For many whiskey tourists, spending a week or more traversing the Scottish countryside and visiting their favorite distilleries is a dream vacation. There’s an endless array of fantastic food and delicious drams to enjoy, picturesque routes to navigate, ancient sites to explore, and a plethora of additional activities and diversions.
Breathe deeply, you’re not going to get to them all!
All of that is wonderful enough, but why not elevate the experience even further, and cruise around in true style? That’s what companies such as Caledonian Classic Car Hire offer. They enable you to rent vintage and luxury automobiles for an unimpeachably stylish Scottish sojourn that you’ll never forget.
The Caledonian Classic Car Hire Experience
Caledonian offers a fleet of classic cars for you to choose from, ranging from a timelessly luxurious two-tone Austin-Healey 2000 MK III convertible to the power and authority of a 1960s-era Jaguar MK II, or an impossibly sleek and sexy Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce to an exhilarating open-air Caterham Super Seven roadster in British racing green. Another half a dozen options are on offer.
When you rent one of their vehicles, you’ll also receive assistance with coordinating your tour. They can provide personalized assistance, such as suggesting routes and itineraries, as well as helping with accommodations and reservations. You can even sign on for one of their pre-scheduled group tours.
Why not elevate the experience even further, and cruise around in true style?
If you’re starting your journey from Caledonian, you’ll be pleased to discover that it’s adjacent to Stirling, known as the “gateway of the Highlands.” It serves as an ideal jumping-off point for your expedition, about an hour’s ride northwest of Edinburgh or 45 minutes east from Glasgow, serving both of the city’s airports equally well. They also offer a night’s accommodation at their Kennels Cottage Bed and Breakfast as part of many of their packages, so you can arrive, rest up, and fortify as you prepare for the road — and the whiskey!
Trip Planning Tips
It may seem daunting to begin planning a road trip in a foreign country while trying to maximize your experience at each stop along the way. For the whiskey-minded, there are also more than 100 distilleries serving as potential way stations — so breathe deeply, you’re not going to get to them all.
Keep in mind that essentially half of Scotland’s distilleries are clustered in the relatively small Speyside region, as opposed to the more sprawling Highlands and Lowlands. A straight shot of about 10 miles stretching across the towns of Rothes, Craigellachie, and Dufftown serves as the true heart of the Scotch country, with a distillery seemingly nestled into every nook and cranny of the countryside. Any proper Scotch-soaked road trip will take you in and around this heartland.
The views will be worth it
Furthermore, while it’s possible to drive and then ferry to destinations such as Islay, if you want to maximize your on-the-road experience you’ll likely bypass the islands on this journey. Although it should be noted that you can actually drive to the Isle of Skye, home of Talisker, which could serve as a westernmost anchor for a lap around the country.
The most important starting point, really, is prioritizing two to three of your absolutely favorite distilleries, and making them mandatory destinations. Build around them accordingly as the schedule allows.
Perhaps for you that includes a lineup of Glenmorangie, Macallan, and Oban. That gives you a nice circuit to work with and plan around.
Starting with Oban as your first target, you’ll be heading west from Caledonian, spending most of your time on the A84 and A85, working through the scenic upper stretch of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and arriving at the distillery in about 2.5 hours.
You could then choose to head north and then west to the aforementioned Talisker, which takes another 3.5 hours — making for a likely overnight on Skye — or take a straight shot north to Ben Nevis. In that case, you’ll be following A828 and A82 along the shores of Loch Linnhe for about 2.5 hours. The views will be worth it, as Ben Nevis is the highest mountain peak in the British Isles.
In either case, your beauty is likely begging to hit the roads once again
The next morning, head north once again, following the A82 along the Loch Lochy and then the famous Loch Ness, moving up and around the Beauty Firth to Glenmorangie’s home alongside the Dornoch Firth, another 2.5-hour drive. Perhaps the Glen Ord Distillery caught your eyes along the way; it’s perfectly acceptable to deviate from your plans. That’s what the open road is all about!
After visiting Glenmorangie’s beautiful stillhouse, and gaping at their shimmering rows of stills — the tallest in Scotland — you may have time to visit nearby Balblair. If you already stopped at Glen Ord, then Balblair is perhaps best saved for the following morning.
In either case, plan an overnight at the comfortably elegant Glenmorangie House in Tain. You may be in time for one of their Whiskey Tasting weekends, which include a two-night stay and a trip to the distillery, with whiskey tastings galore and activities such as clay pigeon shooting (hopefully with the former occurring after the latter).
After your evening or two, it’s time for the majesty of Speyside. Head down and around the Cromarty and Moray Firths, east along the A96, towards the aforementioned Scotch heartland triumvirate of towns.
There are dozens of distilleries, choose wisely
Additional stops in the region may include the majestic Ballindalloch Castle, which was finished in 1546, or a visit to the Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel, with over 900 single malt whiskies. The Craigellachie would also make a fine choice of accommodations if you want to spend the next few days gleefully hopping from one distillery to the next.
World-renowned distilleries such as the Macallan, Glenfiddich, the Balvenie, and Aberlour are near at hand. Glen Grant and Glenrothes are essentially within shouting distance. Glenlivet and Tomintoul are not far to the west, Strathisla, Aultmore, and Knockdhu not far to the east.
There are dozens of distilleries. Choose wisely, and be sure to pace yourself or leave your lovely vintage ride at the hotel and arrange for transportation.
You’ve only scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer
In either case, your beauty is likely begging to hit the roads once again. After several nights within the tightly packed Speyside region, along with who knows how many distilleries and drams, it’s time to keep moving.
Head south, essentially staying along A9 for the majority of a 3.5-hour drive, passing through the Cairngorms National Park, weaving past Perth, and back through the gateway of the Highlands at Stirling, with two final distilleries in mind outside of Glasgow. Stop in at Glengoyne for a tipple or two of their slow-distilled sherry cask whiskey, and Auchentoshan for a triple-distilled taste of the Lowlands.
After this distillery duo, you could plan to spend the night in downtown Glasgow — if the pubs are calling — or opt for a touch of farewell luxury at the Cameron House, at the southern tip of Loch Lomond. A stay there is replete with Michelin-starred cuisine, the Cameron Club golf course, and a luxury spa if the open roads of the Scottish countryside and all of that great Scotch whiskey somehow left you stressed, or another turn at clay pigeon shooting if you please.
All good things must come to an end, and your classic car countryside cruise is at its close. But don’t worry — you’ve only scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer. Better start planning for take two.