How to celebrate Scottish Whisky month in May

Produced in Scotland for centuries, whisky is widely celebrated as the country’s national drink. It’s distinct and varied flavours are heavily influenced by the regions in which it is made, a fact that is celebrated as part of national whisky month in May.

Named uisge beatha in Gaelic, which translates to ‘water of life’, whisky is produced at more than 120 distilleries across Scotland, with each producing unique and stimulating tastes. These distilleries are divided up into 5 main whisky producing regions – Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Highland and Lowland – and a visit to any one of these represents a memorable way of celebrating Scottish whisky month in style. Alternatively, there are numerous whisky-themed events and festivals that can tickle the taste buds.

The Distilleries

The source of water or even the presence of peat in a region has a huge influence on the taste of the whisky produced. Each of the 5 whisky producing regions has numerous distilleries to explore – and to sample a dram – while also taking in the spectacular highlights of Scotland’s countryside.

  1. Speyside

Home to 50 distilleries – the most of any of the 5 regions – Speyside is renowned for its fine malt whiskies. As the driest and warmest part of Scotland, located between the Highlands in the west, the farmlands of Aberdeenshire to the east and the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park to the north. Conditions are perfect for growing barley, while the mountain water helps to produce some of the best-loved malt whiskies in existence. To celebrate Scottish Whisky month, don’t miss the world famous Malt Whisky Trail which includes 7 working distilleries, Britain’s only cooperage – the Speyside Cooperage – and the Dallas Dhu historic distillery.

  1. Islay

A small island in the Inner Hebrides, just off Scotland’s west coast, Islay has 9 distilleries that produce delightful single malt Scotch whisky. It’s also home to one of the country’s oldest distilleries, as Bowmore can trace its roots back to 1779. As the island is covered in peat, it is harvested and used in the distilling process to create whiskies with characteristic peaty, oily and smoky flavours.

  1. Lowland

Expect lighter and floral tones of whisky in the Lowland region that reflect the rolling countryside landscapes of southern Scotland. The most accessible of the whisky regions given its travel routes to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is also home to a number of newer distilleries, with the development of more in the pipeline.

  1. Campbeltown

Campbeltown might be Scotland’s smallest whisky producing region, but such is the quality of the single malts created at its 3 distilleries that it is considered a region in its own right. Aided by the region’s coastal location – the spectacular and remote Kintyre Peninsula in west Argyll – the Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia distilleries all produce distinct flavours that have garnered a worldwide following.

  1. Highlands

Covering a vast expanse of Scotland, the Highlands whisky region houses 47 distilleries, the oldest and most famous of which is Glenturret – home to the Famous Grouse Experience. Anticipate a diverse range of flavours across this region that reflect the rugged coastlines, changing landscapes, mountainous regions and variable weather conditions

May whisky festivals

On top of a visit to a distillery during Scottish whisky month, why not visit one of the many whisky festivals that take place throughout May? World Whisky Day is also on 18 May, and there’ll be an abundance of whisky-themed events taking place at Scotland’s many distilleries, as well as in bars and restaurants.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

Discover the rich history of whisky in Speyside during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, packed full of behind-the-scenes distillery tours, sensory experiences, whisky-themed walks, music events and an array of arts and crafts. Embark on a whisky tour by train or 4x4, enjoy delightful food and whisky pairings, and explore many of the region’s most iconic distilleries.

When? 1-6 May

Stirling Whisky Festival

Welcoming distillers from all over Scotland to the Stirling Highland Hotel, the Stirling Whisky Festival returns for its 8th year in 2019. Whisky masterclasses come with certain tickets, enabling visitors to try drams of special and rare malts. An exclusive tasting evening at the Stirling Distillery on Friday 10 May will see the Scotch Malt Whisky Society showcase 6 of their unique single malts, with a different food plate for each to provide the perfect accompaniment.

When? 10-12 May

Highland Whisky Festival

Taste some incredible malt whisky from across the Highland region, as the Highland Whisky Festival showcases 8 of the best distilleries from along the North Coast 500 route. As well as exclusive tastings and tours, a range of events will also take place at the Balblair, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, Clynelish, The Dalmore, Wolfburn, Tomatin and The Singleton of Glen Ord distilleries.

