Slow Travel Scotland: The Ultimate Guide to Dufftown, The Malt Whisky Capital of the World

 

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This guide is for the traveler who wants to slow things down.  It’s about living in the moment and immersing yourself in the culture and community you are staying in.  You will not find any whirlwind itineraries or information on crowded tourist sites here.  There are no tips on crazy nightlife or recommendations for fancy hotels and over-priced restaurants.

Instead, you will find a thoughtful guide with 6 simple characteristics that make a destination like Dufftown slow travel-friendly.  That means exploring stress-free and living like a local.  We will give you suggestions on things like local art and food classes, community events, easy day trips, fresh food markets, and so much more. We have researched, enjoyed, and slow traveled to all the destinations in our guides.

For a more in-depth look at what we look for in a slow travel destination, check out our post here ..

So whether you are new to slow traveling or a slow travel veteran, being fully present and taking it slow is the most rewarding travel experience you will ever have.

We call it traveling like a tortoise and not a hare —”It’s all about the journey and not the finish line” and you can read it all here!

DUFFTOWN

 

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It’s no secret Mike loves a wee dram now and then, so of course, his dream trip had to be right in the heart of whisky country–the Speyside region in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.  Speyside is home to over 50 distilleries, that’s over half of the whisky producers in all of Scotland!   For all you whisky folks– that’s heaven.

There’s no better place to be if you want to be in the land of whisky then in the quaint little village of Dufftown or as it’s also known, “The Malt Whisky Capital of the World.  But if you’re like me and don’t really like the ‘water of life’, don’t worry you’ll still enjoy Dufftown.

Oh, and listen up Grammarly people and everyone else that thinks I can’t spell, the Scots spell whiskey without the “E” so it’s whisky, not whiskeyI just wanted to clear that up.

 

Population

 

Dufftown is on the smaller size as quaint little towns go with just under 2,000 people.  Some people are afraid of a place this size, don’t be, you’ll never be bored in Dufftown.  You will find plenty of ‘quality’ things to do along with all the essential places you’ll need to slow travel like markets, restaurants, etc.

It was actually the perfect size for us.   We visited in July and there were absolutely no crowds or annoying traffic to stress us out, well mostly me…I am a bit more high strung than Mike.

 

Sense of Community

 

I know I say this with every town, or maybe it’s that Mike and I have become more relaxed and friendlier over time– but Dufftown gets ‘valedictorian’ for ‘sense of community’ because of their wonderful Scottish hospitality.  It’s right up there with Kinsale, Ireland– which you can read about in our guide here.

We found some really cool community events that we thoroughly enjoyed and everyone was so warm and welcoming.

 

1. Monday Night Stramash

First, what’s a stramash?  I am certainly not an expert in the Scottish Language, but loosely translated a stramash is a commotion or uproar.  In Dufftown, it’s a friendly gathering of music and people held on Monday nights at the local Royal British Legion Lounge.   It’s the Scottish equivalent of an Irish trad session.

Every Monday night at around 7:30, locals and visitors alike, gather at the local hall for an evening of fun, games, and traditional Scottish Music.  Anyone with an instrument can play and like most trad sessions, whoever shows up– shows up.  There’s an emcee/leader and everyone takes turns.

 


(via Youtube )

As an added bonus there is a raffle for prizes during the night–guess who won a cute little tea towel set–yes that would be me!

We had a ball, but then again we love community events.  It gives us a chance to chit chat with the locals, exchange a few stories, maybe meet some fellow Americans, and to be a part of the community.

You definitely don’t want to miss this event!

 

 

Location:  Royal British Legion Hall, 50 Balvenie St, Dufftown

When:  Every Monday night, 7:30 pm (approx)

Website:  Facebook Page

Details:  Bring your musical instruments along or simply join us as a spectator and enjoy the music

Refreshments:  Full bar, no food.

Admission:  FREE

Telephone:  Mary Shiach on 01340 820514, or Andy on 01340 820438.

 

2.  Dufftown Ceilidh Nights

(Image via the internet )

Another great event we went to in Dufftown was the Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) held on Thursday evenings in the summer.   If you’ve never been to a Ceilidh well then you just haven’t lived my friends, because it’s a blast.   We’ve been to 2 in Scotland and both times we were hugging the walls at first, then eventually got dragged out to dance by some friendly local ladies.  Of course, we ended having the best time.

It’s a bit intimidating in the beginning because everyone knows the steps but you.  It’s especially scary when you’re lined up in this big group with not a clue what you’re doing –you’re going right when all the regulars are going left.

But we powered through like the good soldiers that we are.  I don’t think we’re ready for prime time yet but we had fun and that’s all that counts.  We also met some very lovely people and heard some great stories.

