Aberdeen to Keith
The area to the north of Royal Deeside and Aberdeen is a great, broad shoulder of land renowned for its malt whisky distilleries, castles and big skies. There are eight malt whisky distilleries and one cooperage in the Grampian Highlands connected by the Malt Whisky Trail, which is approximately 70 miles (113km) long - though once you have visited one or two distillers you have probably gathered all there is to know about the malt whisky distilling process. The best to see are Glenfiddich, 14 miles (23km) from Huntly and 53 miles (85km) from Aberdeen near Dufftown, with Glen Grant to the north and Glenlivet to the southwest.
Grampian Highlands has over seventy castles with the best of them presented on the Castle Trail.
Castle Fraser stands between Alford and Aberdeen on the A944, a most imposing structure of the late sixteenth century. One of the grandest of the 'Castles of Mar', it has two distance aspects, the rear overlooked by the car park seems almost French in style while the front is more in keeping with traditional Scottish fortified houses. Interior furnishings are not bountiful but the Great Hall gathers the most impressive together.
Continue north west to see the Grampian Transport Museum at Alford. This is a diverse display showing basically anything that moved from a 1902 dog cart to an Art Deco Belgian dance organ that takes up most of one wall.
Heading back northeast on the B993, the main A96 is met just south of Inverurie. Inverurie's history is represented at the Carnegie Museum in the Town Hall, which specialises in archaeology and Great North of Scotland Railway memorabilia.
This area is home to one quarter of Britain's stone circles as well as Iron Age forts, Pictish standing stones and stone circles dating from Neolithic times to the Bronze Age.
A new visitor centre, Archaeolink Pre History Park, found at Oyne just off the A96 gives a fascinating insight into the culture and beliefs of these prehistoric periods. The exhibition is housed in a specially designed glass and grass building designed to reflect the close relationship between early man and the environment.
Leith Hall, some 6 miles (l0km) south of Huntly on the A97 or the B9002 from Inverurie, is on the castle trail although it is more of a mansion with the earliest part of the house dating from 1650. This was a turreted tower and subsequent additions through the ages have resulted in a square courtyard surrounded by a diversity of buildings. Bonnie Prince Charlie presented Andrew Hay, the Laird, with a writing case on the eve of the Battle of Culloden and this is displayed along with the only pardon given to a Jacobite following that same battle.
Huntly is an important meeting place of roads and a market centre for the Strathbogie area of Grampian. The Gordon family built Huntly Castle as their stronghold in the seventeenth century although it is pretty much a high ruin now, set in parkland with Huntly Golf Club at its edge. In the castle basement, medieval graffiti covers the walls. Huntly Museum is found in the library on Main Street and gives an overall impression of the area's history.
Carrying on up the A97 the scenery becomes more dramatic.
The town of Keith is noted for its unusual ornamental Catholic Church built in 1830
with a donation from King Charles X of France who sought refuge in Scotland following
his exile. The Auld Brig, built in 1609, is the oldest bridge still standing in Moray
and one of the oldest in Scotland. The Strathisla Distillery in Keith is the most
northerly on the Whisky Trail.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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