Wed 5 Jul 17
Its charms may have lain hidden in the tranquility of undulating hills and arching woodlands these past 800 or so years, but Lindores Abbey in Fife is set to restore its position as whisky's most significant landmark this year, and with it offer a unique new experience for visitors to Scotland.
Lindores Abbey Distillery and visitor centre will open its doors in August, heralding the revival of the site of the earliest written reference to Scotch whisky production and its vision for future preservation.
The £10 million project will boast an innovative distillery, with three stills from Forsyths of Rothes already in position; a centre celebrating the remarkable heritage of Lindores Abbey's founding Tironensian monks via a stunning cloister exhibition and events space; and tours of the Abbey ruins on the banks of the River Tay which were founded in 1192 by David Earl of Huntingdon on land given to him by his brother King William I. The Abbey played host to generations of Scottish royalty - and even William Wallace.
A significant boost to tourism employment in the Newburgh area, Lindores Abbey Distillery will employ 10 full time staff, as well as seasonal appointments. Team members already on site include a Distillery Manager, a Stillman and an Apothecary. It is estimated that the landmark will welcome upwards of 30,000 visitors per year through its visitor centre doors, as well as hosting an array of private events, and it is already taking bookings for whisky and champagne afternoon teas in its Legacy Room overlooking the Abbey ruins and to the river Tay beyond.
While it is perfectly off the beaten track for road trippers and adventure seeking tourists, the Abbey is only 15 minutes from Perth, 30 minutes from St Andrews, and just over one hour from Edinburgh or Glasgow by road. It is also served by Dundee airport, 30 minutes away, and hopes to benefit from any future development of a water taxis proposal for the River Tay between Perth and Dundee.
Whisky connoisseurs from around the world will be able to make their own pilgrimage to the spiritual home of Scotch whisky, and those in search of a unique Scottish travel experience will be able to mirror ancestors who visited Lindores Abbey when Fife was known as Scotland's Pilgrim Kingdom in medieval times, by perhaps touring the area via the proposed long distance walking route the Fife Pilgrim Way.
In its day, the Abbey traded both locally and with the wider world, as far afield as Flanders, when salmon from the Tay, wool and fruit were exchanged for money, tapestries and silks. The Abbey's Tironensian monks worked as masons, distillers, brewers, carpenters, blacksmiths, sculptors, painters, gardeners, beekeepers, farmers and husbandmen.
Founders Drew and Helen Mckenzie Smith want to see Lindores Abbey flourish again as a site for research, learning, brewing, distilling, horticulture, and even beekeeping, reinstating distilling and heritage orchards and gardens. Memberships of the Lindores Abbey Preservation Society, available via the distillery website, will donate towards that vision and the caretaking of the landscape and ruins of the Abbey itself.
The first 1494 members will also be entered into an unprecedented cask ballot to win one of the first ever Lindores Abbey Single Malt casks to be filled in its opening year.
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: "We know that people love coming to Scotland for its unique natural landscape and tranquility, as well as to experience unique adventures and produce. The revival of Lindores Abbey as a significant historical landmark, and the accompanying distillery, are a credit to its founders' vision as custodians of the 'spiritual home' of Scotch whisky. I was thrilled to hear Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith's vision for the future of Lindores Abbey when I met them recently, and I wish them and their new team of tourism ambassadors every success."
Ann Camus, Fife Tourism Partnership Manager, added: "Lindores Abbey Distillery adds another jewel to Fife's crown, providing a rich history and heritage that is truly unique to the Kingdom. Fife really does have something for everyone and we are delighted to add another statement attraction to our portfolio. Fife offers perfect places to stay, exciting things to do and we can now offer visitors one more amazing place to visit.
"We are looking forward to seeing the distillery flourish as its doors are finally open to the public and they can discover its many charms. Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith's passion for preservation means that visitors to the area can finally experience this fantastic landmark for themselves and get a first-hand feel for 'the spiritual home of whisky.'"
Drew McKenzie Smith, Founder of Lindores Abbey Distillery, said: "Our vision to preserve Lindores Abbey has become a reality, and we are excited to share its unique stories, sights and, of course, its spirit with the world once our distillery opens in August. From the serene tranquility of the Abbey ruins, with their hidden tales of royal rule and dastardly warriors, to the revived traditions of the founding monks in their distilling, horticulture and innovation which we will see flourish here once again for new generations of travellers, Lindores Abbey Distillery will be a must-see for any visitor to Scotland looking to experience the spirit of this wonderful country."