About the Area
About the Area
With the granite mountain ranges of Macdui and Cairngorm to the south, the beautiful glens and straths of the Black Isle to the north, and with the sandy coastline of the Moray Firth on our doorstep, Cawdor Estate is undoubtedly situated between landscapes of dramatic contrast.
The countryside around Cawdor is one of grazing meadows and arable fields, wooded foothills and lofty heather clad moorlands, rambling forests and fast-flowing rivers. The ancient woodlands of Assich, Laiken and Darnaway lie nearby; remnants of the once vast Caledonian Forest. Three great rivers cut a swathe through this undulating land: the River Spey, the second longest river in Scotland, but indisputably the fastest; the River Findhorn, renowned for its gorge scenery; the River Nairn, rising in the Monadhliath Mountains and flowing northeast to enter the Moray Firth at Nairn.
It is here, at Nairn, where the contrast between rugged mountain and relaxing seaboard is felt most keenly. With its dry and sunny climate, long sandy beaches, promenade and decorative parks, it is no surprise to discover that Nairn is known as ‘the Brighton of the North’. Further east along the coast can be found the idyllic fishing villages of Findhorn, Portknockie and Cullen, more traditionally Highland in character, and in between, miles and miles of unspoilt coastline dotted with peaceful little beaches. It is easy to see why the National Geographic lists the Moray Firth amongst the top ten coastal destinations in the world.
A short journey inland finds the small towns of Dufftown, Aberlour, Tomintoul and Grantown. With generously wide streets, attractive stone buildings and decorative parks and gardens, all seem to share the same pleasing uniformity. This is because they were ‘planned towns’, built two centuries past by local lairds eager to attract skilled workers to the Highlands. Today these settlements are truly deserving of the label ‘unspoilt’; retaining their essential character and charm, though the cottars, fishcurers and houghmen have given way to pleasant cafes, delicatessens and craft shops.
Travel north and you will discover the Black Isle, which, despite its name, is not an island but a peninsula, with the Cromarty Firth to the north, the Beauly Firth to the south and the Moray Firth to the east. The Black Isle is a region of outstanding beauty and is home to some of the most breath-taking of Scotland’s glens and straths. High on the list of must-see beauty spots are the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, where rare and interesting flora and fauna abound, and Chanonry Point, the ideal place to view the famous Moray Firth dolphins. The small towns and villages of the Black Isle are also very much worth a visit. Fortrose is the largest settlement and is known for its 13th Century Cathedral and its attractive harbor and secluded beach. Beauly is similarly tranquil and its lovingly preserved village square, laid out by Baron Lovat in the 1840s, is a riot of flowers during the summer months.
The larger towns of the region also have much to commend them. To the west of Cawdor lies Inverness, the ‘City in the Highlands’, beautifully situated on the banks of the River Ness and boasting a host of historic buildings. To the east is the ancient market town of Forres, steeped in a thousand years of history and blessed with a hinterland of beautiful pine woodlands and miles of sandy beaches. A few miles further east brings Elgin, the ‘Capital of Moray’, and the administrative hub of the county since the days of the Mormaers of Moray in the 11th Century.
The lowlands of Moray, blessed with a rich and fertile soil, are commonly known as the ‘Larder of Scotland’. Some of the culinary produce of the region, such as Baxters Soup and Walkers Shortbread, is renowned throughout the country. One product is know all around the world. More than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are situated in Moray. Some of the most famous malts are here, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Cardhu amongst them, but also the lesser known such as Ben Rinnes, Glenfarclas and Tamdhu. No visit to Cawdor would be complete without sampling a dram of the ‘liquid gold’.
Black Isle: www.black-isle.info