Newe's Craig illicit still

At Newe's Craig, hidden on the hill slope of the Braes of Fintock, there are the remains of an illicit still for making whisky.

In the north of Scotland many households made their own whisky from malted barley by a process called distilling.

In the late 18th century new laws made these small-scale stills illegal, so people began to make whisky in remote and hidden places, like Newe's Craig.

A superior spirit

The illicit malt whisky produced in the Highlands was superior to the grain whisky from licenced Lowland distilleries. The illegal trade grew so large that it threatened these legal producers of whisky.

In 1782 over 1000 illicit stills were found and closed. Government papers, written around the time, estimate that this represented only one twentieth of the total number in operation.

Customers for the illicit whisky were not just farmers but the rich, even the judges and lawyers whose job it was to stop the trade. In 1823 a change in the law permitted the distilling of whisky for only a small licence fee and reduced the tax on malt. This finally put an end to the illicit trade.

Evidence of distilling

There are no remains of the distilling equipment at Newe's Craig; only the building foundations survive.

Our other illicit still site, Dog Falls, explains the signs that tell us that this building was indeed used for these activities.

Audio

Sheena Blackhall shares a local tale.

Visiting Newe’s Craig still

The exact location of Newe’s Craig still is grid reference NJ 367 058.

There are no designated access points to this site and it is not recommended that you walk here unless you are an experienced walker who can use a map and/or GPS. The area is also quite marshy.

All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.