Arts and Culture
Arts and Culture
Speyside-Moray and Inverness shire enjoys a vibrant and thriving arts and cultural sector. Venues such as the Universal Hall in Findhorn, The Loft near Kinloss and Eden Court in Inverness regularly play host to musicians, artists and performers of international acclaim. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Mumford & Sons, The Levellers, Billy Bragg, Frankie Boyle and Ross Noble are just a few names amongst the eclectic array of recent visitors.
There are many beautiful art galleries. Duff House near Banff is the premier outstation of the ‘National Galleries of Scotland’ and houses a stunning collection of fine paintings and furniture. Moray Arts Centre in Findhorn hosts an international programme of art exhibitions and residencies. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery exhibits both contemporary and historical artwork dedicated to exploring the society and culture of the Scottish Highlands. There are also some excellent smaller galleries, such as the Nicholson Gallery in Forres, The Gallery at Logie Steading and the Iolaire in Nairn; all showcasing the work of the Highland’s best known local artists.
Festivals are a major attraction too. Nairn Book and Arts Festival is a keynote event in the UK’s literary calendar and is well known for attracting some of Scotland’s finest writers. The Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, Scotland’s newest arts festival, is a spectacular five day extravaganza, gathering together of artists of local, national and international renown. The springtime Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – billed as “a fantastic celebration of whisky, food, music, culture and history” – is so good it takes place twice!: returning later in the year as the Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival.
Not forgetting the original Highland festival: the Highland Games. Every town has its very own Games; all uniquely different, but expect to enjoy hammer throwing, tossing the caber, the shot, tug-o-war, highland dancing, solo piping, drum and pipe bands aplenty. If you are visiting Cawdor in late August make a special note of the annual Nairn Royal Brackla Highland Games, dating back to 1867 and renowned for its entertaining mix of traditional pageantry and fiercely competitive track and heavy events.
Country fairs and agricultural shows affords visitors a wonderful opportunity to experience authentic Highland society and culture as it is lived by today’s generation of Highlanders. The choice is varied and just two examples must suffice. The famous Black Isle Show, held every August at the Mannsfield Showground, Muir of Ord, is popular with locals and visitors alike and offers a plethora of equestrian events, livestock attractions, crafts stalls and plenty of opportunities to sample local cuisines. Slightly closer to Cawdor, the nearby Moy Estate plays host every summer to the Moy Highland Field Sports Fair, providing a diversity of entertainments for all the family including competitions in fly casting, gun dog handling and clay pigeon shooting.
Cawdor’s own famous cultural connection needs little introduction: William Shakespeare, playing fast and loose with history in his famed ‘Scottish Play’, granting Cawdor a castle a few hundred years before its time. The real ‘Hard Muir’, where the fictitious Macbeth met the Weird Sisters, is, however, sited nearby at Auldearn and there are still enough forests around Forres to trouble the fevered imagination of the regicide.
But did the Bard of Avon himself ever visit Moray? There is a train of scholarly opinion that says yes, as evidenced by Shakespeare’s use of the colloquial ‘Thane of Cawdor’ at a time when the title was always written as ‘Calder’. If this evidence is far from conclusive, then it is certain that at least one literary great has visited the region. Rabbie Burns stayed at Rose House in Nairn and Gordon Castle near Fochabers during his tour of the Highlands in 1787; his journey giving forth to the immortal line: “Wildly here without control/ Nature reigns and rules the whole.”
Black Isle Show: www.blackisleshow.info
Duff House: www.duffhouse.org.uk
Eden Court: www.eden-court.co.uk
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery: www.highlifehighland.com
The Loft: www.eastgrange.co.uk
Moray Arts Centre: www.morayartcentre.org
Nairn Highland Games: www.nairnhighlandgames.co.uk
Scottish Highland Games Association: www.shga.co.uk
Universal Hall: www.findhorn.org/universal-hall