There are a lot of Whisky distilleries near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. If you’re looking to add a distillery tour to your vacation and sample some of Scotland’s finest whisky then you’ll be glad to know that the Highlands will not disappoint!
I am lucky enough to have a husband who loves his whisky and so get to come along and learn about how the drink is made. He is lucky enough to be married to a non whisky drinker which means he gets to sample it all and not worry about driving afterwards!
We’ve had many trips to Inverness and the Highlands of Scotland in the past 10 years and we’ve still got so many distilleries to discover. You see, there’s not just one distillery there, there are so many whisky tours to try!
Some whisky distilleries are small and some are much larger and are probably one of the mainstream brands you’ve seen before. They all have one thing in common though and that is a love of the drink and a passion for making it well!
So why visit a whisky distillery in Scotland? For some it’s simply to learn about this distinctly Scottish spirit, others want to taste and see what’s different about each one. You can also purchase limited edition bottles in many of the distilleries – perfect gifts for whisky lovers back home!
2022 Update – This post has been updated thoroughly since I first posted it way back in 2013 and spoke about visiting distilleries with kids. We’ve since visited more distilleries in the Inverness and surrounding area much to James’s delight too.
We also don’t have young children any more so I’ve expanded this guide to a more general distillery tour guide and left our tips for bringing kids in a section at the bottom of the page.
Scotch, whiskey, whisky or whiskie? Which is right?
The proper Scottish term is whisky without the ‘e’. If the ‘e’ is present then it’s likely to be an Irish spirit.
There are a lot of distilleries in the Highlands of Scotland so you could spend an entire vacation looking for new ones to explore.
This post is looking at some of the options that are near to Inverness, the largest town in the Highlands and a good place to base yourself for some day trips in the area.
Many of the distilleries are in what is known as the Malt Whisky Trail. In the Speyside region of Scotland there are huge numbers of single malt whisky distilleries and many of them have tours and tastings.
You’re not restricted to just that area though, you’ll find some north of Inverness as well (on the famous NC500) so I encourage you to explore!
Since there’s so many distilleries around in Scotland, if you’re planning to visit a few, a whisky map like this one might come in handy!
Full disclosure – we haven’t visited every single one of these distilleries but have experienced a fair few. As always when I research these posts I always find more places to visit!
7 whisky distilleries near Inverness to visit
Please note that COVID has disrupted many of the ways that whisky tours are run now. You very often have to book in advance, tours that used to be free are now charged and sometimes children aren’t allowed in any more. I advise checking the distillery’s website beforehand in case any other changes have taken place
Glenfiddich Distillery Tour
Distance from Inverness – 60 miles, approximately 1 hour 20 mins
One of the first distilleries we visited was the very famous Glenfiddich.
Our tour guide was lovely and really took time to speak to all of the people on her tour. We had Australians and Americans along side some people from the UK too. After showing us round we got to the main part which is the whisky tasting! Glenfiddich are extremely generous, another sign of their size I guess, and each adult is allowed 3 measures of whisky in total, one each from the 12, 15 and 18 year old single malt range.
We found them to be really welcoming and friendly despite the size of the company. Glenfiddich is still family owned and not owned by other companies and I think you can tell.
Tour cost: £20 per person
Family friendly? Yes
The Glenlivet Distillery Tour
Location – Speyside
Distance from Inverness – 52 miles, approximately 1 hour 10 mins
The Glenlivet is owned by a larger company, and their tour is much more corporate in feel.
There is a nice exhibition and the Glenlivet tour itself is informative and I learned some things I didn’t know from other whisky tours. We weren’t allowed to take any photographs at all through the tour and it was a little shorter than we had before.
They have a number of tours available – we did the Original tour. If you’re serious about your whisky you might want to look at their more specialised options.
Tour cost: From £20 per person
Family friendly? No
Singleton of Glen Ord
Location: The Black Isle, North of Inverness
Distance from Inverness – 15 miles, approximately 25 mins
Begun in 1838 on the Black Isle this is one of the closest distilleries to Inverness. You can take 2 different tours here and they are both fairly inexpensive compared to others in the area.
The visitors centre and shop is worth a look even if you don’t book a tasting tour.
(While located on the Black Isle, please note this is not an island but part of the mainland!)
Tour cost: from £8.75 per person
Family friendly? Yes, 8+ years very welcome
Tomatin Distillery Visitor Centre
Location: Cairngorms south of Inverness
Distance from Inverness: 15 miles, 25 minutes
Another distillery very close to Inverness is the Tomatin Distillery. This is a true Highlands distillery with an interesting past and name.
The distillery dates back to 1898 but there is some thought that illegal whisky making happened here before since the name Tomatin actually means ‘Hill of the Juniper Bush’. Juniper was known for burning without smoke and was often used by black market whisky makers.
Tour cost: £10 for over 18s, £4 for under 18s
Family friendly? Yes
Location : Dornoch Firth near Tain, North of Inverness
Distance from Inverness: 37 miles, approximately 50 minutes
James visited this one with some friends (since it’s for over 18s only) and came back raving about the tour.
Glenmorangie is one of the more well known brands in Scotland. They do two different tours with the Innovator tour being for those who want to learn more about whisky and perhaps are looking for a more special tour.
Tour cost: Classic tour is £15 per person. Innovator tour is £40 per person
Family friendly? No
Location: Keith, Speyside
Distance from Inverness: 55 miles, approximately 1 hour 25 mins
This is the Scottish Highland’s oldest operating distillery in the and also the home of the Chivas Regal brand which is known worldwide.
They have some distillery tasting options for you to book. Either spend some time creating your own blend of whisky or sample some of the limited edition whiskies at the distillery.
Tour cost: From £30 per person
Family friendly? No
Glen Moray Distillery
Location: Elgin in Speyside
Distance from Inverness: 38 miles, approximately one hour
Finally, until we go and visit some more, we have the Glen Moray Distillery visitor centre. On the outskirts of the town of Elgin this could be a good combined trip with the stunning cathedral ruins.
Glen Moray run family friendly tours showing you around the distillery and teaching you how whisky is made and the history of the company.
Tour cost: £7
Family friendly? Yes
Escorted tours from Inverness to distilleries
If you want to explore the distilleries around Inverness and the Highlands but you don’t have a car or would prefer to just enjoy the whisky then a tour might be worth considering.
Obviously you’ll be going to the distillery that the tour operators choose but for hose who want less hassle it’s a perfect way to enjoy them.
Speyside Whisky and Moray Firth Tour from Inverness: this one takes you to Glen Moray and Strathisla (Chivas Regal)
Family friendly Whisky tours – do they exist?
When I originally wrote this post I wanted to encourage people to bring their kids to the whisky distilleries – many people don’t think it’s a family friendly attraction but in fact many distilleries do allow children.
If you want to bring your kids to a distillery there are a couple of things to bear in mind on a whisky tour
- Not all whisky distillery tours allow children
- If they are allowed on they may also be charged, even though they won’t get to taste anything (obviously!)
Heading to Scotland with kids? Check out my ultimate guide to Scotland for families.