Whisky-makers understand the importance of a good rest. In fact, up in Scotland, these celebrated spirits can’t legally even be called scotch until they’ve spent a minimum a three undisturbed years tucked up in a comfy oak cask.
So it’s surprising that, for an industry so attuned to hitting snooze, few whisky distilleries have thought to build bedrooms on their premises. From the Lowlands to the islands, these age-old institutions are among the nation’s most visited tourist attractions — so why wouldn’t they cater to overnight stays?
Perhaps there’s less of an appetite for sleeping over than there is for single malts. On Islay, Ardbeg shut its Seaview Cottage last year, and most whisky pilgrims seem to prefer to stay in centralised, specialised hotels — such as Speyside’s The Craigellachie, or Campbeltown’s The Ardshiel. However, if you do have a fierce favourite brand, some distilleries still offer on-site lodgings. Here are three of the finest…
Isle of Raasay Distillery Whisky Hotel
Where is it in Scotland? Snug in the rugged, remote Hebrides. This island, which sits between mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye, is a haven for whisky mavens — and teems with wildlife including red deer and alpine hares. This hotel is the only accommodation set inside a working whisky distillery in the whole of Scotland.
How do you get there? By boat. But, even if you do struggle to find your sea legs, we’ve found that a nip of Raasay’s fine single malt helps. Even without it, the crossing — on a hybrid Caledonian MacBrayne ferry — takes only 25 minutes, and takes in scenery so spectacular that your mind will be firmly elsewhere (on the slopes of the picturesque Cuillin Mountains, we’d wager).
What’s the accommodation like? Borodale House is a Victorian villa attached to the distillery; transformed into a hotel with six ensuite bedrooms. It’s state-of-the-art, with flat-screen televisions, feather pillows, fluffy towels and a rain shower in every room. The White Company even provides the linens. The restaurant, exclusively for guests, serves Raasay-caught venison and fresh seafood from the surrounding waters.
Which whisky should you try? Guests will also have access to a whisky lounge, found on the ground floor of the hotel and featuring a fully-stocked honesty bar. We’d keep things classic with your whisky choice; Isle of Raasay Single Malt is the distillery’s flagship expression, and has a subtle smokiness, lightly peated notes and rich dark fruit flavours on the finish.
Isle of Raasay Distillery Whisky Hotel
Where is it in Scotland? High in the Highlands. The nearest town is Tain, where many of the distillery’s workers live. Sitting on the shores of the Dornoch Firth, there are endless dune-backed beaches surrounding the whisky-making institution — and local daredevils enjoy watersports from wild swimming and surfing to white water rafting.
How do you get there? By car. And what a drive it is. Wending its way up through the golden barley fields of Ross-shire, the A9 northbound out of Inverness will take you to the Glenmorangie Distillery. Skirting the Cromarty Firth, there’s plenty to see on the way — including Kincraig Castle and the Shandwick Stone.
What’s the accommodation like? Eclectic. Eccentric. Extraordinary. Utterly unlike anything else on offer in Scotland — whether it sits next to a distillery or otherwise — this bold boutique hotel has colours and objects mirroring the whisky’s story, room for 21 guests and stargazing experiences on offer. Across the courtyard, there are even three cottages if you’re looking for a more private (yet equally characterful) experience.
Which whisky should you try? There are plenty of bottles to choose from — and learn the history of. But Glenmorangie is at its best when creating luscious limited editions. ‘A Tale of the Forest’ is a good bet, but we’d recommend pouring a glass of the Palo Cortado (a sweet, nutty small-batch) and breathing in the clean coastal air; dram in hand.
Where is it in Scotland? Back in the Inner Hebrides, this time on the Isle of Islay. Like its neighbouring Raasay above, Islay has an incredible biodiversity — with seabirds being particularly prevalent. Distilleries are just as ubiquitous, with nine producing whisky the length of the island. You’ll find Bowmore towards the middle of the landmass, at the South Eastern shore of Loch Indaal.
How do you get there? There’s a regular bus service from Glasgow if you feel like drinking your way to Islay, but we’d suggest taking the time to drive instead. There’s a two-hour ferry crossing from Kennacraig on the Kintyre Peninsula, seven days a week — and this 100-mile drive from Scotland’s second city will take you past both Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne.
What’s the accommodation like? Once home to Bowmore distillery workers, these five beautiful, white-washed cottages date back to the 1840s — and each has been meticulously restored to a four-star standard. Varying in size from one-bedroomed to four-bedroomed, they’re open all year around and are brimming with amenities. Down the road, The Harbour Inn (a pub owned by Bowmore) also offers seven spacious en-suite bedrooms and dining with spectacular views over Lochindaal.
Which whisky should you try? If you’ve got pockets deep enough, definitely something from the ‘Timeless’ range. But, if you’re saving to sample more whiskies on Islay, why not work your way up through Bowmore’s core range — beginning with the 12-year-old, and progressing onto the 15, 18 and 21-year-old expressions. Because, if you have any questions about the mouthfeel or flavours, the very men who made it will be on hand to help.
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