Why Boat Building Is The Stag Do Alternative You Need To Try In 2018

A trip to Portsoy in Aberdeenshire offers whisky, sea air and something rather special.

Portsoy in Aberdeenshire.
Portsoy A bit of Aberdeenshire paradise.

Lad culture is changing and nowhere is this more evident than in the approach taken to stag dos.

Where once blokes were happy to spend a few of days drinking, behaving badly and visiting several unsavoury nightspots, today’s modern man is seeking something a little more refined.

Research has already highlighted a decline in the number of stag parties visiting gentlemen’s establishments in 2016, while bookings for outdoor activities and fine dining experiences are up substantially over the same period.

“Stag do stereotypes are wearing thin,” Rob Hill, CEO of The Stag Company explains to loaded. “Men want original, authentic experiences that they’ll cherish and remember for the right reasons.”

With “original, authentic experiences” the order of the day, a trip to the Aberdeenshire town of Portsoy with it’s scenic coastline, sea air and fascinating history may be just the ticket.

Located 50 miles north west of Aberdeen, the town boasts a rich history in the fishing industry andfamously served as a popular route for smugglers looking to bypass the authorities. Things are a lot more tranquil these days, though it it does host the annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

More recently, it served as the primary filming location for the Eddie Izzard-led remake of the Ealing Comedy classic, Whisky Galore!

Eddie Izzard in Whisky Galore!
Eddie Izzard in Whisky Galore!

The town is home to the Portsoy Boatshed, a purpose built workshop offering visitors the chance to try their hand at something uniquely satisfying: boat building.

There’s no secret in the fact that blokes like to build things but this is something a little more special than your standard bit of Swedish flat-pack furniture. For one thing, it’s as authentic an experience as they come, run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers with a passion for wooden boat building and the patience and perseverance to help you do the same.

Boat building won’t come naturally to everyone, but there’s something undeniably fun and satisfying about this kind of craft and the feeling of excitement you’ll get when the boat is finally finished and you are ready to take it to the water.

The team behind the Portsoy Boatshed understand the team building/bonding potential too, with a three-day package on offer that invites groups to split into teams, build their boats and then set sail on the nearby Loch Soy. At the end of it all, teams even get to keep their boats, as a lasting reminder of this one of kind excursion.

Boatbuilding in Portsoy.
Boatbuilding in Portsoy. The finished article Image The Portsoy Boathouse


Accommodation is available nearby thanks to the newly created Sail Loft Bunkhouse, which was recently awarded four-star hostel status by VisitScotland. The self-catered facility overlooks Portsoy’s stunning Links Bay Beach and boasts an open-plan communal kitchen, lounge and dining areas along with space for groups of up to 25 who’ll sleep on a selection of luxurious beds and bunks on hand.

Secure cycle storage means you can also take advantage of the various cycle paths on offer along the Banffshire coastline and there’s even a hot tub available for anyone brave enough to really looking to soak up that natural sea air.

The Sail Loft Bunkhouse.
The Sail Loft Bunkhouse. Sleeps 25, is a stone's throw from the beach and has all the self catering facilities you need. Image The Sail Loft Bunkhouse.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to get pampered during your trip to the region, a stay at the Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf Club is ideal.

Perfect for anyone seeking a Scottish fine dining experience, the hotel’s restaurant serves the kinds of steaks and burgers you’ve been looking for your whole life alongside fine wine, great décor and four-star accommodation of the highest order. All the the usual local delicacies are present and correct too – you can even get haggis as part of your Scottish breakfast in the morning.

The Meldrum House dining room.
The Meldrum House dining room. If you're into fine steaks and burgers, you're in the right place.

The golf course is, also on hand  for those that fancy it, while the hotel is situated 25 minutes from Aberdeen, so it’s not far if you really, desperately, fancy that night out on the town. However, for loaded’s money, a trip to the hotel’s historic Cave Bar more than suffices.

Here you’ll find a range of whiskies to suit almost any palate, though something from a sherry cask is a good starter for anyone new to this sort of thing. Go for the single malts over the blended and never, under any circumstances, mix with Coke. A drop of water is fine but an ice cube might get you a few strange looks too. Never mess with a whisky’s temperature.

Meldrum House Cave Bar.
Meldrum House Cave Bar. Image Visit Scotland

These aren’t the sort of whisky’s that suit a rusty nail either – the Scottish combination of Irn Bru and whisky that comes recommended by some but certainly not any whisky purists.

It’s a straightforward enough journey from there back to Portsoy, where you can continue your boat building experience and even sample the region’s famous ice cream, courtesy of the Portsoy Ice Cream. Boasting close to 30 flavours in all, Vanilla might be the Artisan Ice Cream seller’s most popular pick but the Cranachian flavour also comes highly recommended.

A bit of local history is also on offer via the Salmon Bothy, a former working salmon house that now operates as a museum charting the region’s history of fishing and trade route for both legal and illegal wares.

Portsoy in the sun.
Portsoy in the sun. If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle, you've come to the right place.

Those seeking something a little more substantial may even want to head to the nearby Beggars Belief Coffee Cove, a café located right on the harbor and one that was popular with the crew working on Whisky Galore, helped by a fine range of traditional Scottish dishes and sandwiches.

It could be the perfect place to nurse any whisky-induced hangovers. Locals recommend the combination of a can of Irn-Bru and a bowl of tomato soup which, along with the refreshing sea air and peaceful surrounds, should have you right as rain for any boat building endeavors.

Other local delights include the Lochter Activity Centre, which could be the ideal way to round-off any stag weekend with the guys.

Offering a range of highland games activities alongside crazy golf-style challenges, blind driving and even Segway racing, the venue even serves a carvery every Sunday to put the cap on an excellent and memorable few days away.

Segway races
Segway races at the Lochter Activity Centre. Image Lochter Activity Centre

It’s not difficult to see why the team behind Whisky Galore! chose to film in Portsoy – it’s got some beautiful scenery and lovely accommodation close by.

Like the local whisky itself, Portsoy, the boat building experience and the many surrounding delights are something to truly savour and something you aren’t likely to forget in a hurry.

Now doesn’t that sound like a refreshing change to waking up in fancy dress after a night out in Bratislava with no memories from the night before or money in your wallet?  We which we would choose…

Whisky Galore is out now on Blu-ray and DVD. For more information on visiting Scotland and locations featured in Whisky Galore! visit www.visitscotland.com/films
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