The Scotch Whisky Experience is located a short distance from Edinburgh Castle esplanade on the Royal Mile in the city centre. The tourist attraction aims to educate and entertain visitors about Scotland’s famed whisky industry.
Review of The Scotch Whisky Experience
If you’re embarking on a visit to Edinburgh then your trip won’t be complete without a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience, located just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade on The Royal Mile.
This attraction is comprised of several tours and whisky tasting sessions along with a very enjoyable journey through the history of one of Scotland’s most famous exports, brought to you by one of their very own resident ghostly tour guides!
Whisky is as Scottish as a tartan-wrapped haggis and the history of the spirit is just as interesting as any tour around the nearby castle, and even if you’re not a fan of the stuff (apparently some people aren’t) I guarantee you’ll enjoy a visit to this attraction.
The highlight of the Scotch Whisky Experience has to be being taken through the history of whisky – from its humble origins in the 15th-century to the massive distilleries of today – by one of the resident experts who’ll be only too glad to impart their expertise during a tasting session.
There are several tours to choose from and they’re all enjoyable with each one offering a slightly different experience lasting from around one hour to three hours, but if you just want an introduction I recommend the silver tour which takes you through the main exhibits and finishes with a tasting session in the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky.
The Scotch Whisky Experience has done a good job of making the attraction accessible for all ages (kids can sample Irn-Bru instead of whisky) but it’s the adult’s who’ll get the most out of a visit especially if they take part in the tasting sessions.
As it’s so close to Edinburgh Castle the attraction gets very busy during the peak tourist season but I think you’ll enjoy it whatever time of year you visit.
The only thing I’d suggest is that you give it a miss if you don’t actually like whisky. When I recently visited half the tourists in my group admitted they hated the taste of whisky when they were offered a sample. Bit of a strange choice of attractions to choose to visit then…
If you’d like to find more places to visit in Edinburgh take a look at my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
Things to do at The Scotch Whisky Experience
Tours range from an informal hour-long introductory session to a three-hour experience that includes Scottish cuisine in the on-site restaurant, but all include an automated ride through the production of Scotch whisky and a viewing of the world’s largest whisky collection.
During the ride you sit inside a barrel-shaped carriage that transports you back in time on a journey through a replica distillery, and as you move through each section stories about whisky are told by the ghosts of the people who used to work there. It’s good fun and will probably be the highlight for children, but adults have a lot more to enjoy on the tour.
At the end of the ride you’re directed out to meet your very-much-alive guide for a tasting session, during which you’re told about the history of whisky production from its very first beginnings to the multi-billion pound industry that it has become today.
But the high point of any of the tours has to be viewing the whisky collection which has the record of being the worlds largest, housing an incredible 3,384 bottles.
The entire collection took over 35 years to build and walking around the collection is truly mesmerizing. You’ll hardly believe so many types of whisky were ever created. At this point you’ll also be able to sample a dram of the golden liquid which is the perfect end to a fascinating voyage of whisky discovery.
In addition to the barrel ride there’s a really good restaurant where you can sample some of Scotland’s finest traditional food (haggis included, of course), a whisky bar where you can sample a range of spirits from all over Scotland, and an extremely well-stocked shop which sells just about every variety of whisky imaginable.
If you love a good dram then a visit to this attraction will be right up your street and even though the tickets are a little on the pricey side I think they’re worth it, especially considering you get a whisky sample and a tasting glass to take home.
The history of The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is housed in one of the many beautiful buildings that line the Royal Mile, each of which has its own fascinating history. This one was formerly the premises of the Castlehill School which opened in 1888 and taught a mixture of boys and girls.
The children were segregated by a number of separate stairways which can still be seen as you walk around the attraction today. The school eventually closed in 1951 and the building had various uses until it became The Scotch Whisky Experience in 1988.
Discover more attractions in the city with my Edinburgh articles.
- The ride in the whisky barrel is excellent. It’s not exactly a hair-whitening ride but it’s good family fun.
