History, Heritage and Archeaology

This is VisitScotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology – what better time to delve into the past?  As you travel around the area you’ll discover castles, buildings and ancient sites interwoven into the area’s rich tapestry of history and heritage.  From Pictish remains to historic fishing villages to businesses that continue 200 year old trades and traditions, here are some of the places you can take a step back in time.

Elgin Cathedral

The impressive ruins of Elgin Cathedral are a must-visit.  Known as the Lantern of the North, it is one of the country’s most beautiful medieval cathedrals.  Work began on the cathedral in the 13th century and it had three main stages of building.  (The 13th century west front is said to be one of the finest architectural achievements in the country).  The east end of the building was extended after the fire of 1270 and the cathedral began to fall into disrepair in the 16th century after the Protestant Reformation.  The cathedral also houses a fascinating collection of more than 100 medieval stones (situated in its towers).

Sueno’s Stone

The historic burgh of Forres is home to the tallest medieval sculpture in Scotland – Sueno’s Stone.  This huge Pictish slab (standing 7m tall) has unique carvings and it is protected by glass.  One side of the stone has a Christian cross and the other side depicts a battle, and it is thought that it is relating to events in the mid 800s.

Burghead Well

Like the two sites above, Burghead Well is also in the care of Historic Scotland.  It is a mysterious site – it is not known why it was built, when or by whom.  Burghead was once the setting for a great Pictish fort and it is thought that this chambered well was located in the corner of the fort.  The remains of the fort were destroyed in 1808 when the town of Burghead was built.

Balvenie Castle

Tucked behind Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Balvenie Castle is one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles.  The surviving curtain-wall is said to be a unique example of 13th-century military architecture.  Built in the 13th century for the Earls of Buchan, the castle became a lodging in the 16th century.

Dallas Dhu Distillery

Opened in 1899 and closed in 1983 Dallas Dhu Distillery gives you an insight into how whisky was made in the early 20th century.  Dallas Dhu was built alongside Benromach in response to the increasing need for malt whisky for blending and is described as a ‘well-preserved time capsule of the distiller’s art’.

Duff House

This beautiful Georgian mansion – now a country house gallery with collections from the National Galleries of Scotland – was designed by William Adam for William Duff, Lord Braco.  The two Williams fell out over money, resulting in a 5-year court case.  Work began on Duff House in 1735 and stopped in 1741, and plans hanging in the house today show an east and west wing that were never built.  Lord Braco never inhabited the house and left it to his heirs to complete.

Speyside Cooperage

This working cooperage, still using many traditional methods and skills, is situated just outside Craigellachie.  Speyside Cooperage is the only cooperage in Britain with a visitor centre, offering an indepth look into the ancient art of coopering.  (Did you know that a cask can have a lifespan of up to 60 years, coming to the cooperage for inspection and repair on a number of occasions during this time?).  Take a tour and learn more about the crafting of the casks and watch the skilled coopers at work.

Knockando Woolmill

Established in 1784 Knockando Woolmill is the UK’s oldest surviving district wool mill and has maintained its traditions of textile production through generations of families.   In 2000 Knockando Woolmill Trust was formed to restore the buildings and machinery.  A visit to the woolmill offers a fascinating insight into the traditions of spinning and weaving on its historic looms.

Pluscarden Abbey

Located just outside Elgin, Pluscarden Abbey is the only British monastry still being used for its original purpose, with a community of Benedictine monks.  Visitors can enjoy the stunning architecture of the abbey as well as its peaceful setting and its atmosphere of quiet reflection.  With this atmosphere unchanged from when a community of monks first arrived in Moray in the 13th century it is a piece of living history.  Monks sing Mass and Divine Office every day in the abbey church using Gregorian Chant.


What’s your favourite historical attraction in the Greater Speyside area?  Leave your comments or questions below!

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