In our latest blog post series, we’ve been exploring the distilleries of Scotland by train, as mapped out by Visitor Experience team member Harry. This week we’re departing from Glasgow’s Queen Street station. Glasgow is just an hour from Edinburgh by train and is a beautiful, fun and vibrant city to explore in its own right.
A reminder of Harry’s rules for choosing which distilleries are practical to visit by train:
- 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.
Travelling from Glasgow Queen Street
Glasgow makes an ideal base for exploring Scotland, both with regards to the country’s whisky and its other cultural exports. Glaswegian bars bring together the best of Scotland’s whiskies, and the city has long been home to many of Scotland’s blenders. Glasgow’s two main train stations, Queen Street and Central, handle northward and southward travel in turn. Queen Street, therefore, is the more important station for hitting the distilleries of the Highlands. It’s also where the West Highland Line starts, possibly Scotland’s most scenic train route.
Train Station: Partick
Time from Glasgow Queen Street: 25 minutes
Putting the city of Glasgow more clearly back on the distilling map, visitors to Clydeside can see Scotch whisky being made without even leaving the city. Given that proximity, you can visit the distillery by taking a train to Partick station (with only one stop on the way) or by taking the Subway. It takes just as long, and gets you another distinctly Glaswegian experience en route. Other Glasgow attractions like the riverfront and Kelvingrove Gallery are also within walking distance. Clydeside tours are straightforward, including three tastings for £15 (children and concession tickets are cheaper).
Train Station: Kilpatrick
Time from Glasgow Queen Street: 30 minutes
Auchentoshan lies only a short train ride up the Clyde, and it produces a unique form of Scotch whisky. As the distillery is at pains to point out, their Lowland single malt is 100% triple distilled, a trait more commonly found in Irish whiskey (note the spelling difference). This is distinctly Scottish whisky of a very smooth, Lowland nature. Unlike Glasgow’s urban distilleries, Auchentoshan is more firmly established, with a broad range of single malts matured and ready for tasting. Their tours vary from a £10 tour and combined whisky-ale tasting, and an £85 ‘Bottle Your Own’ experience.
Train Station: Hillington West
Time from Glasgow Queen Street: 40 minutes
Another urban distillery, Glasgow Distilling Company can only be reached from the city’s Central train station, so the time I’ve listed here accounts for the transfer walk between termini. There’s no point pretending this distillery has scenic surroundings: it doesn’t. However, they offer a fascinating variety of whiskies, gins and vodkas, showcasing what a young, fresh distillery can do. If you’re entering Scotland via Glasgow International, then this is also your nearest distillery. Their tours are comparatively informal – contact them to discuss numbers. Lager fans may also enjoy a unique double-tour, combining the Glasgow Distillery with Tennents Brewery (£32).
Train Station: Oban
Time from Glasgow Queen Street: 3 hours 5 minutes
A familiar name in the world of Scotch whisky, Oban Distillery is only a five minute walk from the small town’s train station. A classic malt made at a small distillery, Oban matches the cosy feel of its namesake town. This is an ideal location for seeing the Scottish coast, both in the town and via connecting ferries to nearby islands. You can also enjoy views of the Western Highlands on the journey up from Glasgow. Oban run just two tours. For £10, visitors see the distillery workings and taste Oban malt alongside complimentary flavours. For £75, visitors can take a two hour ‘Exclusive’ tour.
Train Station: Banavie
Time from Glasgow Queen Street: 3 hours 55 minutes
Another gem of the West Highland Line, the Ben Nevis Distillery is situated on the western coast of Scotland and nestled at the foot of Britain’s eponymous highest peak. Rather than leaving your train at Fort William, it’s actually better to get off at the next stop, Banavie. The Caledonian Canal starts here, marked by local landmark ‘Neptune’s Staircase’. It’s also easier to walk from the station to Ben Nevis distillery from here. It’s only a 25 minute walk parallel to the shoreline, with Ben Nevis rising skyward in front of you. Tours range from £5 to £30, showcasing a classic Highland single malt.
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.
This was one of a three-part series on exploring Scotland’s distilleries by rail. Find out which distilleries you can visit by train from Edinburgh here, and which ones you can visit from Inverness here.
Check out his interactive map online showing all the railway lines and distilleries listed in this series.
Have you visited any of the distilleries on this list? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.