The history of Scotch Whisky and railroads in Scotland are intimately inherently linked, as many students on our Diploma in Single Malt Whisky learn. Visiting Scotland’s distilleries by rail has many advantages, foremost, the chance to relax and experience some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes, including its national parks. Far from being limited, visitors of Scotland’s distilleries can visit nearly every corner of the country by train, including the western isles and the northern-most highlands.
Here at EWA, we’ve compiled a list of all the distilleries open to visitors that you could reasonably visit by train alone. It’s as simple as hopping on a train at Edinburgh Waverly or Glasgow Queen Street, perhaps a connection at Inverness and voila, you will have reached your dramstination.
All of the distilleries listed are within a 30-minute walk of the nearest train station; the majority are within ten minutes of a station. Read our full guide, and you’ll be wondering why you ever thought you needed a car to enjoy Scotland beyond the central belt! This article is organised by train lines so that you might visit more than one distillery in a single trip.
The Cairngorms & Speyside
You can begin this route at Glasgow Queen Street or Edinburgh Waverly Station. If leaving Edinburgh, board the train for Inverness. If departing from Glasgow, you’ll need to change trains at Perth, in the direction of Inverness.
A view of the Grampian Mountains in the Cairngorms. Source: Nick Bramhall
This line takes you through the Cairngorms National Park. This journey is filled with beautiful views of the Grampian mountains and Highland countryside. The first station where you’ll find distilleries that are easily reached on foot is Pitlochry. The history of Pitlochry is also connected to the construction of railroads in Scotland. A favourite with Victorians, Pitlochry is often the first town where visitors to the Highlands will stop. Here, you’ll find Blair Athol Distillery and Edradour. The Blair Atholl distillery is a 15-minute walk along paved and marked roads from the train station. From there, you can reach the Edradour distillery in 20 minutes by walking along the Black Spout Wood trail. Edradour draws its water from the burn that feeds this waterfall. Walking to a distillery like Edradour reminds you why distilleries were traditionally built where they were. As you follow burns and pass waterfalls and lochs, one thing will become apparent – the abundance of fresh water!
The Black Spout Waterfall passed on the way to Edradour Distillery, source:www.walkhighlands.co.uk
If you prefer to walk directly to Edradour from the train station in Pitlochry, it will take about 30-minutes along a slightly different route.
As the Inverness line travels further north, it passes Dalwhinnie Distillery. Located, foreseeably, in the town of Dalwhinnie, the distillery is visible from the train platform. It’s just a ten-minute walk to the distillery. Dalwhinnie is particularly known for its placement in the coldest sub-climate of Scotland! Its location in the centre of the Highlands, at high elevation, means Dalwhinnie has a climate that is closer to Iceland than any other region of the UK.
The train lines that takes you through Pitlochry and Dalwhinnie terminates in Inverness. If you feel like continuing your tour of Scotland’s distilleries, you have two options: continuing North towards Wick or travelling East towards Inverurie.
A detailed map of the rail lines and ferries in Scotland
The Inverurie Line and Dufftown Railway
Once in Inverness, hop the train for Inverurie and get off at Forres to visit the Benromach distillery, roughly a ten-minute walk from the station. If you take the train a further stop, you’ll come to Elgin, home of Glen Moray Distillery. The walk is a bit longer, about 25 minutes but it’s a great town to stop for the night on your whisky tour.
The Inverurie line will lead you onto numerous distilleries in the Speyside region. Strathisla Distillery, the oldest, continually working distillery in Scotland, in the town of Keith, is also under ten minutes from the train station. From Keith, you can access the historic Keith & Dufftown Railway – a must for Scotch Whisky enthusiasts! On the way to Dufftown, you’ll pass castles and lochs as you follow the Littletulloch burn. In Dufftown are two little-known distilleries named Glenfiddich and Balvenie as well as, Glendullan, Mortlach and Dufftown Distillery. In this area, you can also explore two distilleries that are no longer working – Parkmore and Pittyvaich. There are so many distilleries in Dufftown; it might be best to book a guided walk, of which there are many. Most of these distilleries are ten to twenty minutes walk from each other, so easily seen by those without a car. Just remember to drink some water as well as whisky!
The picturesque Strathisla Distillery is not to be missed!
Northern Highlands (from Inverness to Wick) on the ‘Far North Line’
Distilleries dot the Northeast coast of Scotland above Inverness in almost perfect harmony with railway stops. Take the train all the way to the tip of Scotland at Wick to enjoy the views of the coast during the 4 ½ hour journey, and then stop at distilleries on your way back, or do the reverse. If coming from Edinburgh or Glasgow, you will be able to say you’ve travelled nearly the whole length of Scotland!
From Inverness you can stop at:
Glen Ord Distillery: a 15-minute walk from the Muir of Ord station, which is 20 minutes outside Inverness on the train bound for Wick
Dalmore Distillery: a 10 minute-walk from Alness station
Glenmorangie Distillery: a 20-minute walk from the station in Tain
Clynelish Distillery: approximately 25 minutes from Brora station
Wolfburn Distillery is 10 minutes from Thurso station. A newer distillery, Wolfburn has usurped Old Pulteney as the most northerly distillery on mainland Scotland.
The Western Isles
While seemingly more difficult to reach without a car, a few of the distilleries along the west coast of Scotland can be reached by train and ferry alone! In this section, we’ve compiled a list of these distilleries as well as those in the Glasgow area that you can easily visit by train.
Oban – From Glasgow, take the scenic West Highland Line through the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to Oban. This is an older train line that takes you through beautiful lochs and mountain forests before terminating in the town of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. Interestingly, Oban is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland because the town has surrounded it on all sides. The distillery actually preceded the town; thus for historical preservation reasons, the distillery cannot get any bigger. This makes it extremely easy to visit. The walk from the train station along the picturesque high street to the distillery is a whopping five minutes!
Springbank Distillery, located in Campbeltown, can be reached by a ferry that leaves from Ardrossan. Get the train from Glasgow Queen Street for Ardrossan. Be advised, this ferry only runs for part of the year, so check the CalMac ferry schedule before setting off!
Glengyle Distillery, producers of Kilkerran whisky, is next door to Springbank
Glen Scotia Distillery is also located in Campbeltown, about five minutes from Springbank or Glengyle
Ben Nevis – Up near Fort William, you’ll find Ben Nevis Distillery. If you descend at Banavie station, the distillery is a 25-minute walk away. You can reach Banavie by boarding the train headed for Mallaig at Glasgow Queen Street. This line, like the one headed for nearby Oban, also travels through the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The Greater Glasgow Region
Auchentoshan – a 25-minute walk from Dalmuir or Kilpatrick reached from Glasgow Queen Street or Edinburgh Waverly; this is an easy journey for lovers of the triple oak.
Glasgow Distillery – a 15-minute walk from Hillington West station, reached from Glasgow Central Station
Clydeside – 15 minutes from Partick station, reached from Glasgow Queen Street
So, there you have it – nearly every working distillery, offering tours to visitors, that we thought could easily be reached by train! We hope this post has given you ideas for your next whisky adventure.
If combining visits to several distilleries, it might be easiest to buy a rail pass that allows you the flexibility to travel over a specified period of time. You can learn more about Scottish rail passes here.
Lastly, bear in mind the time of year that you’re planning to travel. Certain rail lines might be closed for works. Distilleries also close to visitors at certain times of the year. Above all, the lovely weather of Scotland might intercede to spoil your plans – so keep your weather report app handy!
If you can think of a distillery that we’ve failed to mention, let us know!