Moray Speyside is located just a few hours’ drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. Although travelers tend to pop in for a day trip during a typical Scotland itinerary, there is so much more to see, eat, and drink along the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail.
We’ve already recommended the best Speyside whisky distilleries to visit, but here are our recommendations for how to plan the perfect 5 day Scotland whisky tour itinerary.
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How To Book Hotels In Scotland
Since leaving the US over a decade ago, we’ve traveled to Scotland numerous times. During these trips to Scotland, we learned a few things about booking hotels in Scotland. We’ve stayed at stunning luxury hotels like the Dowans Hotel of Speyside and Sherbrooke Castle Hotel in Glasgow. And sadly we have stayed in our fair share of not-so-great hotels in Scotland.
When planning our trips to Scotland, we use Booking.com for hotels in Scotland. In addition to booking hotels, we’ve used them to book apartments in Scotland for longer stays. We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Scotland on Booking.com.
A 5-Day Malt Whisky Trail Itinerary
We spent 10 days exploring the region, but we travel pretty slowly. Many travelers to Speyside stop in at one distillery, either on their own or on a bus tour, and move on. That’s a big mistake!
Everyone we met in Moray Speyside was fabulously friendly and everything we ate was fresh and tasty. Well worth more time. If you golf or fish, this itinerary could easily be extended into a week or more.
A five-day trip can be added onto a visit to Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Island of Skye, or the Highlands to make the perfect 7 or 10-day Scottish itinerary.
Included above in this post are recommended accommodations across the region. If staying at any one of them, it’s possible to visit the entire region easily.
Nothing is more than a 30-45 minute drive from anything else. Or, pick two hotels to base yourselves on during the stay.
Day 1 – Craigellachie And Aberlour
Cardhu is very traditional and was one of our favorite tours. The Macallan is quite fancy and contemporary. Aberlour is a historic distillery, but we were not able to visit it.
Lunch: The Station Hotel in Rothes is just up the road in the direction of Elgin. Their Toots Cafe and Bar serves upscale versions of classic Scottish dishes. Try the haggis bon bons!
Afternoon: Visit the Speyside Cooperage. I think it helps to have visited one distillery before visiting the Cooperage to learn about the barrel-making process. It helps to put things into perspective.
Evening: Enjoy dinner at the Copper Dog in Craigellachie, a casual Scottish pub with great food and a selection of local craft beers, including Spey Valley Brewery. After, visit the Quaich bar upstairs and try a dram or two of local whisky.
Day 1 Tips: If looking for a midday snack, try the SA Mackie Butcher in Aberlour and try one of their fresh and warm meat pies. Also in Aberlour is the Walkers Shortbread Factory store, which is worth a stop for food souvenirs. Look for their ginger cookies and shortbread in the shape of a Highland coo.
Day 2: Fochabers, Elgin, And The Coast
Then continue north towards the coast towards Buckie and then head east. Stop for photos at Bow-Fiddle Rock and continue to Cullen.
Afternoon: There are a few options here. See about stopping in at Byres Farm in Fochabers for a bit of farm tourism.
Learn about the local livestock industry and how they grow barley for the Glenlivet distillery. Or, pop into Elgin and hit the Elgin Cathedral, Johnson’s of Elgin, and visit the historic Gordon & MacPhail shop.
Dinner: For a casual dinner, head back in the direction of Fochabers and visit the Fochabers Fish Bar. A super casual takeaway that won Scotland’s number one fish and chip takeaway in 2017.
Day 3 – Keith and Dufftown
Morning: Start the day with a drive out to the Glenrinnes Estate, east of Keith and enjoy a visit to Eight Lands Distillery. This is a break in the Scottish Whisky Trail for a little gin and vodka.
Eight Lands is a women-led distillery of organic gin and vodka, with stunning views even from the distillery floor.
Lunch: Pop into Keith for lunch at Square Roots Cafe, which serves up burgers, toasted sandwiches, soups, and even local craft beer. Try the Keith Lager, a local craft beer.
Afternoon: Book one of the VIP experiences at Strathisla, a historic distillery on the Malt Whisky Trail. Strathisla is the symbolic heart of the Chivas company. Try their Whisky Blending Experience and take home a small bottle of your own malt whisky blend.
