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Things to do in Speyside (that aren’t just whisky!)

Speyside might be a hallowed destination for whisky lovers, but the region is a fabulous place to visit even if you don’t indulge in a few drams! Here is my guide to things to do in Speyside.

My 10 favourite things to do in Speyside 

  1. Hike the River Spey along the Speyside way – follow the River Spey from Aviemore to Buckie on the Moray Firth coast on one of Scotland’s four official walking routes on 65 miles of waymarked paths and tracks. Usually walked north to south, the Speyside way is broken down into 8 sections – within the national park you can walk from Grantown to Aviemore via Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten. My favourite section is from Aberlour to Craigellachie and then along the spur to Dufftown. Walk the Speyside Way.
  2. Visit a Speyside whisky distillery – over half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries can be found in Speyside and whisky produced from the River Spey is renowned for its sweet and accessible style – making it perfect for beginners. Why not visit the brand new distillery at Macallan, the traditional Aberlour or Balvenie, the famous Glenfiddich, Glenallachie, my favourite Glenfarclas or The Glenlivet Distillery? – all which do tours and tastings. 
  3. Discover the Malt Whisky Trail – taking you around eight distilleries in Speyside – the Malt Whisky Trail is an initiative to promote Benromach, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, Glen Moray, Strathisla and the Speyside Cooperage – all which offer fabulous tours.
  4. Visit the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – taking place in May each year, the Spirt of Speyside Whisky Festival is made up of hundreds of events all designed for whisky lovers – from tastings to special bottlings.
  5. Climb Ben Rinnes – the biggest hill in the Speyside region, the ascent of Ben Rinnes offers panoramic views.
  6. Ride the Strathspey Railway – re-opened in 1978, the Strathspey Railway takes you on a steam train adventure north from Aviemore through Boat of Garten to Broomhill along 10 miles of track. Join the train for afternoon tea or dinner, or get off an explore at each station. Prices from £23 return. Book your tickets online at Strathspey Railway.
  7. Visit the Speyside Cooperage – visit the Speyside Cooperage to discover the ancient tradition of making whisky barrels – the tour is fascinating.
  8. Explore the Glenlivet Estate – explore the Glenlivet Circular Trail, winding through the Glenlivet Estate. This moderate walk takes you past historic sites, heather-clad hills, and the tranquil waters of Lochan Mor.
  9. Indulge at the home of shortbread – Walker’s Shortbread is famous worldwide. You can visit the original Walker’s bakery in the village of Aberlour and the main Walker’s factory shop.
  10. Photograph the Craigellachie Bridge – take a stroll across the historic Craigellachie Bridge, an iconic landmark that spans the River Spey near several distilleries.

Where to stay in Speyside

Planning a visit to speyside? Here are my favourite places to stay:

  • In Charlestown of Aberlour – the pretty riverside village of Aberlour is home to the Aberlour Distillery, Glenallachie distillery and Walkers Shortbread and is located right on the Speyside Way. Visit the Macallum Distillery and the Speyside Cooperage and stay at the whisky themed Mash Tun with its fabulous whisky themed rooms and whisky bar or go self catering and stay at Brylach SteadingThe Willy Gunn Pod, or Moss of Bourach.
  • Grantown on Spey is home to the Cairn Distillery, Cragganmore and the Cairngorms Gin Company, Grantown also has beautiful architecture and a thriving high street with plenty of independent shops and restaurants. Check into the Ravenscourt House or Mount Barker for classic Speyside accommodation. The Grant Arms is a classic pub with a great whisky bar.
  • In the lovely small village of Rothes is The Station Hotel which is perfectly placed to visit Glen Grant. Rothes has a lovely Victorian garden, once owned by James Grant. 
  • In Elgin, home to the Glen Moray Distillery and The BenRiach Distillery, try the Laichmoray Hotel, or go for The Neuk Cottage, or The Garden Room Woodside.
  • In Dufftown, often referred to as the “malt whisky capital of the world,” Dufftown is home to Glenfiddich and Balvenie stay at Hillside HavensBen SheaLittle Robin B&B, or The Gables Whisky B&B.
  • In Craigellachie – Dandaleith Cottage No.1, book into the Craigellachie Hotel of Speyside where you can eat at the Copper Dog Pub, before visiting the Quaich Bar with its 700 single malt whiskies. The Highlander Inn offers ‘whisky stays’ where you pay for your room for two nights and get the value back on the bar in whisky!
  • In the village of Ballindalloch stay at The Delnashaugh or The Old Granary.
  • Other options in Speyside include luxury glamping in the woods at the Dell of Glenlivet

Where is Speyside?

Speyside takes its name from the banks of the river on which the region sits – the River Spey. Located in the eastern highlands of Scotland and part of the Moray region, Speyside stretches from Aviemore and Grantown on Spey to Buckie including the towns of Forres, Elgin and Keith and the villages of Rothes, Aberlour, Elgin, Dufftown, Craigellachie and Ballindalloch. 

