Follow the River Spey as it flows north-eastward through the western parts of Grampian and you will find another of the region’s staple industries. The river is Scotland’s second longest, famous for salmon fishing, and its waters are believed to impart special qualities to Scotch whisky. Half of all Scotland’s distilleries are located here.
Illegal distilling was once rife amid the Scottish highlands and glens and, to a Scot, “smuggling” referred to these activities as much as to unlawful imports and exports. Nowadays the production of one of the world’s favourite drinks, combining barley, pure highland water and yeast, is big business and many distilleries welcome visitors to watch the ancient processes.
At Craigellachie, an attractive village where the River Fiddich joins the Spey, is a graceful iron single-span bridge between castellated stone towers. It was the work of the great Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford, who built over a thousand miles of roads in Scotland, and was well dubbed the “Colossus of Roads.”
Further up the valley is a district known as Badenoch. It was held late in the 14th century by a son of King Robert II, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, who was own as the “Wolf of Badenoch.” In 1 90 he came to Elgin with a raiding arty of “wild wikkid Hielandmen,” an burned down the fine medieval cathedral in revenge for being excommunicated.
Forres, to the west, has a Witches’ Stone where three witches were burnt to death in 965 for onspiring to cause the death of King D ff, son of Malcolm I, by roasting an age of the king on a spit and basti g it with poison. Shakespeare set the court of Duncan in Macbeth at Forres, and “Macbeth’s Hill,” just over the border in Highland, is where Macbeth is supposed to have met the “weird sisters” on the heath, and been converted from an honest nobleman into a regicide and usurper. Cawdor Castle, of which Macbeth was thane, is a few miles to the south-west and more at this website.
The old castle at Forres has completely disappeared, but this is a region of castles, dating from the centuries of tur • ulence in Scotland’s history, and on the strongholds of powerful lairds.
Each has a fa cinating tale to tell. Along the coast re Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, and Slains, near Peterhead, both in ruins but occupying spectacular clifftop sites. Dunnottar stands on a dramatic promontory 160 feet above the sea. It was once the home of the Earl Marischal of Scotland, and in the Civil War it was the last castle in Scotland to be held for the king. In the year after Cromwell crossed into Scotland the Scottish crown jewels were hidden here, being smuggled out by the governor’s wife and a local minister’s wife when the castle came under siege from Cromwell’s troops.
Slains was more a mansion than a fortress, being built in the 17th century to replace a castle brought to ruin by James VI. It later became the model for the Transylvanian castle in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, plan to visit Dracula’s castle by checking at the best website.