in Edinburgh and probably left with many things unseen. But even for such a short time, we still had an amazing visit and felt like we saw a lot and got to do a lot. So, we’ve listed out 9 things that you should definitely do during your visit to Edinburgh:

1. Climb to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park

At 251 meters, Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Edinburgh. It’s about a 30-45 minute hike to the top depending on your speed but is totally worth it for the amazing breathtaking views of the city. You can also explore the rest of the park, including St. Anthony’s Chapel and Salisbury Crags, massive cliffs that oversee the city. Click here to see more of the views.

2. Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle is an obvious choice, as it is the nationally recognized symbol of Scotland and one of the top attractions in the country. The castle sits atop Castle Rock and offers vast views of the city. See more of the castle here.

3. Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotch whisky is the pride and soul of the country so if you want to understand what goes into this craft or simply love whisky, then you have to do the Scotch Whisky Experience. There is an interactive ride, you’ll get to do some tasting, and see the largest scotch whisky collection in the world. For more of this tour, you can read here.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland


4. The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is actually the most visited attraction in the whole country and the best part is that it’s completely free to visit. Not only can you admire the architecture but the museum houses a number of really cool exhibits from biology, technology, fashion, Scottish history, astrology and much more. To see more of the other exhibits, you can find more photos here.

5. Stroll down George Street for some shopping

George Street is well-known for being the best place in the city to do some serious shopping. We weren’t planning to do much shopping when we started walking but there were some many interesting shops that we ended up buying quite a bit of stuff. If you are able to resist the temptation to shop, the street does offer some beautiful sites and architecture that you can enjoy.

Statue of William Pitt, George Street, Edinburgh

6. Eat at ANY restaurant/cafe

Many times when we go out to eat, we tend to use an app like Yelp or Tripadvisor to find the best spots. In Edinburgh, you really don’t have to worry about that (unless you’re looking for something specifically). Just about any restaurant or cafe you pass by is probably a great place to eat. We just walked around and picked places near our hotel and each of those places just had amazing food, such as the Magnum Restaurant & Bar, which is where I had the best burger that I’ve ever had (or at least it was really darn good). We also loved The Square, where they had delicious breakfast items and sandwiches.

Maybe the best burger I’ve ever had at the Magnum Restaurant and Bar

7. See the Colorful Buildings on Victoria Street

Located in Old Town, Edinburgh and close to the Edinburgh Castle is Victoria Street, where you can find some very colorful buildings mixed with the old architecture. Within this street are many small stores, cafes, bars and restaurants, a perfect little place for your shopping, eating, and drinking needs.

8. For Harry Potter Fans, Visit the Elephant House

From the outside, the Elephant House looks like an ordinary coffee house. But if you look at the signs carefully, you’ll see it says “The Birthplace of Harry Potter.” This coffee house is where JK Rowling would be writing “Harry Potter” on their napkins in the back room with views of the Edinburgh Castle. Just don’t expect anything wizarding decor or magical themes; it still looks and operates as an ordinary coffee house serving ordinary (but good) coffee and food. There’s also a Harry Potter “grave” nearby, where you can visit the graves of all of the deceased characters.

9. Celebrate the Holidays in Edinburgh

Obviously, this depends on when you decide to visit Edinburgh, but if you happen to be visiting around November or December, you can delve into the festivities the city has to offer. There are many holiday-themed events and shows throughout Edinburgh, as well as various Christmas markets where you can spend plenty of time shopping, eating, and enjoying a family outing.

Here are also a few things didn’t do but you can add to your list:

  1. Holyrood Palace
  2. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

  3. Calton Hill
  4. Climb to the top of Scott Monument

What other activities would you recommend in Edinburgh? Let us know in the comments and if you like this post, give us a pin below!