When? 10-17 May

Edinburgh Whisky Stramash

Hosting numerous whisky experiences in the historic Surgeon’s Hall on Edinburgh’s Nicholson Street, the Edinburgh Whisky Stramash looks to showcase whisky from across Scotland and the rest of the world. Expect quirky tasting sessions and circa 200 whiskies from around the globe!

When? 18-19 May

Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt

Discover the island of Islay’s peaty flavours and take in its unique culture as part of Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt. With a programme packed with Gaelic and traditional music, ceilidhs and events relating to golf, history and natural heritage, among others, the festival is a chance to visit the island’s distilleries while uncovering its distinctive character.

When? 24 May – 1 June

TASTE – February 2019

London – recently opened

 

London’s thriving restaurant scene has shown no signs of slowing in the early part of 2019, as numerous new eateries are now serving up an array of exciting dishes and experiences.

 

Acclaimed Turkish chef Civan Er has brought the taste of his famed Istanbul restaurant Yeni Lokanta to Soho with the opening of Yeni. A menu packed with innovative vegetable dishes, inventive takes on street food and sophisticated fish and meat plates takes inspiration from Istanbul’s location as a meeting point between Europe and Asia.

 

Sushi Daily has built on the success of its global food kiosks by opening its own permanent site on New Oxford Street, as founder Kelly Choi joins forces with sushi expert Silla Bjerrum. Serving an array of fresh, handmade sushi, breakfast dishes and hot options, visitors can expect classic sushi and authentic Japanese dishes, including yakisoba, katsu curry and udon soup, as well as porridge options to start the day.

 

France’s oldest luxury tea emporium Mariage Frères has now opened its doors in a beautiful Georgian five-storey townhouse on Covent Garden’s King Street. Choose from the world’s largest collection of tea, with 1,000 aromatic varieties from 36 tea producing countries, all stored in an apothecary-style wall stretched out over 1,200 square metres. The first floor Salon De Thé is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with Mariage Frères’ Cuisine au Thé concept using tea as a delicate ingredient, flavouring or spice in every dish on the menu.

 

The pair behind Camden Market’s popular vegan bakery, Cupcakes and Shhht, have launched We Are Vegan Everything (WAVE) in the heart of Hackney. Expect vegan ‘freakshakes’, juice shots, superfood lattes and vegan gluten and sugar free cakes, brownies and croissants, as well as a brunch menu featuring vegan fried eggs and vegan salmon and cream cheese.

 

London – opening soon

 

Opening in February, Centre Point’s flagship restaurant VIVI will offer a return to the Swinging Sixties, with a bold seasonal menu and extravagant décor right in the centre of the capital’s theatre district. Divided into four key spaces, including The Dining Room, The Bar, The Gallery and the Liquid Lounge, the restaurant will serve everything from simple breakfasts through to evening dining.

 

X-upper is set to open at 88 Upper Street, Islington in early March, serving a delectable array of gourmet sausages, with carefully curated recipes by a handful of top London chefs. Alongside six core sausages, they’ll also be daily specials for visitors to get their teeth into.

 

Craft pasta restaurant Emilia’s in St Katherine Docks is all set to open a second offering in the heart of Aldgate, offering 7 carefully created pasta dishes and a range of exciting specials. Get ready for delicious twists on original dishes, a small wine list packed with Italian vintages and a unique Italian craft beer selection, set against a vibrant terracotta backdrop.

 

As part of a dramatic transformation, former late-night bar Gigalum in Clapham South is being turned into The Perky Nel, a neighbourhood pub serving delightful British food from local suppliers and producers. The offering, from independent pub group livelihood, will also host live sport screenings and other entertainment when it opens in February.

 

Although not strictly a new opening, Vaughn’s Cookery School in Devizes, Wiltshire, and chef Peter Vaughn, will mark St David’s Day on 1 March with a Chef’s Table Supper Club. Alongside a three-course meal with plenty of Welsh influences, Vaughn will share his experiences while putting unique twists on the food served.

 

Food will also be on the agenda at the Victoria and Albert Museum from mid-May, as a major exhibition will take visitors on a multi-sensory journey through the food cycle. Food: Bigger than the plate will explore the ways that innovative individuals and communities grow, distribute and experience food, with highlights including cheese made from human bacteria and an Urban Mushroom Farm installation.

