Distilleries to visit by train: Part 1

If you’re exploring Scotland and you don’t have a car, don’t worry! Our team here at the Scotch Whisky Experience love to get out and about to see the distilleries whose whisky we showcase on our tours. Harry from our Visitor Experience team has narrowed down a list of distilleries in Scotland that you can visit on the train. This week, we’re setting off from Edinburgh Waverley station for distilleries in the Lowlands and Highlands.

“Whether you live in Scotland or you’re visiting from abroad, it’s good to know you don’t need a car to visit one of Scotland’s many whisky distilleries. Whilst many are only accessible by car, there are plenty available to see with nothing more than a train ticket. You shouldn’t need an excuse to travel by train in Scotland ­– the country’s railway lines are home to some incredible views. If you’re taking a scenic route, some of these journeys will be long, but they are well worth the time taken. Before you even reach a distillery, you’ll feel more immersed in the Scottish landscape.

Glenfinnan viaduct (credit: Andrew Palmer photography)
Glenfinnan viaduct (credit: Andrew Palmer photography)

Whilst there are many ways of making train trips go further, such as taxis, ferries, and PlusBus tickets, the list below was made using some straightforward rules.

  • Only distilleries with train stations can be considered. Sounds pretty obvious, but Ardmore, Tomatin and many other distilleries sit alongside railway lines. If you see these on a map, don’t be fooled – there are no train stations nearby, so you would struggle to get off and visit the distillery!
  • Anywhere more than 30 minutes’ walk from a station is out. You probably don’t have all day to visit one distillery, and a long hike may be impractical for visitors with additional access requirements.
  • No changes onto buses and ferries, again to keep things simple.
  • Every distillery listed here has a visitor centre! You can’t take this for granted: some distilleries, while accessible by train, are not open to the public.

We can narrow down Scotland’s 120+ distilleries to a list of 18 train-accessible options. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be showing you which distilleries you can visit by train based on which station you want to leave from: Edinburgh (Waverley), Glasgow (Queen Street) or Inverness. I’ve also produced an interactive map online showing all the railway lines and distilleries listed here.

Travelling from Edinburgh

The Forth bridges: photo Gavin McDougall Photography
The Forth bridges: photo Gavin McDougall Photography

 

If you’ve arrived in Scotland via its capital city and haven’t hired a car, then don’t worry: many Scotch whisky distilleries are still accessible by train directly from Edinburgh. The city’s main train station, Waverley, is an architectural masterpiece only a few minutes’ walk downhill from the Scotch Whisky Experience. Some trains heading north from Edinburgh also cross the Firth of Forth over the famous Forth Bridge – ideal for doing extra sightseeing on the way to a distillery!

Blair Athol
Region: Highland
Train Station: Pitlochry
Time from Edinburgh: 1h 50m

Blair Athol distillery (credit and copyright: Diageo)
Blair Athol distillery (credit and copyright: Diageo)

With a quick walk through the town of Pitlochry, the Blair Athol distillery is an accessible Highland distillery. The town is situated along the scenic Central Highland Line, and makes a good stopping-off point before heading further north towards the Cairngorms and Inverness. Blair Athol’s single malt is part of Diageo’s ‘Flora and Fauna’ range, making it a comparatively rare find for Scotch whisky fans. As the home of Bell’s Blend, Blair Athol distillery offers tours for both single malt and blend enthusiasts from £8-37.50. Their tours only run at certain times of the year, so call ahead and check if you want to visit!

Eden Mill
Region: Lowland
Train Station: Leuchars
Time from Edinburgh: 1 hr

A 20 minute walk from Leuchars train station, Eden Mill is a combined brewery and distillery. If your travelling companions are more interested in beer and/or gin, then this will make a good visit for everyone. Eden Mill is one of Scotland’s newest distilleries, and planning to release its first single malt this year. Given how few Lowland distilleries produce single malt, this is a unique and historic chance to see something different in the world of Scotch whisky – all without hours of driving north! Distillery tours are £10 per person, with a more detailed gin blending ‘Blendworks’ class available for £95. Under-16s are not allowed.

Dalwhinnie
Train Station: Dalwhinnie
Time from Edinburgh: 2h 20m (if direct)

Dalwhinnie External
Dalwhinnie distillery (credit and copyright: Diageo)

The highest distillery in Scotland, Dalwhinnie sits remote and isolated on the edge of the Cairngorms. If you’re looking for a historic distillery in a scenic location, Dalwhinnie offers all that with a direct train from Edinburgh. Fans of a light, floral single malt will enjoy visiting Dalwhinnie, but should wrap up warm! Tours here are affordable, ranging from £6-25, and offer a range of chocolates and truffles alongside your whisky. If you visit in their quiet season, some tours are even free.

Annandale   
Region: Lowland
Train Station: Annan
Time from Edinburgh: 1h 45m

Visiting Annandale by train does require entering England (!) and changing trains at Carlisle. However, Annandale is a brand new, up-and-coming Lowland distillery well worth a visit. Like Eden Mill, Annandale is on the verge of producing its first single malt. Visiting here is therefore more exciting for those interested in the rise of new distillers, not those looking for a historic spirit to take home with them. A variety of tours are on offer, ranging from £8.50-50 per person. As well as a ‘Classic’ Distillery Tour, you can take tours with the distillery’s owner, David Thomson, and a Technical Tour with more precise details about the distillation process.

Additional Info

All train times shown here are based on info from the National Rail Journey Planner. Prices will vary based on age of travellers, any railcards, and how far in advance tickets are purchased. Scotrail rover tickets, such as the Highland Rover (with four days unlimited travel over eight consecutive days for £85), could allow you to visit many of these distilleries with one ticket!

“Silent season” – many whisky distilleries will close down during mid-summer or winter for what is known as silent season. During silent season the stills won’t run and the distillery may be closed to visitors while general maintenance is carried out and the team take a well-earned break. Make sure you’re not disappointed by checking with the distillery you are planning to visit to find out when their silent season will fall.

Check back next week for which whisky distilleries you can visit from Glasgow Queen Street train station (including a few in Glasgow itself)!

Have you visited any of the distilleries on this list? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!


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