Dinner: While in Dufftown, visit Seven Stills, a well-known whisky bar with a French chef whipping up interesting versions of traditional Scottish dishes. They offer a wide selection of daily specials that change with the seasons.
Day 3 Tip: While visiting Glenfiddich or The Balvenie, check out the small farm across from the Balvenie castle. Check the land behind the house to find the famous Highland cows, the hairy coos.
Day 4: Ballindalloch
Lunch: The Glenlivet has a small cafeteria for a light lunch or snacks. Or make your way to Ballindalloch Castle, which has a cafe and tearoom serving up sandwiches for a light lunch.
There is not a lot on offer for lunch in this area, so take a look at these options and figure out how far away you will be. In the end, even heading back towards Aberlour or Craigellachie is not too far out of the way.
Afternoon: Head to Ballindalloch Castle to explore the castle gardens and the interior rooms. Ballindalloch also has its own, newer distillery for tastings, or Cragganmore Distillery is nearby.
Dinner: Head towards Aberlour to dine at The Dowans Hotel. They offer two options, Spé and 57, as well as a stellar selection of Speyside gins and tons of options for Speyside whisky tasting.
Day 5 – Forres And The Coast
Morning: There are a variety of ways to spend a morning in and around Forres at the western edge of Moray Speyside. Visit the Benromach or Dallas Dhu distilleries. Also nearby is the Maclean Highland Bakery for a light snack or some food souvenir shopping of shortbread and Scottish oatcakes.
Just a two-minute drive from Maclean’s is Speyside Brewery, a young craft beer producer happy to do a tour and tasting. Also nearby is Logie Steading, an old farming estate during food and cultural destination, just south of Forres.
Lunch: Make your way to the coast and check out Findhorn and then Burghead. Stop at The Bothy Bistro in Burghead for lunch and enjoy some local Scottish seafood.
Afternoon: Continue the drive along the coast. Perhaps stop at Windswept Brewery in Lossiemouth for a local craft beer tasting before winding down toward Elgin.
If looking to squeeze in one final distillery, Glen Moray is located within Elgin.
Dinner: Enjoy dinner at the Knockomie Inn for Scottish classics along with craft beer, local gins, and a good selection of the malt whiskies of Scotland.
Moray Speyside Accommodations
There are a variety of accommodation options in Moray Speyside. There are historic and luxury hotels, B&Bs, inns, cottages, and even beachfront caravan parks.
Here are our recommended accommodations located along the whisky trail.
Built in 1893, the Craigellachie Hotel and its 26 rooms feel more like a luxury, countryside family home than a hotel. Situated at the crossroads of the world’s whisky production region, the Craigellachie Hotel features the Quaich bar and over 900 whiskies lining its walls.
Its Copper Dog Pub serves locally sourced traditional and contemporary Scottish dishes for lunch and dinner seven days a week. They are located near the Speyside Cooperage and many of the top distilleries including The Macallan and Cardhu. Rooms have touches of classic decor with luxury finishes.
The Craigellachie Hotel, Victoria St, Craigellachie, Speyside
Rates from £140 including breakfast, book here
Originally a Victorian mansion, the Dowans Hotel was reborn in 2012 by the Murray family. Now featuring 16 contemporary en-suite rooms, the Dowans Hotel maintains its historic past while providing modern comfort and hospitality.
After a day of exploring Speyside, take a relaxing stroll through the ornate terraced gardens before sitting down to a meal in one of their two delicious restaurants: Spé and 57.
Both feature locally sourced Scottish meats, fish, and produce. Before calling it a night, tuck into The Still bar and explore the Dowan’s collection of over 500 Scottish whiskies as well as local Scottish gins. Nearby distilleries include Arbelour, Glenallachie, and Glenfarclas.
The Dowans Hotel, Dowans Road, Aberlour
Rates from £170 including breakfast, book here
Ardgye House B&B is a cozy and comfortable stay five minutes from the center of Elgin in the heart of Speyside. Originally built in 1904, this Edwardian mansion sits on 150 acres of land.
