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Scottish Delights: Harry Potter Must-See Sights + the Coolest Gin Bars

As I exhibited at BroadwayCon this past weekend in New York, the #1 destination my booth visitors were interested in traveling to next was Scotland – especially the Harry Potter fans! The capital city of Edinburgh should be any fan's first stop to visit Victoria Street, which inspired Rowling, and shop in the real life Diagon Alley, stopping for coffee at Elephant House, where she wrote early manuscripts of Harry Potter.

For true fans, I can arrange a day in the Scottish Highlands for these must-see sights!

Trossachs National Park - Scotland's first national park covers 720 square miles of lochs, glens, and mountains, boasting unparalleled biodiversity. Rivers are clear, and ospreys still soar above ancient deciduous trees, while squirrels are bright flashes of red, not grey. Glencoe - The route through Glencoe is one of Scotland’s most famous driving roads. This majestic, mountainous glen served as the backdrop for Hagrid's Hut in the films. Glenfinnan Viaduct (The Bridge to Hogwarts) - Watch the Jacobite steam train go over the bridge that Harry Potter and his friends crossed on their way to Hogwarts. Loch Shiel (The Hogwarts Lake) – Take a cruise on the stunning loch that was transformed into the battlegrounds for the Triwizard Tournament.  

Scotland's Coolest Gin Bars

After a day of sightseeing, the adults will want to kick back and soak in the local atmosphere with a great regional drink. While everyone knows Scotland is famous for its whiskey, there's also been a delightful and delicious gin resurgence that deserves its own tasting trail tour on your next visit!   

January 2019 Virtuoso Life article below by Gina DeCaprio Vercesi can be found here.

Scotland’s misty lochs and wild, windswept moors can leave visitors with a bit of a chill – and while anyone looking to warm up with a wee dram knows that the Scots do whisky best, the country has blossomed into a place for gin aficionados too. The spirit was all the rage until the late eighteenth century, when bad harvests and acts of Parliament slowed distilling, but the 1999 launch of Hendrick’s in South Ayrshire sparked gin’s comeback. Today, more than 50 distilleries employ juniper (the foundation of every gin) and an array of other Scottish botanicals to create an aromatic base for bartenders elevating the country’s gin game. Many of these spots can be found on the UK-based Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s official Scotland Gin Trail, which added new destinations last summer. Sipping from Edinburgh north or east makes for a spirited introduction to some of Scotland’s most innovative distillers.

Edinburgh Gin Distillery and Heads & Tales

Tucked at the foot of a stone staircase near Edinburgh Castle is a space that’s home to the acclaimed Edinburgh Gin Distillery by day and the convivial Heads & Tales cocktail den at night. Edinburgh Gin, which moved the lion’s share of its production to a larger, nonpublic venue in Leith in 2016, offers daytime tours of its boutique operations, along with a daily gin-making experience. For those who prefer their gin education in the evening, the master classes hosted by Heads & Tales pair history with gin tasting and end with a selection from the bar’s Gin It Yourself menu: Choose your glass and add a gin, a mixer, and a garnish for a personalized spin on the classic G&T. Using house-made shrubs and syrups, bartenders mix a selection of inventive cocktails, such as the No. 2, which blends Caorunn gin from the Scottish Highlands with Calvados, lemon, and Mandarine Napoléon.

56 North, Edinburgh

James Sutherland helped pioneer Scotland’s gin boom when he opened 56 North, one of the country’s first gin-centric bars, in 2008. Today, this stylish spot near the University of Edinburgh carries upwards of 400 gins, including its own Distillery Edition – a collection of small-batch spirits distilled in-house using seasonal botanicals such as heather flowers, meadowsweet, and samphire. The G&T reigns supreme here: Guests choose from an 11-page menu of gins – including Eden Mill Original, which won Gin of the Year in the 2018 Scottish Gin Awards – arranged by flavor profile and matched with a fitting tonic and garnish. The spirit is served in an ice-filled goblet with the mixer on the side, allowing drinkers to sample the gin on its own before topping it off to personal taste. Though 56 North isn’t an official stop on the WSTA’s Gin Trail, The Scottish Gin Society recently named its gins ones to watch.

NB Distillery, North Berwick

Last spring, husband-and-wife team Vivienne and Stephen Muir – the duo behind the celebrated NB London Dry Gin – opened their chic new distillery at Halfland Barns, just outside North Berwick, a 45-minute drive east of Edinburgh. More cocktail party than standard guided visit, NB’s Connoisseur Tour begins with a stroll through the distillery to see where head distiller Steve Ross makes, fills, and labels every bottle himself, before moving upstairs to the contemporary barn’s airy living room for a tasting. Sofas and armchairs create a relaxed ambience made even more welcoming by a fire burning in the woodstove, while conversation and canapés complete the festive field trip.

Darnley’s Gin Distillery, Kingsbarns

Glass apothecary jars filled with elderflowers, sea buckthorn, lemon balm, and other botanicals sit on a wooden table at this cottage distillery overlooking the North Sea in Kingsbarns, six miles outside St Andrews. Starting with a scoop of juniper berries, guests assemble a personalized recipe of botanicals in one of six copper mini-stills. While the stills bubble away, the novice distillers spend 45 minutes touring the distillery and sampling the full range of Darnley’s Gin, including the new Very Berry, the first release from its limited-edition Cottage Series, distilled with local wild sloeberries, elderberries, and rose hips. Afterward, guests bottle and label their bespoke spirits for safe transport home.

The Bothy Experience, Kirkwynd

Self-proclaimed “accidental gin maker” Kim Cameron found her way to craft distilling through jam, setting up shop in an old stone cottage, or bothy, on a farm in Kirriemuir, a two-hour drive north of Edinburgh. When she began infusing gin with her surplus berries, the resulting spirits sold faster than her preserves, and Gin Bothy was born. Her new outpost in Kirkwynd, a short drive south from Gin Bothy’s production facilities, opened last October in a fairy-tale hamlet on the back side of Glamis Castle – the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The Bothy Experience combines Cameron’s passion for bothy songs and stories with her lauded fruit-infused gins and gin liqueurs. “Before television, we used alcohol and music to make life better,” Cameron says. “This is tradition meets contemporary.” Local raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb flavor Cameron’s artisanal fruit spirits, while her award-winning mulled Gunshot gin is infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves..

Contact me for a spirited exploration of Scotland!


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