Thousands of people are expected to descend on Speyside in the coming days to celebrate its whisky heritage.
The 20th annual Spirit of Speyside festival kicked off yesterday, with more than 700 events planned for the next five days – including exclusive whisky distillery tours to masterclasses from some of the top names in the industry.
Organisers are confident their milestone year will prove as successful as the last 20.
Festival chairman James Campbell said: “We’ve extended it from five to six days this year to accommodate the sheer number of visitors we get and are now putting on 710 events, a record number that covers whisky, music, food and fun.
“Twenty years ago, this time of year was incredibly quiet for Speyside so the distillers decided to attract more people and used their marketing and pulling power to create a festival which has gradually developed over the years.
“Now it is a year-long vehicle that promotes Speyside and Speyside whisky world-wide.”
Some of this year’s more interesting events include a treasure hunt to find a missing Westie dog hidden somewhere in the region and a walking and canoeing tour of the Laich of Moray.
Mr Campbell is expecting more than 12,000 visitors from the likes of Afghanistan, Argentina and Australia.
He said: “I’m looking forward to welcoming people from all over the world here, which shows that whisky is something that has no border.
“Our secret weapon is the people of Speyside who always supply a fantastic welcome and great hospitality to visitors.
“We have one French woman who has came to the festival for 19 years, while another few folk from Canada have been for the last 18.”
The festival takes place in locations across the region until May 6. To view the programme, visit www.spiritofspeyside.com