 

( via youtube)

Location:  Alternates between the Royal British Legion and Commercial Hall

When:  Every Thursday at 8 pm, during June, July, and August

Website:  What’s On Dufftown Website Info Page

Refreshments:  Bar, and a few light snacks 

Admission:  £3, Children Free with and Adult

 

3.  Seasonal Events

  • Dufftown Highland Games

 

The Dufftown Highland games are one of the biggest community events in town.  They have been around since 1892, and are held on the last Saturday in July.  It’s a one-day event with pipe bands, dancing, caber toss, races, etc.  This year 5,800 people attended which is up from 5,000 in the previous year that’s almost triple the size of the entire town.

Like a Ceilidh, the Highland Games are another must for anyone visiting Scotland.  You will find Highland Games all around Scotland between May and September and it’s a great way to meet new friends, try new foods, and just have a great time.

 

 

Location: Mortlach School field on Hill street

When:  Last Saturday in July, 10 am- 6 pm

Website:  Dufftown Highland Games

Refreshments:  Food and Drinks

Admission: Adult £8.00, Concession: £4.00 (under 16 and over 65), Children under 5 free
(Tickets only available at the gate)

 

  • Dufftown Whisky Festivals

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You can’t be in the Malt Whisky capital of the world and not have a whisky festival so here are the two big festivals:

    1. Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival(Oct)
    2. Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (May)

They have everything from tastings, tours, teas, train rides and more–everything needs to be pre-booked.   You can get all the info here!

 

Local Resources

 

Not only is slow travel good for the mind, but also for the body.   Living like a local means cooking your own meals, doing your own laundry–you know the things you would do if you were home.

It seems crazy, but you learn so much about a community in the town supermarket.  You get to see all their native foods, the difference in names for things, calculating measurements you’re not used to, the language, communicating with the checker…I could go on and on.  We always cook on the road and have a post on slow travel cooking tips and gear guide here.

In addition, to supermarkets — we have other important resources here for you too.

 

1.  Costcutter

Costcutter is more of a convenience store– they sell baked, fresh and packaged goods, plus alcohol sales (including whisky).

Location: 40 Balvenie St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AS, UK

Hours: Mon-Sat: 6:30 am- 8 pm, Sunday 8 am- 2pm

Website: Costcutter

2.  Co-Op

Co-op has more fresh produce and is a bigger store.  In general what we like about Co-ops is they always have a nice selection of prepackaged, healthy, ready-made meals which is great if you’re not in the mood to cook.  Also, as you can see in the pic, it has an ATM if you need cash.

Location:  18 – 20 Fife Street, Dufftown

Hours: 7 am- 10 pm Daily

Website:  Facebook Page 

2.  Pharmacy

Unlike in the U.S., you will only find very basic health and wellness supplies in the supermarkets.  In Europe, these types of supplies are only in pharmacies/chemists.  One example is saline contact solution–for some reason, you can only buy it in the pharmacy.

 

Location: 15 Balvenie St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AB, UK

Website:  Facebook Page

 

3.  Restaurants

 

4.  Local Fun

  • Glenfiddich Distillery

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Glenfiddich is close by and a great place to visit.  The grounds are lovely–there’s lots of green areas to sit and relax, a cafe, a pond, tours, and a shop.   We had lunch there twice and just walked around.

 

  • Distilleries Walk

 

Andrew and Michelle a married couple from Dufftown are the owners of Speyside Tours.   They offer lots of unique tours and packages that you should check out including the 4-mile distillery walk.   You sample lots of different whiskies while walking the trail, Michelle gives you a bit of history on each whisky.

As I said, I don’t drink whisky but the walk is still a great way to get to know the area.   Lucky for me I had an assistant who gladly drank my share of drams.   He’s such a giver.

 

  • Keith and Dufftown Railway

 

The Keith and Dufftown Railway is a scenic 11-mile journey on a heritage line, linking Dufftown to Keith.   It’s a short 40-minute ride that will take you through some beautiful dense pine forests, a loch, a castle, and other historic areas.  You can disembark in Keith a market town, walk around and then go back to Dufftown.  For £11 round trip, I think it’s a pretty good bargain.  

  Location: Dufftown Station, Dufftown, Banffshire. AB55 4BA

Website:  Keith and Dufftown Railway

 

  • Speyside Cooperage

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The cooperage is a fascinating place, not only for their tours on the ancient art of coopering– but for the beautiful grounds it sits on. Coopering is a very specialized craft, with only about 200 left in Scotland today.   The skills and knowledge of making casks have been passed since antiquity.

Definitely take the tour, you will get to walk around a viewing area and watch the guys work.  Like I said it’s fascinating and I could have watched them for hours.  In addition to the tours, they have a coffee shop, gift shop, and lots of barrel-themed places to sit or picnic.

