By Mikaela MacKinnon
Published: 1st May 2018

Whisky Heritage Discovery Tour!

Clockwise or anti-clockwise? It’s one of the most often – asked questions surrounding travel on the North Coast 500, and it’s one which is surprisingly difficult to answer.

The truth is, there is no right direction in which to travel! However, if you’re a whisky connoisseur or even if you just have a passing interest in the amber nectar, tasting your way up the east coast is highly recommended. Use the north Highlands’ very own Whisky heritage discovery tour to kick-start your adventure, or save the best portion of the trip untill last. It’s entirely up to you.

Wherever your interests may lie, the North Coast 500 really does have something for everyone: breath-taking scenery, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, Mediterranean-style beaches, haunting castle ruins, charming lochs and rivers – but whisky distilleries are a lesser-known element of this iconic route.

By taking your time to wind between the many distilleries on the east coast, you’ll be rewarded with both beautiful scenery and delicious whisky – what more could you want?

No two distilleries are the same, so tour the North Coast 500 Whisky Heritage Discovery Tour and discover how the distinct setting and story of each one has shaped the unique single malts created.

You can combine visits to the distilleries on the North Coast 500 route with other activities on a nine-day itinerary, or visit them all over a shorter period of time – as with the direction of travel, the choice is entirely yours.

Most distilleries have a range of tours to choose from, so discovering the right tour for you couldn’t be easier. Many distilleries offer the chance to indulge in tastings, but please remember that Scotland has a zero tolerance policy towards drink driving. Please ensure you have a designated driver or alternatively, take a sample away with you to enjoy back at your accommodation.

When planning your NC500 Whisky Heritage Discovery Tour, do factor in enough time to explore the area surrounding each distillery, as this will help give you an idea of what gives each whisky its unique character. Staying near the distillery you wish to visit is also recommended – and please also remember that children under a certain age may not be allowed to join tours. If you’re travelling with children, contact the distillery ahead of your visit to check what their policy is.

So, where to begin? Beginning at Inverness Castle, the iconic start and end point of the 516-mile route, hit the road and discover the secrets behind some of the world’s best whiskies. If you’ve ever fancied owning part of a Scottish whisky distillery, GlenWyvis, by Dingwall, is the world’s very first 100% community owned distillery and, what’s more, it’s entirely powered by renewable energy! The distillery will be open to public around June 2018, check out their website or get in touch to arrange a tour.


Continuing along the east coast, drop your bags off for the night at Glenmorangie House – your accommodation for the night, and only a short trip from the Glenmorangie Distillery Visitor Centre. Ask the staff to make a booking for you to visit when you reserve your room at Glenmorangie House or book ahead of your visit and experience their unique Whisky Heritage Tour.

Close by, Balblair Distillery offers a choice of three levels of tours, specifically tailored to meet your needs. Choose between the intimate and educational tour, an enriched version of their Balblair experience or the enthusiast tour with an extended tasting journey. Continuing further north, pop into Clynelish Distillery and take in the beautiful views over the North Sea and the hills to the north.

Continuing on to Wick, Old Pulteney offers a range of behind-the-scenes tours. Founded in 1826 by James Henderson at the height of Wick’s celebrated herring boom, the Pulteney Distillery is one of the most northerly Scotch whisky distilleries on the British mainland. Your penultimate stop, Wolfburn Distillery, ceased production in the 1850s and was reopened after some 150 years in early 2013. A mixture of ex-bourbon casks and ex-Olorosso sherry butts have been used so far in the maturation of this aromatic, mildly smoky malt.

After making your way along the north and west coasts, make Glen Ord Distillery your final stop on the Whisky Trail. Founded in 1838, Glen Ord Distillery, on the edge of the Black Isle, is one of the oldest in Scotland. If you’ve purchased your NC500 passport, collect your final stamp at Glen Ord and receive your NC500 engraved whisky glass on completion of your trip and your passport. For more information on the NC500 passport scheme, please see here.

Want a reminder of your favourite dram? – finish off your  NC500 travels in The Malt Room Inverness – Inverness’s first whisky bar!

Keep us posted with your NC500 photos on social media, and let us know which distilleries you’ve included in your itinerary.

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