Looking for things to do in Morayshire? Read my guide to things to do along the Moray Coast.

How to get around Speyside

The best way to explore Speyside is by car, allowing you to explore Speyside region at your own pace. A car is recommended for visiting multiple distilleries, however there are strict drink drive limits in Scotland and the designated driver will need to stay off the drams. Most distilleries now have an alcohol free option, or allow you to take away the samples for later. 

There are regular buses in Speyside – Stagecoach number 10 connects Inverness and Aberdeen via Inverness Airport to Forres, Elgin and Keith. From Elgin, the Stagecoach number 36 links you to Aberlour, Dufftown and Craigellachie. By train, Scotrail trains run to Forres, Elgin and Keith.

Visiting the Speyside Distilleries 

Speyside is most famous for the 50+ whisky distilleries along the beautiful River Spey.

Read my complete guide to Speyside whisky and book a visit to one of my favourite Speyside Distilleries:

  • Glenfiddich, Dufftown – take a tour of one of Scotland’s most iconic distilleries owned by William Grant & Sons. The name Glenfiddich means – valley of the deer –  giving Glenfiddich its stag logo. Glenfiddich whisky has been produced since 1887. 
  • Aberlour, Banffshire – established in 1885 explore Aberlour Distillery (meaning “the mouth of the chattering stream”) on a guided tour or tasting to discover their rich, fruity Speyside whiskies (tastings only at 2023 due to refurbishment)
  • Glenlivet Distillery – visit the Glenlivet Distillery, one of the oldest legal distilleries in Scotland, and learn about their history and production techniques on their guided tours. You can also take a guided tour of the Glenlivet Estate.
  • Balvenie Distillery, Dufftown – visit a working maltings floor and kiln at Balvenie Distillery, tours start at £50pp and include a whisky tasting.

Speyside Castles 

Prefer your history in castle form rather than aged in a whisky distillery? Here are my favourite castles to visit in Speyside:

In Dufftown, Balvenie Castle was built in the 1200s as the seat of the earls of Buchan, Balvenie Castle is managed by Historic Scotland (closed over winter). Over in the village of Ballindalloch, there is a stunning baronial castle to visit, alongside gardens and distillery along with woodland and riverside walks. A private home, the castle is open April – September.

One of my favourite castles in Scotland, Corgarff Castle is located at the head of remote Strathdon and has a very unusual with its star-shaped perimeter wall. Corgarff Castle is managed by Historic Scotland and is open 1 Apr to 30 Sept, Wed to Sat, tour times 10.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

Family friendly and other Speyside Visitor Attractions

  • Aberlour Heritage Centre – Discover the town’s history at Aberlour Heritage Centre.
  • Dufftown Whisky Museum – dive into the history of whisky at the Dufftown Whisky Museum.
  • Knockando Woolmill – love heritage wool, then visit the Knockando Woollen Mill in Aberlour or Johnstones of Elgin at their popular shop in Elgin.
  • Byres Farm – got the kids in tow? They will love Byres Farm, a real working farm on the banks of the River Spey.
  • Gordon Castle Walled Garden – the 8 acre garden at Gordon Castle is a Speyside hidden gem – a beautiful kitchen garden restored to full working order, with a café on site.

Things to do in Speyside – Get out hillwalking

Whilst Speyside doesn’t have its own Munro, its highest hill, Ben Rinnes is a corbett which offers extensive views of the region and the Cairngorm mountains. The ascent of Ben Rinnes is around 5 miles, and takes in 541m ascent. Leave around 4 hours for your walk, with hillwalking gear required. 

Nearby,  Ben Aigan is slightly smaller than Ben Rinnes but still offers panoramic views of the Spey Valley. This moderate hike up takes you through woodlands and open moorlands over 5 miles and 275m ascent. Allow 3 hours. Otherwise try Carn Daimh from Tomnavoulin – 6 miles, 339m ascent, 4 hours.

Family friendly Speyside walks 

Looking for an easier hike?

  • Walk the Craigellachie Nature Trail through ancient woodlands, following the path along the River Spey
  • Discover the highest village in the Highlands with the Tomintoul Circular Path. This easy walk provides stunning views of the Cairngorms.
  • In Aberlour, the Aberlour Burn to the pretty Linn Falls (Linn of Ruthie) on a 1 hour walk.

Whisky walks in Speyside 

Fancy combining whisky and walking? Then explore the Glenfiddich Sculpture Trail – wander through the distillery grounds, encountering impressive sculptures against the Speyside backdrop. Tamnavulin also has a Heritage Trail – Uncover the heritage of Tamnavulin Distillery on this informative trail. Learn about the art of whisky-making amid the Speyside landscapes.