Twin, King, and Family rooms are available. Aside from breakfast, no other dining options are available. Nearby distilleries include Glen Moray, Benromach, and Dallas Dhu.
Ardgye B&B, Ardgye Guest House, Elgin
Rates from £79 including breakfast, book here
Dating back to the 1770s, Gordon Castle has been a fixture on the landscape of Speyside and part of its history. Featuring five charming cottages spread across the estate, Gordon Castle is a unique and relaxing holiday experience.
Available year-round, the cottages sleep between two and eight guests. All cottages are self-catering and equipped with all the comforts of home.
Gordon Castle Cottages, Gordon Castle Gordon Castle Estate, Fochabers
Rates from £135 with no breakfast (self-catering), book on Airbnb but save €30 if you’re trying Airbnb for the first time with this link.
Beginning life in 1812 as a country villa, Knockomie Hotel has transformed over the years into a 15-room hotel and gastro destination. Owned and operated by Gavin and Penny Ellis, Knockomie Hotel is ideally located to explore the Speyside region.
Dining at Knockomie allows guests to enjoy delicious traditional and contemporary Scottish dishes. With its focus on all things local, Knockomie has over 70 whiskies available as well as a wide range of locally distilled gins. Nearby distilleries include Benromach and Dallas Dhu.
Knockomie Hotel, Grantown Road, Forres
Rates from £135 including breakfast, book here
West Beach Caravan Park is a family-run, beachfront park providing holiday vans, glamping, motorhomes, caravans, and tents. On-site facilities include free showers, coin laundry, and dishwashing stations.
“Dory” the double-decker bus is an onsite food truck serving up locally sourced Scottish dishes. The park is open from May until the end of October. Nearby distilleries include Glen Moray, Benromach, and Dallas Dhu.
West Beach Caravan Park, West Beach, Hopeman
Rates: Caravan rental prices begin at £500 per week, book here
Other Things To Do In Moray Speyside (When Not Eating And Drinking)
As much as we travel on our stomachs, there’s no way to spend all day, every day eating and drinking – no matter how hard we try. In fact, many travelers visit Moray for attractions that have nothing to do with food or whisky.
What To Do On The Whisky Trail
In Elgin, visit the Elgin Cathedral, which dates from 1224. Elgin is also home to one of the most well-known Scottish cashmere producers, Johnstons of Elgin. Their visitor center helps to teach travelers about how cashmere is made. Nearby in Fochabers, visit Gordon Castle and its stunning walled garden. It’s filled with lavender during the summer.
The Moray Coast Trail includes about 50 miles of coastline, which can be traversed on foot over several days. Or, take a drive from Findhorn in the west to Cullen in the east. There are cliffs and sandy beaches in little pockets along the way.
Towards the east is Bow Fiddle Rock in the small town of Portknockie. Sometimes you can even spot dolphins playing just off the coast. The rivers Spey, Findhorn, Avon, and Livet are home to various types of Scottish salmon and trout – perfect for fishing excursions.
Castles On The Whisky Trail
There are a series of historic, Scottish castles that dot the landscape as well. The most well-preserved is Ballindalloch Castle, which is home to the 24th generation of the Macpherson-Grant family. You can walk the grounds, explore the house, or enjoy afternoon tea in their tearoom.
It makes the perfect pitstop during an afternoon of visiting some of the best distilleries in Scotland – several are only a handful of miles away.
Just near the Glenfiddich and Balvenie Distilleries in Dufftown is Balvenie Castle. It is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, dating to the 1200s.
Near Elgin, Duffus Castle is an example of an ancient “motte and bailey” castle. This type of castle was common during the 1100s and 1200s consisting of wooden buildings on man-made mountains of ground.
FAQs – Scotland Whisky Tour Itinerary
Throughout the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales) the legal drinking age is 18 years old.
Drinking and driving is against the law in the UK. Violators are subject to fines and potential imprisonment. Drivers can receive take away samples of whisky from participating distilleries. These samples are generally included in the price of the tour.
Currently, there are 50 distilleries in Speyside. Not all are open to the public for tours or tasting. It is recommended to contact the distilleries individually to confirm if they offer tours or tastings.