Our Whisky Explorer Escorted Journey is a week-long grand tour of Scotland in a small, escorted group
Day One - Edinburgh
Your holiday starts in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital and one of Europe's top city holiday destinations. Visitors from all over the world are drawn here by the wealth of historic sites, galleries, museums, shops, restaurants and bars, not to mention the spectacular sight of Princes Street Gardens and the castle rock. Yet it's still perfectly possible to avoid the crowds and find quiet cobbled streets, peaceful cafes and, above all, to simply soak up the ambiance of this most scenic of cities.
On your first evening, you will gather as a small group for dinner at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Here you will have the chance to view the world's largest private whisky collection, as well as begin your personal whisky-tasting journey by sampling a dram or two.
Your friendly hotel offers the warmth and serenity of a country house hotel and enjoys a secluded setting overlooking attractive private gardens on a cobbled Edwardian street. However this is no country retreat, for within a mere ten minutes' walk you will find the west end of Princes Street, the castle and all that the capital has to offer. After a day's sightseeing, it's the perfect place to relax and unwind in one of the fire-lit lounges, or in the privacy of your comfortable bedroom. All rooms are handsomely appointed in classic style, using rich colours and exquisitely decadent soft fabrics such as linen, silk, suede and velvet.
Day Two - Edinburgh to Speyside
Your driver and guide will meet you after breakfast, then you will head north over the spectacular Forth Road Bridge, through Perthshire and across the Highlands to Speyside, famous for its whisky, castles, rivers and glens. This memorable drive incorporates many potential stopping off points, with glorious photo opportunities. En route, you will visit and tour the picturesque Aberlour Distillery, including a tutored tasting of a selection of malts and the chance to hand-fill your own personalised bottle of cask strength whisky.
Your elegant Georgian hotel is the perfect place to unwind in traditional highland surroundings, offering a warm welcome and a touch of style in the centre of an attractive Speyside village. Close to several distilleries on the famous Whisky Trail, it offers a fine selection of single malts which you can sample as you relax in front of the sitting room's crackling log fire. The friendly bistro offers a daily changing menu featuring local meat and game, plus a mouth-watering variety of seafood. The chef combines these and other fine local ingredients with fresh herbs and fruit from the hotel's delightful walled garden, which you are welcome to explore on an evening stroll.
Day Three - Speyside
You will spend today exploring the heart of Scotland's whisky country, including a fascinating tour of The Macallan distillery - one of the world's most collectable whiskies. A bottle of Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique sold for a staggering and world record $460,000 in July 2012 - with all proceeds going to charity to provide clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
Nearby is the fascinating Speyside Cooperage - where you will be able to witness the dramatic and ancient art of coopering at the only place of its kind in the UK.
During the day, we will call in at several other distilleries in the area - if you have a particular Speyside favourite that you would like to visit, please advise us at time of booking and we will do our best to incorporate it within the tour itinerary if at all possible.
Day Four - Speyside to Oban
Today we will journey to the west coast and the lochside town of Oban. But first we will head north to visit and tour Balblair distillery in the Highlands. The beautiful and unspoilt setting of this distillery was undoubtedly why it was chosen to feature in the 2012 independent Scottish film, the Angel's Share. The whisky is not too bad, either!
Leaving Balblair behind, you will travel through some of Scotland's most famous and iconic scenery, alongside mysterious Loch Ness, before reaching the coast at Oban in time for an afternoon distillery tour. By now you will be well-versed in the influences that make each Scotch malt whisky unique - can you taste the difference made by the west coast sea air?
Situated a short distance outside Oban at the end of a single track road, this historic restaurant, with its adjacent modern residence, really is a tranquil and special place to contemplate the dramatic beauty of the west coast. Mouthwatering langoustines and lobster are kept fresh off the end of the pier before being served to you in one of Argyll's finest restaurants. As you contemplate the sunset over the distant Morvern hills, you may be lucky enough to glimpse otters and seals. There is a good selection of fine malts available in the bar, too!
Day Five - Oban to Islay
Enjoy another scenic journey south to Tarbert and the tiny ferry port of Kennacraig, from where you will catch the ferry to Islay, renowned for its variety of distilleries and peaty malts. A visit to Islay should be high on every whisky aficionado's list. This corner of the Inner Hebrides is home to no fewer than eight working distilleries, producing world-famous brands such as Laphroaig and Bowmore, to characterful malts such as Bruichladdich and Ardbeg, and the newest arrival at Kilchoman, a recently opened farm distillery.
A neighbour of Bruichladdich distillery, this luxury small hotel provides relaxed, informal accommodation and fantastic hospitality. You will appreciate the serenity of being away from it all, the clarity of the air, the ever-changing colours of Loch Indaal interrupted only by the wildlife busy on the shore. This view alone will make you understand why the owner recently returned home to Islay and put heart and soul into transforming this stately Victorian building. Your room is prepared with much care and attention and the kitchen makes excellent use of fresh local produce to deliver imaginative and mouth-watering creations for dinner.
Day Six - Islay
Once the ancestral seat of the Lords of the Isles, Islay is a fertile island of low heather-clad hills, attractive beaches, numerous historical sites and more whisky distilleries than any other Scottish island! Today we will explore most of them, popping in to visit the neighbours at Bruichladdich to see some of the oldest distillery equipment still in working use. We will challenge your tastebuds with a tour of Laphroaig - one of the world's most distinctive peaty malts. Your driver will ensure you manage to see most of the island - including Kilchoman farm distillery - and experience the delights of its whisky. Once again, if you have particular requests for distillery visits on Islay, please let us know at time of booking.
We take the ferry crossing back to the mainland and head past Loch Lomond to Edinburgh. We will include a stop in the whisky specialist shop - Loch Fyne Whiskies - in Inveraray, perfect for some last minute purchases.