Scottish cycling legend and sustainable travel advocate Mark Beaumont has officially opened the new "Highland Home" of Johnnie Walker on the famous North Coast 500 scenic route.

Diageo hailed the new visitor experience at Clynelish Distillery, which is part of a wider tourism push by the drinks giant.

Sited in the Sutherland town of Brora on the famous NC500 route, the transformed distillery adds a “new high-quality attraction” to the Highlands, as Scotland’s tourism sector prepares to reopen.

HeraldScotland: Barbara Smith and.Mark Beaumont at the distillery.Barbara Smith and.Mark Beaumont at the distillery.

Scottish endurance athlete Mr Beaumont officially opened Clynelish as he called for a sustainable approach to rebuilding tourism and celebrated the completion of the whisky attraction’s multi-million-pound redevelopment and the return of domestic travel.

Clynelish Distillery’s visitor experience has been "reimagined into an interactive, multi-sensory experience with secret rooms and hidden keys, each unlocking elements of the whisky’s unique story, as well as revealing stories of the local people, landscape and culture".

HeraldScotland: The view from inside.The view from inside.

The site’s renovation is part of Diageo’s wider £185m investment into tourism in Scotland which will see it transform its Scotch whisky experience and advance its sustainability initiative across its network of visitor centres.

The brand home’s efforts have already been recognised as Clynelish is the latest Diageo distillery, alongside Lagavulin, Blair Athol, Oban, Brora, Glenkinchie and Royal Lochnagar, to receive a Gold Standard Green Tourism award.

Barbara Smith, managing director of Scotland Brand Homes for Diageo, said: “Sustainability from grain-to-glass is at the heart of our ambition for the future. Through our tourism investment in Scotland, we are focused on creating destinations that will be sustainable in the long term, and we’re glad to have Mark here today to champion this.”

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Record-holding cyclist Mr Beaumont, who is known for being the fastest man to cycle around the world, is an ambassador for the NC500 and welcomed the global drinks company’s investment in sustainable tourism and the new offering it brings to the iconic route.

He said: “Scotch whisky is such an important part of Scotland’s tourism eco-system, along with our incredible natural environment and our beautiful highland and island communities.

“It is vital that we rebuild tourism in the right way for the environment and the community. The future has to be about high-quality visitor experiences that are thoughtful about their local environment, and it is great to see that exemplified with the new Highland Home of Johnnie Walker at Clynelish Distillery.”

HeraldScotland: It includes a sensory experience.It includes a sensory experience.

In line with the latest advice from the Scottish Government on tourism and travel, the brand home will be open to all domestic visitors across the UK. Diageo has also begun a staggered reopening plan for its other Scotch whisky visitor experiences, which will see ten of its 12 distillery brand homes gradually reopen to the public in the coming weeks.

Ms Smith said: “The reopening of Clynelish is very much part of a carefully planned, phased return of tourism that is respectful of local communities. The safety of our people, the local community and our visitors is always our first priority. There is still a long way to go before we once again welcome our international guests, but for now we are focused on our neighbours in Brora and the highlands, and staycation visitors from around the country, who we know will love the experience we have created.”

Diageo has also worked with Euan’s Guide, the disabled access charity used by thousands of disabled people to review, share and discover accessible places to visit, as part of the Clynelish redevelopment to make the brand home more accessible for visitors. The improvements include the introduction of dedicated parking bays, improved signage and a new lift installed in the visitor centre.

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HeraldScotland: Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

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Shopper footfall surges

HeraldScotland: Non-essential shops reopened in Scotland on Monday. Picture: Colin MearnsNon-essential shops reopened in Scotland on Monday. Picture: Colin Mearns

CONSUMERS “flocked” to Scotland’s high streets on the first day of reopening of non-essential shops, the Scottish Retail Consortium has declared, with footfall on Monday up by 167 per cent on the same day last week.

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