Welcome to Grantown on Spey
Grantown on Spey is a bustling town, the Georgian origins of which are demonstrated by its confident design and fine architecture. The largest settlement in the region, it is often thought of as the ‘Capital of Strathspey’. It is an important place on Scotland’s whisky trail, with not much short of half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries to be found nearby and, located to the northern end of the Cairngorms National Park, has a perfect setting in one of Scotland’s most beautiful regions. Consequently, Granton on Spey is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, with anglers especially well catered for by the town’s services and the River Spey. Around thirty miles north-west lies Inverness, while fifteen miles south-west is the famous mountain resort of Aviemore. Closer to hand lies Nethy Bridge and Castle Roy, believed to be the oldest surviving castle in Scotland.
Although Grantown on Spey is essentially a Georgian town the history of the area which it now dominates predates its construction by many hundreds of years. Grantown Museum, in Burnfield Avenue, is the best place to begin to uncover the history of the area in which the town now lies. One of the museum’s most interesting early exhibits is Finlarig Stone. This is an early medieval carved standing stone, found in nearby Finlarig Farm, three miles west of the town. Finlarig Stone was a marker, defining this region as being part of the Pictish Kingdom, which flourished here for centuries until Pictland was incorporated into the Kingdom of the Scots in 843 AD.
Later medieval history also left its mark on the landscape in the shape of a number of nearby castles. Perhaps the most interesting are the ancient ruins of Lochindorb Castle, situated on a partly man made island, on a loch a little over six and a half miles north of Grantown on Spey. The property of the Comyn family from around 1230, it was taken by the English during the Wars of Independence and housed Edward I of England for nine days in 1303. English forces also used Lochindorb Castle as a garrison and prison. However, the fort is probably most famous as the seat of the notorious Alexander Stewart, commonly called the Wolf of Badenoch, unruly son of King Robert II and one of the most appalling tyrants Scotland has ever known. When in 1380 the Bishop of Moray took steps to support the lord’s abandoned wife, Alexander left Lochindorb to confront the Bishop in Elgin, where he razed the cathedral to the ground.
Castle Grant, situated immediately north of the town, is more significant in terms of the development of Grantown on Spey. Castle Grant was built in the 16th century as the seat of clan Grant of Strathspey, a family which had been on the ascendant in the area since the 13th century. Although the castle was extensively remodelled in the 18th century, today it stands in a state of disrepair. Nonetheless, it remains an interesting building associated with a number of tales and legends. One such legend involves the Ghost of Lady Barbara. It is said that she died of a broken heart, locked in a hidden closet known as The Blackness, having provoked the wrath of her father for repeatedly appealing to him to allow her to wed a man he deemed to be below her station. Over the intervening centuries countless witnesses have claimed to have seen her grieving ghost. The Grants gave their name to the castle and the town, which grew up to the south of the site.
Building of the castle was the first step in altering the focus of development in the area away from the nearby old town of Cromdale towards Grantown on Spey. The second important step was the construction of a bridge over the Spey for a military road which bypassed Cromdale in 1754. Just 12 years after the bridge’s completion, Sir James Grant instigated the construction of the town, along the side of the military road. The new town was planned as a service centre for the surrounding area, as well as for the relocation of the families who were being driven from the land through changes in agricultural production. Grantown on Spey was one of the first planned towns in Scotland, executed to the latest trends in architecture: a grid street plan lined with stylish buildings. Grantown on Spey’s considerable grace and beauty owes much to this architectural heritage.