 

Just opened – Bristol

 

Having tasted success in Cheltenham and Oxford, independent micro-chain Coconut Tree launched in two Bristol locations in late 2018, bringing affordable Sri Lankan street food to Gloucester Road and Clifton. Sample fiery cocktails, tropical tapas and egg hoppers, alongside plenty of other culinary delights.

 

Opening soon – Birmingham

 

Chef Adam Stokes, the Michelin-starred owner of Adam’s restaurant in Birmingham, will open his second venture in the city in February, specialising in fish and seafood. Crab toast, teriyaki salmon and fish and chips will be on the menu at The Oyster Club on Temple Street, alongside a dedicated oyster bar and a range of exciting meat and vegetarian dishes.

 

The huge basement boiler room of the Grand Hotel will soon welcome Tattu, offering contemporary Chinese cuisine that’s carefully presented and packed full of incredible flavours. The third branch from owner pair Adam and Drew Jones will serve up a delightful array of signature dishes and new additions to the menu, including chilli and sesame roasted scallops served with Chinese sausage.

48 hours in… Glasgow

Scotland's largest city, Glasgow is renowned for its vibrant arts, music and culture scene, rich architectural heritage and a wealth of friendly locals .

The city has the greatest concentration of creative industries in Britain outside London. Its architectural assets include the Victorian splendour of Glasgow City Chambers, the neo-classical surroundings of the Gallery of Modern Art, and the ultra-modern spikes of Zaha Hadid's Riverside Transport Museum. And with more than 1,500 shops, this fashionable city is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre.

UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow stages an average of 130 music events in the city every week. It's also considered a place to discover new talent: bands hailing from, or starting their careers here include famous names like Franz Ferdinand, the Fratellis, Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol, Travis, Texas and Paolo Nutini.

TIME TO CHECK IN:

The four-star Grand Central Hotel has been open since 1879; this Queen Anne style landmark has 230 rooms and suites, and former guests include politicians and Hollywood stars.

Situated on the Banks of the River Clyde next to The SSE Hydro, the Radisson Red Hotel opened its doors in 2018 and is home to 174 studio rooms. The OUIBar + KTCHEN and rooftop RED Sky Bar, with its craft beers and classy cocktails, mean your food and drink needs are well covered too.

Scotland’s largest bedroomed hotel with 374 rooms, Motel One Glasgow provides a stylish budget option with an interior that takes inspiration from its location next to Glasgow Central Station. The hotel’s signature One Lounge – a breakfast café, bar and living area rolled into one – is themed around the golden age of train travel in Scotland. 

Alternatively, the new Ibis Styles Glasgow Centre West is another that mixes affordability with style across its 137 rooms. The hotel recognises Glasgow’s influence on the global music scene, so keep an eye out for the names of iconic bands and venues that are splashed across the décor.

DAY ONE:

11.00 Take in the Gallery of Modern Art

Discover an incredible collection of contemporary art right in the centre of Glasgow at the Gallery of Modern Art. Thought-provoking displays and temporary exhibitions pack the gallery, and building tours take place at weekends that can introduce the history of the building and the exhibitions within it. 

12:15 Follow in the footsteps of great pioneers

The historic campus of the University of Glasgow is another edifying tourist attraction. Take a self-guided tour of Britain's fourth oldest university, and follow in the footsteps of renowned visionaries such as the pioneer of television John Logie Baird. Not to be missed are the Cloisters - these impressive archways have featured in several films, including OutlanderOutlaw King and Cloud Atlas.

13:30 Enjoy lunch along a cobbled backstreet

A cobbled backstreet close to the university, Ashton Lane is a treasure trove of bohemian bars and restaurants. With its rustic chic interior and a beer garden for al fresco drinking and dining, Belgian-style bar and restaurant Brel is a popular choice. Or try renowned Glasgow bar and eatery the Ubiquitous Chip.

14:30 Experience Glasgow's bohemian side

The neighbourhood that includes the University of Glasgow and Ashton Lane is known as Glasgow's West End. This bohemian quarter of ornate sandstone tenements and cobbled streets is well worth exploring. A fantastic range of vintage and design stores, cafés, bars and specialist delicatessens can be found here. It's also home to the picturesque Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove Park, as well as Charles Rennie Mackintosh's distinctive and stylish Mackintosh House.

