Day 3, October 20th: Edinburgh to Speyside
I decided to take the train to Inverness rather than drive, as the weather was a bit snowy over the Highlands and I pretty much just wanted to relax and enjoy the scenery. This turned out to be a brilliant idea as that train journey is probably the most scenic one I’ve ever made. It starts out in fine style crossing the Forth Bridge, the beautiful Victorian mass of girders that was built in 1890. Not too much later I remember passing what looked like a distribution center for a whisky company, with casks piled high.
From there you divert to the east a bit and head along the coast for a while. The amount of wildlife I saw on this trip was really amazing; the spectacle started on the way to Kirkcaldy with a view of three huge seals lying on an offshore rock. Over the course of the journey I was to see hawks, grouse, deer and for some unaccountable reason a sheep allowing a bird to stand on its head.
As you get further north, you start to see familiar and evocative names – Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie. In fact the train passes right beside the Dalwhinnie distillery, in mid-October at this high elevation already dusted with snow. The Highlands looked incredible with light that changed by the minute. As we finally pulled into Inverness after four hours or so I felt invigorated; I’d highly recommend this method of crossing the Highlands.
The drive out of Inverness and into Speyside is pleasant but unremarkable until you reach somewhere around Forres. Here signs begin to pop up, pointing to distilleries and the Whisky Trail. I remember my excitement climbing as I passed first the signs, then later on the distilleries themselves on my way to the village of Aberlour; Benromach, Dallas Dhu, BenRiach, Glen Grant, The Macallan! As a whisky enthusiast it’s hard to explain how it feels finding yourself in close proximity to the place names you’re so familiar with… the most comparable thing I’ve experienced was visiting famous movie locations in LA. It feels strange and familiar at the same time.
Not too far from Aberlour I had my first view of the Spey – another landmark moment! Then it was through the very small village and up to the hotel. I was pleased with the Dowans; it’s a comfortable, quiet place run by nice people. After an excellent dinner that night I decided against whisky and stuck with wine… don’t worry, I didn’t make that mistake again on this trip!
Up next – Part 3, where I visit my first distillery of the trip!