Though sad to part ways with St Andrews, we were pumped for the next leg of our journey -- the Speyside region of Scotland, also known as "The Land of Whisky." After a bus ride to a train ride, another train to a rental car, we drove (on the other side of the road) a short distance to the sweet, sleepy little town of Aberlour. Our home for the next two nights was a whisky bar with guest rooms above called The Mash Tun. When tasting Scotland's finest whiskies day and night, it's most convenient to simply walk upstairs to sleep.
We snuck in a late lunch with a couple of whiskies before heading on a walk about town. Aberlour is home to many distilleries, including Macallan Estate and Aberlour, and within a short drive to hundreds more. Saving our favorite distillery for the following day, we explored the cute town and enjoyed a slow pace.
After an incredible dinner (and tastes of Tamdhu 8 yr, Knockando 12 yr, Glencadam 10yr, Dalwhinnie 15yr) at our home whisky bar, we rested up for a fun day ahead. A brief rain gave way to a beautiful rainbow to a stunning double rainbow, as seen from our bathroom window.
The next morning, we enjoyed an incredibly yummy breakfast downstairs in the whisky bar (instantly transformed into a homey cafe) and planned out the day. Castles first, then whisky!
My husband expertly drove us to the gates of Ballindalloch Castle, the family home of the Macpherson Grants since 1546. There we met the most enthusiastic, funny, awesome gatekeeper, Jeffrey, who informed us that we were the first guests of the day. Score! We drove the beautiful back road up to the castle and began exploring with the place to ourselves. The entrance to the castle grounds is through a winding, Secret Garden-esque, ivy-covered walkway that deserved a photo shoot of its own.
Since photos of the inside aren't allowed, I captured what I could of the outside before it started raining on us (which is a great time to go inside a castle).
I couldn't be mad at the rainclouds swarming in, because it added a little drama to this medieval scene.
The castle's interior was stunning! I wish I'd been allowed to capture it. But the grounds are something else, and we spent more time exploring those than the inside of the estate. During a particularly rainy spell, we ducked into the cafe gift shop and enjoyed some Earl Gray and the most decadent chocolate cake I'd ever smashed in 30 seconds.
My husband and I went for a partly rainy, partly sunny walk to the walled garden, him wearing a new Scottish tweed hat he found in the gift shop. The gardens were worth the wet walk.
Doorways upon doorways, asking to be explored.
We walked a ways outside the garden wall and found the most adorable greenhouse, adjacent to the castle gardener's cottage. Magical!
After we got a good fill of gardens, we walked to the opposite end of the castle grounds along the River Spey. In the rain, but who cares?
Getting to see the River Spey was a dream come true for me, and a highlight of our trip. As a flyfisherwoman who loves to spey cast, being where this type of cast began in the mid 1800s was thrilling. My grandfather fished the River Spey long ago, and I liked to think he was there with me as I walked its banks.
A speycaster enjoying a good run and an even better view on the River Spey.
While important for the salmon industry in Scotland, the River Spey also fuels the whisky production in the area. The Speyside distilleries produce more whisky than any other region in Scotland. Ready for a nip, we trekked back to the car, said hello to the sassy llama below and ventured on to our next stop: The Glenlivet Distillery.
We were just in time for a tour led by the incredibly studied and genial David, who taught us that really good whisky is a lot of work. I forget the rest. Here are photos.
After the amazing tour, we got to sample a taste of one of three whiskies. I tried the 12 and Steve went for The Glenlivet 18. Then, since we were there (why not?) my husband tried the 1983, a whisky bottled the year his wife was born. And it was gooooood.
We closed out our whisky tour in the gift shop, which had the most gorgeous whisky bottle chandelier I'd never seen. A work of art!
And yes, we picked up some small little baby whiskies for our last night in town. Because why not?
In what was a perfect two days of castle cooing, garden wandering, whisky drinking and relaxing, we bid adieu to Aberlour and the Glenlivet area. Headed to the Highlands next!
But before I go: Shoutout to the marvelous, wonderfully sweet, incredibly patient servers and bartenders at The Mash Tun. Your hospitality was outstanding and you made for an unforgettable trip to Aberlour. We'll be back!
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