 

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Location:  Dufftown Road, Craigellachie, Banffshire, Aberlour AB38 9RS

Hours:  Monday-Friday 9 am- 5 pm

Admission:  £4.00

Website:  Speyside Cooperage 

 

Drivability

 

Drivability is how quickly and easily you can get to the motorways.  We once stayed in an Airbnb that was 6 miles from the main highway but it was a single track, bumpy, dark and very, very winding road– it added 20 min to our trips.  That can get old fast.

Now we always check the map for distance to main highways before we book a stay.  Our rule is to be on the main road driving at least 40 mph within 15 minutes.

In Dufftown, the A95 is only 14 minutes away–making it a very drivable town. The A95 road is a major road of north-east Scotland connecting the A9 road in the Highlands and the longest road in Scotland, to the A98 road near the coast.

 



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Proximity To Other Areas

As slow travelers, we don’t like to stay anywhere more than 2 hours away from the things we like to do.  We want to take our time when we travel.  We might want to picnic along the way or just stop and walk around–not only that–we also want to be back to our place by dark because of unfamiliar roads.

So what we mean by “Proximity to other areas” is, “How close is the town to your interests?”  For us, it would be castles, museums, shopping, markets, and towns– for you, it would obviously look different.

We have found 2 hours is the perfect amount of travel time to and from a destination–with time in between to enjoy.  Here are a few suggestions for things to do that are less than 2 hours away from Dufftown:

 

1. Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens (Travel Time: 30 minutes)

Ballindalloch is actually the family home of the Macpherson-Grants since the 16th century.  For an entrance fee, you can tour the castle and walk the grounds.  It’s a beautiful estate, with a tea room, walks, picnic area, llamas, and play area.

 

Location: Banffshire, Ballindalloch AB37 9AX, UK

Hours:  April until September, Sunday – Friday, 10 am- 5 pm

Admission: Adult : £12, Senior : £10, Child: £6 , Family : £28

Website:  Ballindalloch Castle

 

2.  Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness via Jacobite Cruise  (Travel Time: 1.5 hours)

 

You definitely want to look for Nessie while you are in Scotland.  The best way to do that is the 3-hour narrated boat cruise from Dochgarroch Lock to Urquhart castle with Lochness by Jacobite.

They have a really nice office at the dock, with a cafe, a gift shop with snacks, and toilets.  Onboard you will find more snacks, drinks including alcohol and toilets!

 

Location: Dochgarroch Lock, Inverness-shire, IV3 8JG

Hours:  Departure Times are 0930, 1030, 1330, 1430

Admission:  Adult £32.00, Child £25.00, Seniors and Students £30.00, Under 5 £0.00

Website:  Lochness by Jacobite

 

 

3.  Macallan Distillery (Travel Time:  15 minutes)

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Whether you opt for a Speyside distillery tour or not, you should at least visit the Macallan Distillery.  It’s the most unexpected building you could ever imagine for a distillery.  It looks more like a modern art museum than the typical old scotch distillery you’re used to. The inside reminds me of a very posh Las Vegas restaurant.

The building was completed in 2018 at a price tag of $186 million!   It sits on a 370-acre estate and is home to the visitor center, gift shop, cafe, 36 copper stills, a tasting room, interactive displays, lounge area and of course the lovely grounds.

Location: The Macallan Estate, Macallan Distillery, Easter Elchies, Aberlour AB38 9RX, UK

Hours: March – October: 09:30 – 18:00/7 days;  November – February: 09.30 – 17.00/7 days

Admission:  Adults £15.00

Website: The Macallan 

 

5.  Speyside Whisky Tours

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Being in the heart of whisky country I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a Speyside area distillery tour.  There are too many to name — look online and you will find plenty.  Be sure to look for a guided tour with a driver– for obvious reasons.

HOT TIP:  Did you know you can safely drive yourself around to the distilleries instead of paying for a chauffeured tour?  All you need to do is ask for a ‘Driver’s Pack’ at each distillery—instead of tasting the Scotch they give you little mini airplane bottles to pour your tasting into and take home.

Boy was Mike a lucky man that day—not only did he get to taste all of his Scotches, he got my share later.  It was like Christmas in July!

 

Accommodations

 

There are lots of places to stay in Dufftown–but you will have better luck booking with them directly since there aren’t that many on  Airbnb.

We rented our lovely house (not pictured) from the same couple who ran Speyside Tours, Michelle and Andrew.  It was reasonably priced, immaculate, and has everything you need– you can contact them on their website for more info.

Here’s a list of places to stay in Dufftown:

 

 

Phew!  I’m exhausted, are you?  That’s a lot of information!

Dufftown is a great home base for the Speyside region and even the highlands.  Don’t let the size deceive you, it may be a little town—but it packs a big punch and they have everything you need to slow travel.

 



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Mike and Donna have been slowly and blissfully exploring the world since 2017. Slow Travel has changed their lives forever. They will never go back to that fast-paced travel lifestyle again. Not only do they practice slow travel but also slow living. Leave a comment! They would love to hear from you….

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