Scotland: Pitlochry, Whisky Walk

As I mentioned, Rick Steves described a ‘Whisky Walk’ in Pitlochry in his guidebook….

If you’ve ever suspected you were a Hobbit in a previous life, spend an afternoon hill walking from downtown Pitlochry to a pair of distilleries. The entire loop trip takes two to three hours, depending on how long you linger in the distilleries. It’s a good way to see some green rolling hills, especially if you’ve only experienced urban Scotland. The walk is largely uphill on the way to the Edradour Distillery; wear good shoes, bring a rain jacket just in case and be happy that you’ll stroll easily downhill after you’ve had your whisky samples.

The following words and photos are ALL from Andrew!

As Amy and Nancy headed back towards town from the Tourist and Information shop we visited, Kevin, Chelsea, terry and I headed east to find the beginning of Rick Steves’ ‘Whisky Walk’…

The young girl at the T.I. counter had instructed us to walk over the bridge and we’d come to a sign that read “Black Spout Trail” and that would lead us towards our first distillery destination which was Edradour Distillery.

We did as instructed, walked east over the bridge and came to a sign post with two signs. The one pointing up towards the woods and what looked like a very long dirt driveway read “Moulin and Edradour Paths. Black Spout Woods.” The sign pointing southeast and continuing on what seemed like a more traveled road, the main road, read “Edradour Walk”

Hmmmm …. Both signs point to Edradour in opposite directions.

The TI girl told us to look for Black Spout Trail and Black Spout Woods seemed like the most likely way to go … so that’s what we did …

… Turned left and walked up the dirt driveway, private-looking path and into the woods.

Shortly, we came to a fork in the road with a wooden sign, with an arrow …

<– It pointed the way to Black Spout (we had no idea what Black Spout was) and two stick figures pointing to Pitlochry.

The arrow <– written in heavy black, the two figures seeming to cheerfully be pointing the way to town. Or safety. We hadn’t been walking very far and were not sure we were going the correct way

<– towards possible doom … or –> towards safety.

We chose doom.

We continued along the wooded path. It was a beautiful day for such a stroll, a cool breeze gently blowing, some sunlight barely poking through the canopy of trees. Some light sprinkling made the path slightly muddy, but that was nothing too bad. the path was plenty green, with some berries for picking and munching on.

We crossed over an old wooden bridge and eventually another wooden sign. Again <– Black Spout and this time just one figure pointing -> towards Pitlochry. Seems his friend had been eaten or lost. We definitely chose doom.

We plunged ahead with no idea where Black Spout was leading us.

Eventually we came to the crest of the hill and an old wooden lookout, gazing on a large waterfall.

Aha! We must have come upon Black Spout. The water was a yellowish white and we guessed maybe it was part run-off from the (hopefully) up ahead distilleries.

We continued up the trail and passed a large open field (wheat or barley?) on our left. this narrow path came out on a regular streetĀ  and directly in front of us was the Edradour Distillery – Scotland’s smallest distillery.

Edradour Distillery is made up of just a few whitewashed brick buildings with grey roofs and red doors. The Mash and Stillhouse, the warehouse and the Old Malt Barn make up the original property with a store and a tasting room added on for tours.

From their website:

The Edradour Distillery has remained virtually unchanged since it was founded in 1825, nestled in a beautiful pocket of greenery on the banks of the Edradour Burn. The stream is so ancient that its name is thought to be derived from the Gaelic Edred dodhar, ‘the stream of King Edred.’

The four of us entered the store and purchased tickets for the last tour of the day which was starting in 5 minutes. The tour began in a small building with wooden benches, shots of whisky and a flatscreen TV. We watched a short video on the history of the Distillery and toasted with our small shots of Edradour. Then our guide – a young man with a limp and a cane – told us that the video had been made 20 or so years ago and that things hand changed just a bit in that time. Not drastically though. The basics of what make Edradour stand apart from the rest are still in tact.

Edradour is handmade still to this day, producing in a year what most of the large distilleries produce in a week. All whiskys produced here are single-malt Highland Scotch whisky.

From their website:

Like all malt whiskies, Edradour is made from malted barley, yeast and water. In the case of Edradour, there is a perennial source of pure spring water from the moorlands which rise a little way above the distillery. The nearby Edradour Burn is also important to the distillery, and is used as it has been for generations, gushing down over rocks and into the heart of the distillery to cool the wort.

