My Best Boozy Discoveries in Scotland

I’m in Scotland, updating my Scotland guidebook — and I’m realizing that this is a land of booze geeks. Some of my favorite discoveries in Glasgow have been inviting whisky bars, run by people evangelical about Scotland’s favorite drink. (When it rains — as it often does — the showers elicit a cheery “That’s tomorrow’s whisky!” from the locals.)

On my tour around Scotland, I’ve visited a half-dozen whisky distilleries — from the Speyside region (where the iconic Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are produced) to the remote and intimate Talisker Distillery (opened in 1830 on the Isle of Skye).

talisker distillery

The Talisker Distillery. (Photo: Colin Mairs)

Each distillery was situated on a nearly sacred natural spring, and travelers were welcomed by a kilted guide who gave a tour followed by a tasting. I got to assess each and write them up for the next edition of the guidebook.

glenfiddich distillery tour

The Glenfiddich Distillery Tour.

One highlight was the Speyside Cooperage, where I gained an appreciation of the role of oak in the distilling process, and got to watch as the busy coopers made whisky casks.

coopers at speyside

The Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre.

Throughout my Scottish travels, I enjoyed Tennent’s Lager (“Scotland’s favourite pint”), and I’m adding a tour of their brewery to the guidebook. The Tennent’s Brewery Tour is perhaps the most exciting (if not the most politically correct) new experience in the Glasgow chapter. For three decades, Tennent’s decorated their cans with images of pinup girls who were known (fondly by many) as the “Lager Lovelies.”

timeline with photos of models

A “Lager Lovelies” timeline from the Tennent’s Brewery Tour.


Here’s a sneak peek at the new listing for the Tennent’s Brewery Tour in the upcoming second edition of Rick Steves Scotland:

Tennents Brewery Tour: Tennents, founded in 1740, is now the biggest brewery in Scotland, filling an 18-acre site. They give serious hour-long tours showing how they make “Scotland’s favourite pint” and fill 700 kegs per hour and 2,000 cans per minute (you’ll see more action Mon-Fri). It’s hot and sweaty inside, with over 100 steps to climb on your tour. When you’re done (surrounded by the “Lager Lovelies” —   pinup girls whose images decorated Tennents cans from 1965 to 1991), you’ll enjoy three samples followed by a pint of your choice (£10; tours depart daily at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00; to reserve, call 0141/202.7145 or book online at, 161 Duke Street). Bus #41 stops in front on Duke Street and goes to George Square.

This is Day 93 of my “100 Days in Europe” series. As I travel with Rick Steves’ Europe Tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences across Europe. Still to come: Germany, Switzerland, and more. Thanks for joining me here on my blog and via Facebook.