Glen Grant Distillery stands on the west side of the main road at the north end of Rothes. It offers everything you might expect or want from a distillery that welcomes visitors, plus elements that you most certainly wouldn't expect. Chief among these is the wonderful Glen Grant Garden.
Glen Grant Garden occupies some 22 acres of the glen formed by the Back Burn, which flows down through the distillery towards the River Spey from the hills to the west. Access to the garden, and to the distillery, is via the visitor centre which you reach via a short woodland path from the landscaped and well tended visitor car park. No visit to Glen Grant should be considered complete without a tour of the garden. Even the whisky fanatics on a determined campaign to pack in as many distilleries as possible will find some of the historical aspects of the garden fascinating, and in particular the links with the distillery's driving force through the latter part of the 1800s, Major James Grant.
But what makes the garden particularly noteworthy is that it turns Glen Grant into an attraction that offers something thoroughly worthwhile for the members of the party who are too young for a distillery tour or simply not interested in one. A distillery that provides something for all the family is a rarity indeed.
You reach the garden via a well graded path that takes you from the visitor centre up the north side of the burn. Sensible footwear is recommended. The paths in the garden are well maintained, but some of them in the upper part are steep, and parts on wooden boarding or steps can be a little slippy, especially if rain and falling leaves have combined.
The path beside the burn emerges in a broad green bowl that extends back up the glen: what you might call the first or lower part of the garden. Here you find apple and cherry orchards, while the area is flanked by rhododendron banks that put on a spectacular display for a significant part of the year. Other areas include the lily pond, the bog garden and the pine wood. The interest of younger members of the party is maintained by the placement of a series of model animals and birds throughout the garden, most obviously an owl permanently perched in a tree overlooking the burn. Further into the lower garden a loop of path gives access to the south side of the Back Burn, complete with azaleas, primulas and a meadow.
The most striking feature in the lower the garden is a thatched wooden hut, the Dram Pavilion. This was placed here by Major James Grant when he established the garden in 1886, and was intended to allow his guests the chance to relax and enjoy the product of his distillery. At that time the garden provided employment for eleven gardeners.
The link with Major Grant and his whisky is maintained in the second or upper part of the garden. Narrow paths, in places on wooden walkways, follow a one-way circuit into the steep sided gorge of the Back Burn. Here you pass the Dram Hut which, like the pavilion, is home to a whisky safe in which drinks could be kept for guests. A little further on the path passes a cave set into the south face of the gorge which has, since the Major's day, been used to store a barrel of the distillery's finest whisky (it is securely barred and locked). The path then climbs back up to a viewpoint above the gorge before descending to the Dram Pavilion.
In many ways you can think of there being two separate gardens at Glen Grant, and the contrast between the broad expanse of the lower parts and the sense of adventure of the gorge contributes greatly to the enjoyment of a visit.