15:30 Explore Scottish and world history

Also located within Glasgow's West End is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Built in 1901, this grand red sandstone building displays one of Europe's greatest and most eclectic art collections, and is one of Scotland's most popular free-to-enter visitor attractions. Highlights include Salvador Dali's iconic painting Christ Of St John Of The Cross, plus Scottish history and archaeology, dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, arms and armour, and Dutch Old Masters. Several stunning exhibitions run throughout the year, while visitors can take the Natural History Trail to explore Scotland’s natural world.

19:30 Dine in a cool up-and-coming quarter

Once an industrial area frequented by dockworkers, Finnieston is now a neighbourhood with a cool new vibe. Anchored by The SSE Hydro arena, initially built for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and now a renowned live entertainment venue, the area has witnessed a change in fortune. Known as the city's foodie quarter, a stretch of Argyle Street is now lined with bars and eclectic restaurants, with top picks including industrial eatery The Gannet, tapas-style Indian food at Mother India's Café, or fish and shellfish at Crabshakk

21:30 Sip a cocktail or a dram of whisky

After-dinner options along Argyle Street range from cocktails at Kelvingrove Café to a dram of Scottish whisky and traditional live music at The Ben Nevis.

DAY TWO:

9:30 Visit a champion transport museum

Voted 2013 European Museum of the Year, the spiky Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum is Scotland's museum of transport. Its collection includes a historic Tall Ship, an icon of Glasgow's shipbuilding heritage now moored at Riverside, while inside the vast free-flowing gallery space are trams, trolley buses, vintage cars, bicycles and motorbikes - each object telling a unique story. Discover the story of Glasgow’s telegram messengers throughout 2019 and keep an eye out for numerous one and two-day specialist exhibitions that are held across the year.

11:00 Take a Scottish brunch break

Enjoy a delicious Scottish brunch at Cup, Glasgow's award-winning tea rooms. The tiled Victorian interior of Cup Tea Lounge is truly stunning. There's also Cup Tea Room in Glasgow's West End, and the Cup Tea Garden in stylish Merchant City. Cup's big breakfast includes Scottish cured bacon, sausages and homemade beans. Other choices include Eggs Benedict, Florentine, Royal or Stornoway - the latter two coming with either Scottish smoked salmon or Stornoway Black Pudding. Cup is also a great choice for afternoon tea.

12:00 Shop till you drop in Britain's second largest retail centre

With more than 1,500 shops, Glasgow is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre, providing one of the best shopping experiences outside London. Glasgow's Style Mile is the city's central shopping district, with all the big high street brands. Tucked away behind the city centre is the Merchant City, one of Glasgow's oldest quarters and an area of huge architectural interest. Dating back to the 1750s, it was home to the warehouses of wealthy merchants. Those old warehouses have since become quirky designer boutiques, bars, restaurants and stylish loft apartments.

14:30 Head out of the city to a grand old country house

In easy reach of Glasgow city centre, Pollok House is a grand country property built in 1752. Now part of the National Trust for Scotland, its lavish family rooms are packed full of period furniture and fine art, while downstairs are vast servants' quarters. Afterwards, hire a bike to explore the surrounding Pollok Country Park - look out for the Highland Cattle and Clydesdale Horses.

19:30 Taste a crisp apple ale and hearty Scottish fare

Britain's first experiential craft brewery, Drygate produce a range of ales and IPAs, and is home to 26 rotating taps and a carefully curated bottle selection. Their Glasgow brewhouse is also home to Drygate's Craft Beer Bar & Kitchen serving seasonal Scottish produce, burgers and charcuterie-grazing boards.

22:00 Listen out for the next big thing in the City of Music

Glasgow is designated UNESCO City of Music thanks to its thriving music scene and multitude of live music venues. King Tut's Wah Wah Hut is consistently named Britain's best small live music venue, or there's the legendary Barrowland Ballroom in the east end of Glasgow, plus Saint Luke's, an exciting music and arts venue in a restored former parish church.

HOW TO GET HERE:

Glasgow is in Scotland, five hours by train north of London, one hour from Edinburgh. Glasgow International Airport is just shy of 9-miles from Glasgow city centre with a bus connection taking 15 minutes.