In our third and final blog post in our series of distilleries you can visit by train in Scotland, author Harry takes a look at the capital of the Highlands – Inverness – and which whisky distilleries are accessible by rail from Inverness train station.
Inverness is an ideal base for exploring the Highlands of Scotland. The city is compact, yet has plenty of hotels, restaurants and other conveniences. Inverness also serves as a hub for rail travel in the Highlands, allowing passengers to reach all four corners of Scotland without a car. The city itself is scenic, and situated only a few miles from Loch Ness. Unlike Edinburgh or Glasgow, Inverness only has one train station: no chance for confusion when catching your train!
Train Station: Muir of Ord
Time from Inverness: 20 minutes
Glen Ord is the closest rail-accessible distillery to Inverness, and situated only 15 minutes from the Muir of Ord train station. This distillery and its whisky are often overlooked. Largely used to produce the Singleton of Glen Ord, Diageo sends most of this whisky to export markets, making it a surprisingly rare find for Scotch enthusiasts in the UK. For the dedicated, a £100 ‘Grain to Glass’ tour shows off all the distillery’s workings, including a rare distillery malting facility. For the more relaxed visitor keen to see this well-established distillery, a regular tasting tour is available for £18.
Train Station: Forres
Time from Inverness: 30 minutes
Heading east from Inverness, Benromach Distillery can be found in the town of Forres. The railway station here has just been redeveloped, one of a series of improvement works taking place along the line to Aberdeen. A distillery founded in the 19th century but only operating in its present form since 1997, Benromach produces single malt which is intriguingly smoky for a Speyside whisky. The distillery presents itself as a straightforward, traditional call-back to ‘classic Speyside’ distillation. Tours range from £6-125, with booking in advance recommended or in some cases necessary. Tasting flights are on offer for anyone without time to take a tour.
Train Station: Elgin
Time from Inverness: 40 minutes
Glen Moray distillery can be found in the cathedral town of Elgin, a little further east along the Morayshire coast. Though the distillery is 30 minutes’ walk from Elgin train station, it has a well-prepared visitor centre worth a visit. Glen Moray produces a broad variety of finishes, allowing anyone new to Scotch whisky to experiment with different styles without breaking the bank. The distillery describes itself as ‘small, friendly and informal’, and their tours reflect this ethos. Booking is highly recommended – tours are £5 for adults, with some more elaborate tasting options available and a £50 per person, in-depth tour and tasting with Distillery Manager Graham Coull.
Train Station: Alness
Time from Inverness: 45 minutes
The Dalmore distillery is only 10 minutes’ walk from Alness train station, in the small town of the same name north of Inverness. The town is a convenient pit-stop for travellers heading north, and The Dalmore’s location along the shores of the Cromarty Firth makes it all the more worthwhile to visit. Under an hour from Inverness, Dalmore is easy to get to, and Alness nicely balances rural isolation with the conveniences of a town. The Dalmore produces a rich, historic Highland malt with many age- and no-age-statement whiskies available. Tours here cost £8 per person, but children under eight are not allowed in the distillery.
Train Station: Keith
Time from Inverness: 1 hour 5 minutes
Strathisla distillery is the oldest in Speyside, and home to the Chivas Regal blend. The town of Keith lies right in the heart of Speyside, and walking to the distillery from Keith train station is a breeze. If you visit in the summer, tourist trains to Dufftown also run from Keith train station. Strathisla aims to impress with an aesthetically pleasing layout and classic distillery features like pagoda-shaped rooftops (or ‘Doig Ventilators’). Regular tours cost £7.50 per person, with no under-18s allowed, and Chivas Cellar Tasting and Connoisseur Tours are available (for £35 and £40 respectively) for the more dedicated fans.
Train Station: Tain
Time from Inverness: 1 hour 20 minutes
With references to the ‘Sixteen Men of Tain’, Glenmorangie’s whisky remains connected to the nearby town of Tain. The town, situated on the edge of the Dornoch Firth, is connected to Inverness by train. Glenmorangie is well known for its delicate style of single malt, produced using some of Scotland’s tallest copper pot stills. An enormous range of finishes allow fans of this distillery to explore many different flavours: Sherry, Port, rye whiskey, Sauternes, Madeira and more. The distillery offers three main tours: Original, Signet and Heritage.
Train Station: Brora
Time from Inverness: 2 hour 20 minutes
Further north along the Scottish coast lies Clynelish, a historic Highland single malt distillery. The whisky made here isn’t supposed to surprise you – it’s a reliable single malt, with rich layers of citrus, maritime breeze and waxy texture. Walking here from the town of Brora, you’ll find yourself in what feels like increasingly remote countryside very quickly. Whilst they’re still working working on an online booking system, Clynelish have several tours available to book over the phone, ranging from £6-70 per person. As this distillery is owned by Diageo, many other whiskies are also available to taste and compare on these tours.
Train Station: Thurso
Time from Inverness: 3 hour 50 minutes
Now Scotland’s most northerly mainland distillery (Highland Park still holds the overall trophy), Wolfburn is also one of Scotland’s newest malt distilleries. Located near the town of Thurso, this distillery is also on the doorstep of John O’Groats, famously Britain’s most northerly town. Ferries leave from Scrabster (only a few miles away) for the Orkneys. This distillery has one straightforward distillery tour, at the rate of £10 per person. However, they only take place once a day, Monday to Friday, and it is advised to call in advance. If you’re planning on making the trip north to Britain’s northernmost edge, then Wolfburn lets you see a whisky distillery firsthand at the same time.
Train Station: Wick
Time from Inverness: 4 hours 20 minutes
Old Pulteney may not be quite as far north as Wolfburn, but it remains a remote corner of Scotland’s northern coast. This distillery, and the surrounding town of Wick, thus take a long time to get to, but a visit is worth the effort. Wick has a rich history, intertwined with the distillery named for the town’s founder, Sir William Pulteney. The whisky made here is ideal for fans of maritime, highland single malts, and the distillery produces a host of limited edition expressions as well. Nothing too complicated with the tours at Old Pulteney – they offer a standard £10 tour and a £25 with tastings of other expressions.
A reminder of Harry’s rules when choosing a selection of distilleries you can 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.
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.
Find Harry’s first blog post listing distilleries you can visit from Edinburgh by train, and Part 2, on distilleries to visit near Glasgow.
Check out Harry’s 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.