What is Scotland most famous for? Could it be haggis? Or the melodic and ever so tuneful bagpipes? Or the swinging kilt? All these would be legitimate answers; indeed, it is hard to imagine a world where these delights do not exist.
However, there is still one thing that eclipses all others. To survive without it goes against the grain of the Scots, but the peated, smokey, burning liquid has the capacity to render even the hardiest of Scots (even the Porridge Oats hunk) unconscious. Indeed, so fantastic is this iconic nip that it has become, if not the most famous, then certainly the most popular Scottish export. Yes, the liquid sunshine itself: whisky.
So synonymous are whisky and Scotland that one cannot exist without the other. Whilst Scotland provides all that is necessary to make whisky – the peat, the barley, the Highland springs, the aged casks – the whisky courageously aids the Scots through the dark months; no one could survive the Highland winter chill without a hot toddy! And we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, with the first evidence of whisky production in Scotland documented in 1494.
It’s been a joyous, somewhat hazy, ride ever since. From whisky to gin, beer to cider – us Scots love a tipple. So, settle down, grab a glass and follow our whisky trail around the breathtaking Isle of Skye.
Whisky on the Isle of Skye
Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides and is truly a magical place. Home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes, from dramatic mountain ranges to miles of striking coastline, the island cannot fail to enchant you.
With some of the most majestic geological features in Scotland, such as the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and the Cuillin, Skye’s fantastic scenery will stay with you long after you leave, as will its captivating history, shaped by the people that have lived there for thousands of years. Just as the island has shaped its people, so too have people shaped the island which has born witness to tumultuous human events, from Viking raiders and Jacobite rebels to the clearances of the 1800s.
Today, Skye is a vibrant island, with a rich heritage and culture that is worth exploring. As well as sampling the island whisky, why not try an island beer or maybe even an island gin?
Located some 20 miles from the island capital of Portree, Talisker Distillery is the original and oldest working distillery on the Isle of Skye and sits proudly on the shores of Loch Harport in the village of Carbost, with phenomenal views of the Cuillin mountains.
Founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, it was built in 1831 at Carbost when they acquired the lease of Talisker House. The distillery was rebuilt between 1880 and 87 and extended in 1900, with the annual payment for the lease including a ten-gallon cask of best-quality Talisker!
Over the last few decades, the Talisker brand has expanded into a growing international market and is now one of the most popular single malt brands in the UK. A visit to the distillery allows you to be up close and personal to the whisky-making process, which hasn’t changed much over the last 500 years. See the five copper pot stills, then follow to the warehouse to see the casks where the ‘angel’s share’ is lost to evaporation during maturation. Finish with a taste of the Talisker single malt Scotch whisky to round off a great trip in a fantastic location. In the shadow of the Cuillins, Talisker’s whisky has been referred to as ‘the lava of the Cuillins’ – quite apt for this strong peaty mighty single malt.
Located on southern Skye, this former croft house is a beautifully renovated property for two in Tarskavaig. Built in the 1830s as a family home, Rum View has now been restored to a very high standard throughout, complete with exposed beams and traditional stonework. The stunning contrast between old and new is created through the installation of the contemporary mezzanine kitchen and the modern furniture throughout the property, ideal for couples seeking the perfect romantic and remote getaway.
Cnoc An Theine
Perfect for a larger party, this bright and spacious cottage has sea views from most of its charming rooms. Sleeping six, each bedroom has been tastefully decorated, and the decked area at the front of the cottage is perfect for soaking up the long warm evenings, enjoying the spectacular views across to Morar, the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna.
The Distillery at Torabhaig is the second-ever licensed single malt Scotch whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye and also one of the newest. Located at the old farmstead at Torabhaig, the site already had all the factors needed to make good, traditional island whisky, with the Allt Breacach burn feeding the purest island spring water in an incredible natural setting.
After a meticulous four-year restoration and build, the 200-year-old rugged building was transformed into The Distillery at Torabhaig. It’s been fully restored with copper stills and traditional wooden wash-backs, suitable to produce whisky for the next 200 years. Since January 2017, Torabhaig has been a fully operational single malt Scotch whisky distillery. With the whisky-making still in its infancy, it will hopefully be available in 2021: it takes time to make the perfect whisky!
An exciting project and a labour of love, the best way to really understand the scale of this initiative is to take a guided tour of the distillery. Stepping behind the scenes and into the heart of the production area, you will get close to the action, giving you a unique insight into life in a working Hebridean Island distillery. Learn the tricks of the trade and gain a wealth of local knowledge and historical lore from the guides, and experience all stages of the whisky-making process from grain to spirit. End with a tutored whisky tasting to celebrate the labour of love, and perhaps a cake and coffee at the cafe. And be sure to book prior to turning up to make sure you are not disappointed as all tours are limited to a maximum of eight people, to ensure comfort and safety.
The Old Manse
This wonderful building is ideal for a smaller party of eight and is in Glendale - an idyllic hamlet in the far north-west of Skye. It has been newly renovated to a very high standard, providing you with beautiful quality holiday accommodation including stylish furniture throughout the house. The rooms are spacious and bright, with a particularly large kitchen/dining room that stretches the full length of the house, making for perfect social mealtimes.
Isle of Raasay Distillery
The only way to reach the Isle of Raasay, a remote Hebridean island with just 160 residents, is aboard a Calmac ferry from the Isle of Skye, sailing 25 minutes of scenic blue waters off the coast. Once there, you must take a visit to the first legal distillery on the Isle of Raasay, which has a vision to “create the finest Hebridean single malt Scotch whisky and a unique whisky destination with arguably the best view from any distillery in Scotland.” Indeed, the views are spectacular, and in 2020, we even get to taste the whisky!
Take the distillery tour that is not only informative about the distillery but also about the history of the island itself. Enjoy learning about what it takes to start a distillery – from regenerating an iconic island building to harvesting the first Raasay barley for a generation. And whilst you stroll past the imposing copper stills, make sure you take in the incredible view across to Syke.
Taobh an Uillt
Located at the north-west of Skye, this house makes the most of the surrounding dramatic landscape. The full-length windows allow for breathtaking views of the glen, and built with a family in mind, the open-plan downstairs accommodation has become the heart of this stunning holiday home. Sleeping nine in four bedrooms, this is perfect for a group or family whatever the time of year and whatever the weather. This house provides the perfect setting to enjoy Skye and all it has to offer.
Sealladh Beinn Edra
For a smaller party, try this delightful property near the magical Fairy Glen. The cottage is ideal for a small family, for one couple or four adults if two don’t mind a low ceiling! This compact little cottage is fantastically well equipped for holidaymakers, from the bright galley kitchen to the cosy sitting room, which is the perfect place to snuggle up in the evenings and watch a film.
Single malt Scotch whisky is inseparably linked to its place of origin, perhaps more so than any other product, with the water, the land and the climate all playing a role in the character of the whisky. The subtle differences and variety of these elements are what makes each whisky different from the next. So, go and see how it’s done – the next time you have a nip, you can truly appreciate the craftsmanship, heritage and passion that goes into every bottle.
Explore our full collection of Isle of Skye cottages and plan your Hebridean trip today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.