Whether it’s news of a royal engagement, overnight snow turning the green and gold world of autumn into one of winter white, or simply that my car unexpectedly passed its MOT, I do love a good surprise. The lack of preamble or advance knowledge means you are forced to make your judgements quickly. I find greater pleasure in these than in opinions I should have formed with the benefit of reams of data, but have probably lazily gleaned from others whose views I generally endorse, then guiltily adopt as my own.

Surprises come in many forms. For those of you who’ve enjoyed  Esker Gin’s beautiful dry silky silver-birch sap influenced flavours, their limited edition Honey Spiced Gin is a complete departure and oh so welcome and warming at this time of year. Another producer The Gin Bothy, who have a repertoire of Chilli Gin and the wonderful rambunctious Gunshot Gin (which is my current go-to for a late evening dram over ice) has just announced a Rose Infused Liqueur. Now although I haven’t sampled it yet, it seems destined to bring a breath of surprise spring romance into our cocktail cabinets.  Perhaps a surprise bottle sent to Kensington Palace might be in order Kim 😊

A photo from a boat showing the mountains of the isle of Rum just before a surprise sighting of whales
The Isle of Rum just before the surprise sighting of Minke Whales.

One of my favourite types of surprise comes from discovering something unexpected on my own doorstep, and Scotland delivers this time after time. As an enthusiastic observer of all things natural, the arrival of a woodpecker to my bird table or the glimpse of a spring osprey fishing above the River Spey gives me a real thrill. On a trip to Australia I saw osprey perched on every other branch overhanging the Noosa River, and I realised it wasn’t the bird itself I found so fascinating, it was their scarcity, which made each fleeting Scottish view so precious. And so, heading off to Glacier Bay and joining the queue of cruise ships going in with the expectation of seeing whales is fine, but imagine heading out of Arisaig on the little passenger boat to Rhum and encountering a group of Minke whales? It’s happened to me more than once, and I truly believe the pleasure it brought me and the other six people and two dogs on board was greater than any brochure-advertised excursion could deliver.

So why Ginspired Scotland?

Ginspired Scotland is my mission to encourage visitors to surprising parts of Scotland they might never have seen, and to experience people, places and every surprise Scotland has to offer. Scottish Gin has now reached every part of Scotland, and while not all producers have visitor facilities (yet), most have close relationships with local hotels and restaurants, so visitors can sip Harris Gin in the Outer Hebrides,  Rock Rose Gin overlooking Smoo Cave, Loch Ness Gin with the Great Glen laid out before them, or Pickerings Gin as part of an Edinburgh city break. There are distillers in the borders, along the Solway Firth, many of the islands and all the major cities too, plus some amazing independent retailers with facilities for tastings, and knowledgeable staff. All of which combine for great Scottish holidays featuring Scottish Gin and lots of thrilling surprises along the way.

Explore more

Take a look at the Ginspired Scotland’s Gincyclopedia  which is a map of all of Scotland’s Gin Producers. Select the area you’re interested in and zoom in to see places to stay, eat and drink and shop too, as well as local people providing guiding and driving services. All are either stockists or in some way associated with the local ginneries, so they come with personal recommendations from the locals. As we grow, we’ll be adding suggested itineraries to take into account events, seasonal opportunities, and long and short break options. If you’ve any recommendations of your own to share we’d love to see them on the site or through Twitter @ginspiredscot or Facebook @ginspiredscotland If you have a specific request, or would like to learn more about some of the gins we feature, please get in touch and share your ‘ginspiration’! Liz x