The tour group left the viewing area and headed outdoors to start the tour proper. Our guide spoke very slowly, comically slowly and throughout the tour he would stand us beside a piece of machinery or hardware, tell us maybe what it was called and then slowly started “But …. we’ll…. come….back….to….that…..later” Usually we didn’t comeback to it. The first and only building we wntered was the Mash and Stillhouse. Here we were shown the Mornton Refrigerator (which is the only one of its kind still used in the industry), the copper stills (there are 2 of them)and the Wooden Mash Tun.

Our guide briefed us on the basics of these tools and how whisky is made and then casked for at least 10 years. The type of cask, or what had previously been stored in it, is what will give a particular whisky its unique flavor and characteristics. After visiting the Mash and Still house I thought we might visit the warehouse where the whisky is casked and stored. However we were led to the store where our guide pointed out particular whiskys for purchase.

The four of us figured that most of the other distilleries were also closing up at 5p so we hit the tasting room and sampled a handful of different Edradour varieties. All delicious and some smokier and/or more intense than others. We left the tasting room about 10 after 5 and confidently this time headed down the Black Spout wooded trail to town.

We met up with a sleepy Amy and cheesy Nancy at the car…

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Scotland: Pitlochry

Saturday morning (Aug 13) …. everyone slept in and I started to get antsy.

Not only are Andrew and I both naturally morning people (I think he was sleeping 5 -6 hours each night the whole week), but when we are visiting a place (like Scotland!!), I would much rather be tired for a few days than miss out on seeing stuff …

– I DO love those tourist attractions! –

Since we hadn’t gone grocery shopping the night before…. everyone was at least eager to go seek out food once they were up. I think we finally got out of the house around 11a or so.

The initial plan was to drive (2 cars) down to Aberfeldy for lunch, and then head on to Pitlochry and maybe Cairngorms National Park. But it turns out ….

  1. Aberfeldy is REALLY close to our resort
  2. Aberfeldy is REALLY small. Seems silly to try to find 2 parking spaces, when we could have just walked there…

So, instead, we opted to go on to the 20 or 30 minute away town of Pitlochry for lunch and return to Aberfeldy Saturday night….

Kevin and Dad drove that first day …. and again Dad was white-knuckled at the steering wheel.

My initial impression of Pitlochry was that it was fairly well set up for tourists : easy-to-find public parking, well signed town center and all …. (but as the week went by, I realized that ALL of Scotland appears to be like that)

We found the public parking … justĀ  block or so away from the center of town, just down the hill from the train station …. and directly across the street from a house where a couple girls were outside painting the fence, to the sound of awful 90s power ballads LOUDLY playing on the stereo.

And I mean LOUDLY!

Parking in Scotland always involved emptying our pockets for coin – which I suppose is a good way to get rid of the 1-pound couns we got as change everywhere….

So we parked in the 90s-pop-ballad-infused parking lot and found our way to the main street in Pitlochry – Atholl Road.

Now the hunt for lunch.

Our cell phones weren’t set up for international data – so we couldn’t Yelp! anything…. and Rick Steves only mentions a couple places in his book….

So the 6 of us wandered down the street, jay-walking from one side to the other in the drizzling rain … peering at the menus posted outside the doors for options that looked both appetizing and affordable.

I don’t remember the name of the little cafe we settled on, but it appeared to to have rooms to stay in on the second floor, and a second restaurant room on the below-street-level floor.

Sandwiches all around – plus Andrew and Kevin started trying some local ciders or ales or sometime.

Unfortunately, Saturday lunch was when I started to feel sick. I don’t know if it was the heat inside or food or way-thrown-off sleeping schedule … but I took a bite of my sandwich (BLT with mayo) and couldn’t eat any more.

The below-street-level restaurant room actually had a back door/windows/rear entrance opening to a street at the bottom of the hill …. so I spent most of that lunch sitting out back, fanning myself and drinking water…

After lunch, the boys wanted to go on a “Whisky Walk” described in Rick Steves’ book…. And I totally would have gone if I didn’t feel sick.

photo by Nancy Hann

While the boys and Chelsea went on their walk (which gets its own blog post) …. my mom and I walked the other way into town.

We stopped at Victoria’s – so mom could have some tea. I think she tried mint … I love that they brought out a little personal teapot with the tea leaves brewing on a little personal serving tray with her teacup. It was VERY cute.

Unfortunately, I still wasn’t feeling well, so I elected to go lay in the car and mom went shopping.

You can read all about her shopping and Pitlochry adventures here. … She came back quite excited about her cheese purchases!

And in the mean time… the boys+Chelsea were hiking through the mud!

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