The Highlander Inn



What is it: The Highlander Inn is in the centre of the village of Craigellachie, Speyside, the heart of Scotland's malt whisky country and on the banks of the picturesque River Spey. As one of Speyside’s well-known and best-loved hotels, The Highlander Inn’s history goes back to the 1880s when the building was a private house. Later it was renovated into a bank, before becoming a bar in the late 1960s. The main building boasts eight en-suite bedrooms, and there's an additional house located a short distance from the main site, as well as The Highlander Inn whisky bar, club room and lounge.

Interesting fact: In 2003, Duncan Elphick, who was then general manager of the nearby Craigellachie Hotel, took over The Highlander Inn with a view of making it a showcase for all the great things in the region. One of his first appointments was Tatsuya Minagawa from Japan, who became the hotel's bar and whisky manager. Tatsuya was and is what you may call a "whisky freak”, with an absolute passion for Scotch for our national drink, having moved to Scotland to learn as much as he could about it. Tatsuya left the hotel in 2011 to become the European brand ambassador for Japan's Suntory Whisky Company, but was lured back when he heard the Highlander may be up for sale. In 2015 he took over the hotel and is now back where he belongs running this iconic institution.

Verdict: There is part of me that wishes the Scotch whisky industry would make more of the Speyside region and modernise it to make it more accessible and current for the whisky tourists. Another part of me, however, worries that venues like this would suffer if bigger hotels and venues came into the area. We need places like the Highlander Inn; it is a true representation of a proper Scottish Highland hotel. They are passionate not just about the whisky but about all that the local area has to offer. What's more, the team here are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Drink: With a collection of what I believe is now over 400 whiskies, you will be sure to find the perfect one for you. The bar team here are some of the most knowledgeable you will find when it comes to whisky.

Food: The offering here is definitely not an afterthought. It is absolutely delicious, with the focus on local produce and the meat selected from a highly respected and award-winning local butcher, Gordon McIntosh of Dufftown, and the fish delivered freshly landed from the Moray Firth and North Sea.

Prices: As well as catering for tourists The Highlander Inn has a loyal local trade, so prices are pretty reasonable to keep them happy and coming back.

Children: Good for the kids here but if I'm honest this is best enjoyed with friends so you can relax and enjoy the whisky.

Alfresco: Small outdoor patio just a stone's throw from the River Spey.

Perfect for: You don’t have to love whisky if you come here but it definitely helps. One of my favourite things to do is visit a few of the many distilleries in the area during the day then finish up at the bar in The Highlander Inn and see where the night takes me.

Avoid if: You are just not into exploring Scotland’s whisky capital and enjoying one of the best collections of our national spirits around.

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