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3 Tours and Experiences to Try on Your Next Trip to Scotland

Adventure Awaits in the Scottish Highlands

Sue M

Hilton Grand Vacations at Craigendarroch Suites is situated in the quiet little town of Ballater, with many tour options available throughout the Scottish Highlands. 

We were fortunate to find two affordable tour companies that provide customized tours. They pick you up and drop you back off at the resort, so you don’t need to learn how to drive on the left side of the road while sitting in the right side of the car.

Whisky Distillery Tours

Speyside Whisky Experience, is run by Derek Hancock, a recently retired whisky distillery executive. His knowledge of the whisky industry and all thing’s whisky made the tours interesting and informative. 

We customized a two-day tour with Derek behind the wheel, with one day focused on visiting distilleries, and the second day taking in the landmarks in the area. 

Derek and his wife, who lived a couple of hours away, decided to make a staycation out of the experience themselves, and his wife even joined us on the second day of the tour.

On day one, we visited a few distilleries, with generous pours. The distilleries were about 45-minutes away, giving us a chance to take in the numerous fields of sheep while Derek navigated the winding Scottish countryside. . 

Our first stop was at one of the larger distilleries in the area, Glenfiddich Distillery.

Derek had already taken care of making tour reservations, and so without any wait, we went on a walking tour of the distillery led by a jovial man in a kilt.

The property was huge, and the stately buildings beautiful. There was even a gift shop and place to grab a quick, delicious bite of local specialties like Cullen Skink (haddock) soup and cheddar and rocket (aka arugula) tea sandwiches. 

The pours at the end of the tour were generous, and the experience was an excellent way to give us the background we needed for the rest of the day.

   

We visited a couple of smaller distilleries and ended the day on a tour of the Speyside Cooperage where expert coopers still make casks used in the whisky-making process.

The same company has a location in Kentucky, where they expertly make casks for bourbon distilleries in Kentucky.

After having several generous pours throughout the day, we were thankful for a driver to take us back.

Balmoral Castle Tour

On the second day of our tour, we visited the Queen of England’s summer residence, Balmoral Castle, located very close to our resort. 

Derek and his wife Helen went on the tour with us. Much like many locals who never visit tourist attractions in their town, it was their first visit. 

There is a mini-museum, a gift shop and a concession stand where you can grab a small bite at the end of the tour.

 

Since the castle is still a working residence, we didn’t get to see much of the inside except one banquet room, which could be entered directly from the grounds. 

You could see how much the Scottish people love the Queen and how beautiful the castle and grounds are kept. This was in stark contrast to other castles we would see later in the day. 

On our way to the next destination, Derek stopped at the royal distillery, known as Royal Lochnagar, where we had a quick tour and whisky tasting. 

The distillery is responsible for making whisky for the royal family, and Prince Charles is known to visit often. 

We then arrived at one of the many other castles in the area, known as Braemar Castle.  The castle was owned by a local family and is now a somewhat touristy museum. 

Look out the windows of the turrets to see the ruins of other surrounding castles built by other landowners trying to protect their properties. 

The rooms were surprisingly small with low ceilings, and the winding stone staircases were dark. 

During our visit, the community was raising money for needed castle repairs.

Our overall experiences over the two-day tour were excellent. 

Derek and his wife were fun to spend the day with, even offering to have us join them for dinner in the nearby town of Ballater. 

We look forward to returning to other Hilton Grand Vacations locations in Scotland and hope that Derek will be able to take us on other tours there as well.

Fishing and Wilderness Guide

A tour by Ian Murray, a local author who has written books on the culture and history of the area, was recommended to us by the concierge at Craigendarroch Suites.

Ian picked us up from the resort in a large Land Rover jeep and proceeded to drive through the Scottish Highlands, opening gates to which he had special access.

   

He offers customized tours that range from fly-fishing to scenic drives and nature walks and hikes for all levels. 

Ian knew the area well, and in a few hours, we saw everything from elk resting on the mountainside, to highland cows grazing in the fields and the ruins of old castles. 

The time spent with Ian was informative and relaxing.

We asked him to drop us off in the nearby town of Ballater, where we could grab a lunch of local favorites before a short walk back to the resort.

Our first trip to Europe was inspired by our membership with Hilton Grand Vacations.

Our stay at Craigendarroch Suites in the Scottish Highlands was a wonderful introduction to travelling in Europe, and one we would highly recommend.

We found the locals welcoming and interesting. The history, the Scotch, and the beautiful countryside offer a lot to explore to people with varying interests. 

We hope to visit again soon.

Sue M

A Hilton Grand Vacations Club Member since 2015, Sue has already proven herself as a well-traveled jetsetter. Her goal is to visit all 50 of the United States, and she’s already counted 44 off her list so far. Although she’s made her home-away-from-home at Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard in Las Vegas, her favorite place to visit is Europe – Germany, Italy and Scotland in specific. “If we weren’t a part of Hilton Grand Vacations Club, we probably never would have thought to visit Scotland!” Whenever she takes off from her hometown of Waipahu, Hawaii, Sue feeds her sense of adventure by trying new foods and exploring off the beaten path. As an HGV Explorer, she looks forward to sharing the treasures she finds along the way, no matter where she lands.

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