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Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain and is situated near to the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. It is one of the most popular attractions in the Highlands, and more than 100,000 people climb it every year using the various walking trails. It is also popular with mountain climbers and those that love ice climbing during the winter months. People lucky enough to get to the summit get to see the ruins of an old observatory.

However, for those that cannot face climbing this impressive mountain, there is another attraction at the base, which is also very popular with visitors to the region.

Ben Nevis Distillery is the place that Ben Nevis Scotch whisky is distilled. While some people are busy scaling the heights of the mountain, others are busy touring the distillery and maybe even warming themselves with a wee dram of whisky.

History of the Distillery

John McDonald founded the Ben Nevis Distillery in 1825. He believed that there is no secret to creating the perfect Scotch whisky. He said it was simply a matter of using the finest ingredients – water, barley, and yeast, and then using peat smoke and reek to create the desired effect.

It was McDonald’s opinion that water is an essential ingredient and, by establishing his distillery at Lochy Bridge in Fort William, he found a constant source of clean water from two lochans – Coire na’Ciste and Coire Leis.

McDonald believed that the barley used must be of a certain quality – it has to be fully rounded and plump as well as dry, and it should have a certain amount of protein. In terms of the added component of peat, location again plays a crucial role at the Ben Nevis Distillery. For the finest blend of Scotch whisky, the water should pass over peat bogs from the mountain; there is no shortage of peat on the hill behind the distillery.

In 1856, John McDonald passed away, and his son took over the reins. A second distillery opened in 1878, which was called Nevis Distillery. However, the two distilleries merged early in the 20th century because of growing production demands.

The Ben Nevis Distillery passed to new owners in 1955, and it was during this time that it became one of the first distilleries to produce both grain and malt whisky concurrently. The distillery was opened to the public in 1991 with the addition of a café and visitor centre.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky is famous all over the world; it is grain or malt whisky that is naturally made in Scotland. There are specific laws regulating how Scotch must be made. There are five categories of Scotch whisky – single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, and blended scotch.

  • Single Malt – When producing single malt Scotch whisky, only malted barley and water are used, and the whisky is distilled in pot stills at a single distillery.
  • Single Grain – Single grain is also produced at a single distillery but will contain whole grains in addition to water and malted barley.
  • Blended Malt – A blended malt Scotch whisky is a blend of at least two single malt scotch whiskies. These whiskies will come from different distilleries.
  • Blended Grain – When at least two single grain Scotch whiskies are blended, a blended grain Scotch whisky is produced. Again, the whiskies must come from different distilleries.
  • Blended Scotch – Blended Scotch is a combination of at least one single malt with at least one single grain Scotch whisky.

Ben Nevis Distillery Visitor Centre










The Ben Nevis Distillery visitor centre is the perfect place to learn about the history of the distillery and the distilling process involved in creating some of the finest Scotch whisky. The visitor centre is based in an old bottling hall, which dates back to 1862. Tours of the distillery include an audio-visual presentation from Hector McDram, the mythical giant who will speak of the Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis.

Once the presentation has finished, there will be a tour of the production plant and then a tasting session with a trained guide. Those who take the tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery will also be entitled to a £5.00 discount voucher off a 70cl bottle of Ben Nevis Scotch whisky complete with age statement.

There is also the opportunity for an executive tour, which will include several tastings and a more in depth tour of the premises.

Fort William

The nearby town of Fort William is an excellent place for a holiday and a base from which to visit Ben Nevis and the Ben Nevis Distillery. Many people from all over the world visit Fort William every year, and it is an ideal destination for hillwalking, cycling, and exploring.

The scenery in Fort William is spectacular, and there are many opportunities to take day cruises on the lochs or canals in the Highlands. Canal cruises are the perfect chance to sit back and relax while enjoying beautiful mountains, glens, and lochs with a warm drink in hand. There may even be the opportunity to see a magnificent bird of prey or some red deer at the edge of the forests.

Another fantastic attraction in Fort William is the Jacobite Steam Train service. This round trip is an eighty-four mile journey past some of the most amazing sights on earth. The service begins at Fort William and takes in the most westerly railway station in mainland Britain as well as the deepest freshwater loch. One of the most notable sights during the journey is the Glenfinnan viaduct, which famously featured in the Harry Potter movies.

A Relaxing and Enjoyable Holiday

Holidaying in the Scottish Highlands is something that most people will remember forever. If 2015 is the year you plan to visit this beautiful location, a Fort William canal cruise should form part of your holiday plans. Clyde Cruises offers fantastic cruises around Scotland’s water system and tours off the stunning coastline. Contact us today for more information.

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