Since its launch in 2015, the North Coast 500 has succeeded in making the northernmost part of the Scottish mainland a must visit tourist location. The 516 mile route that begins and ends in Inverness was always there, but it took a scheme by the Highland Tourist Initiative, supported by Visit Scotland and the Highlands and islands Enterprise to bring together the quaint villages, local hospitality, and some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery into one must see tourist destination. And the plan worked. Tourist destinations and local businesses along the route reported record increases in visitations and sales in the very first year of operation.
At about the same time, whisky tourism in Scotland began booming. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, almost 2-million whisky tourist visited Scotland in 2017, that’s 3x the population of Glasgow, with about $80 million dollars being spent at distillery visitor centers across the country.
Prior to the NC500 the norther highlands were felt to be an under appreciated part of Scotland where tourism was concerned. The NC500 has changed that, but, even as it is promoted as Scotland’s Route 66, it is primarily viewed as a motoring route people visit to take in the stunning scenery, and rightfully so. Now however, eight highland distilleries have banded together in a move to introduce some of that booming whisky tourism to the region, with the first Highland Whisky Festival.
The eight distilleries participating in the festival are:
Balblair, Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, The Dalmore, Glen Ord, Tomatin and Wolfburn . Each will have its own day during the festival, hosting tours, tastings, and other special events. The festival runs from the 10th to the 17th of May. Leading up to, ironically some might say, World Whisky Day on May 18th.
The eight participating highland distilleries are: (left to right top row) Balblair, Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney (left to right bottom row) The Dalmore, Glen Ord, Tomatin, Wolfburn. Click on any image to enlarge.
Whisky festivals are not new to Scotland but Highland Whisky Festival Project Manager Kirsty Cameron is quick to point out that just as there are many music festivals and food festivals, so too there are several regions of whisky production in Scotland, the Highlands being just one of those, so a festival to celebrate that region’s whisky is entirely in order. Cameron went on to say that with the increased investment in tourism for the region with the advancement of the North Coast 500 that these distilleries thought the time was right for the region to “have a bit of a shout” and to offer something special not only to the NC500 tourist but to whisky tourists as well.
Cameron says the festival is hoping to see visitors from near and far - from Europe, the USA, and Asia but also from across the UK and indeed from within Scotland itself.
For more information: (NOTE: you must be of legal drinking age in your country to enter the distillery websites)
•Highland Whisky Festival