- The whisky tasting sessions are very informative and you’ll get a good overview of what makes Scotch whisky such a special spirit.
- The staff are very knowledgeable and they’ll be only too happy to answer any questions you might have. My advice is to get a tasting sample tray in the bar and sample a dram from every region.
- The whisky selection in the shop is fantastic – one of the best in Edinburgh in fact – but you can find cheaper prices from most of the whisky shops on the Royal Mile.
- If you’ve got children they’ll get bored as soon as the barrel ride is over but at least the Camera Obscura is directly opposite.
- To my mind you’ll never find better quality whisky than the selection at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. If you want to try the best whiskies in Scotland I seriously recommend you get a membership. Become a member for exclusive access to the world’s biggest selection of single cask whisky.
Things to do near the Scotch Whisky Experience
- Edinburgh Castle. Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG. 2-minute walk. Scotland’s most-visited tourist attraction. This 11th-century castle and barracks houses the Scottish crown jewels and is the location for the National War Museum. It also features popular attractions like the Mons Meg cannon and the One O’Clock gun.
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND. 1-minute walk. A Victorian tourist attraction that displays a collection of optical illusions across multiple floors including the ‘Camera Obscura’. There is a gift shop on site.
- Gladstone’s Land. 477B Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT. 2-minute walk. Historic restored house dating from the 1600s. A guided tour takes you through the history of Edinburgh and shows visitors how people lived in the days of ‘Auld Reekie’.
- Tartan Weaving Mill and Exhibition. 555 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND. 1-minute walk. A multi-floor shop that specialises in Scottish cashmere and tartan gifts. The lower level features an exhibition about cloth milling with original mill machinery.
- Princes Street Gardens. Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 2EU. 1-minute walk. Extensive landscaped gardens that border Princes Street. The gardens feature a number of attractions including the Ross Fountain, the Ross Bandstand and the Scott Monument. The Scottish National Galleries are located between the east and west gardens.
Address and map
The Scotch Whisky Experience can be found at the upper end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, just a few yards down from the entrance to the castle.
Tickets and opening times
Jan – March: 10am – 5pm
April: 10am – 6pm
May – June: 10am – 8pm
July: 10am – 8.20pm
August: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm
August: Saturday & Sunday 10am – 5:40pm
Sept – Dec: 10am – 5pm
- Telephone: 0131 2200441
- Website: The Scotch Whisky Experience
If you liked this guide check out The Out About Scotland Guide to the Scotch Whisky Regions.
Photos and video
More places to visit in Edinburgh
- The Balmoral Hotel – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Balmoral Hotel is a historic building situated in the heart of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The luxury hotel is located next to Waverley train station and was built in 1902 by the North British Railway Company. Today, it is a popular landmark that attracts visitors to its superb restaurants and bars.
- Real Mary King’s Close – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideThe Real Mary King’s Close is a tourist attraction located in the middle of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. The attraction allows visitors to step beneath the streets of Edinburgh into an underground labyrinth where the stories of the city’s past residents unfold through a series of exhibits and displays.
- St. Giles Cathedral – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideSt. Giles Cathedral has been a focal point for religious activity in Edinburgh for over 900 years, although the present structure that we see today can trace its roots back to the 14th century. Due to its central location on The Royal Mile, St. Giles has become a popular tourist attraction and is an ideal stop-off point between excursions to the palace and the castle.
- The Grassmarket – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideEdinburgh’s Grassmarket is a bustling square in the heart of the city’s Old Town. This historic site is surrounded by classic tenement buildings that line the roads along the iconic West Bow and Victoria Street but it’s best known for the lively pubs and restaurants that offer superb outside seating areas. The Grassmarket is one of the oldest parts of Edinburgh and it was originally used as a marketplace for horses and cattle.
- Leith – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideLeith is a historic district of Edinburgh that centres around the Water of Leith, Leith harbour, and the restaurant-packed Shore. The district has a rich maritime history but it is now a popular tourist destination thanks to its combination of trendy bars, award winning restaurants, superb shopping areas and attractions including the Royal Yacht Britannia.