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Information for Visitors

Do come and explore and enjoy five hundred years of Highland history, acres of formal gardens, woodlands and riverside walks, the children’s Playground, Picnic Area, Tearoom and Gift Shop…and some award-winning loos! The links to the right will take you to all the information about the Castle and Estate that you could wish.

Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens are open to visitors from Easter through to the end of September. My wife and I and all the staff at Ballindalloch Castle look forward to welcoming you here for a happy day out at the heart of Speyside…

If you have any questions or comments, do get in touch with the team via the contact page. And, of course, you can keep up with all the latest news and developments at Ballindalloch on our Facebook page.

Weather

Planning your day? There is plenty to do at Ballindalloch, both inside and out. While the rule of thumb in the Highlands is to prepare for the four seasons to arrive in one day, have a look the Met Office forecast for Ballindalloch to check what the likely theme is going to be…!

Ballindalloch
5°
clear sky
humidity: 93%
wind: 3m/s SSE
H 11 • L 6
13°
Tue
12°
Wed
11°
Thu
8°
Fri
14°
Sat
Weather from OpenWeatherMap

 

The Castle

Ballindalloch Castle has been the home of the Macpherson-Grants since the Sixteenth Century and today is one of the finest surviving examples of a classic Scottish baronial castle. It is also home for me and my young family, and so regularly rings to sounds somewhat less usual in heritage properties!

We hope that many people will be tempted to visit the Castle so do please explore the website which will give you some idea of the history of the place and of the Macpherson-Grant family. If you have visited the Castle, the website will hopefully be a place you can return for more detail on what you have seen.


GalleryClick on the thumbnail to see a full size image

 

Tour the Castle

Over the entrance to Ballindalloch Castle stands the Macpherson-Grant arms, finely cut in freestone, inscribed with Ye Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in. Either side of the inscription is carved Erected 1546 and the codicil Restored 1850. These two eras, more so than any other, have left their mark upon the architectural style of Ballindalloch Castle: a tasteful blending of middle-ages fortification and Victorian gentrification that brings to mind a romantic chateau from the pages of a children’s fairy-tale. The furnishings to be found within, however, are broader in their influences and reflect the wide interests and extensive travels of the Macpherson-Grant family from the 18th Century to the present day.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

The largest and arguably the grandest room in the Castle is the Dining Room. Entered by a wide staircase from the Hallway, flanked by large oak balustrades, this was once the Great Hall; the beating heart of the original 16th Century fortress, whose stone floors once felt the tread of clan chiefs and emissaries of the crown. Positioned centrally, there stands a magnificent fireplace, an original feature, above which hangs the coat of arms of the Macphersons and the Grants. The walls of the Dining Room are decorated entirely in American pine, part of the 1840s restoration commissioned by the 2nd Baronet, Sir John Macpherson-Grant, and carried out by Moray architect Thomas Mackenzie. Most notable amongst the original artworks that adorn the Dining Room are portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte by the famous Georgian royal artist Allan Ramsay, presented to General James Grant in recognition of his military service in the American Wars of Independence.

The Hallway itself, from which entrance to the Castle is gained, boasts a grand staircase and unusual umbrella and fan vaulting, designed by Thomas MacKenzie as part of the 19th Century restoration. A fine collection of military memorabilia is housed here, including a display of Scottish dirks (or daggers), a compendium of 18th Century pistols and a naval dress sword belonging to Guy Macpherson-Grant’s grandfather, who was 2nd Sea Lord and aide-de-camp to Her Majesty the Queen between 1953 and 1955. Visitors to the Hallway can also view a delightful collection of china displayed in a Sheraton corner cupboard dating from the 1820s, a fine Bureau Plat of Louis Quinze period and a set of Scottish chairs made in the Chinese Chippendale style.

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

In the north west wing of the Castle can be found the Drawing Room, constructed along with the south wing in the 1770s at the behest of General James Grant. Much of the furniture here is contemporaneous with the room, pride of place being taken by an oval Sheraton table and beautiful gilt mirror which date from the 1750s. Next door is the Laird’s Smoking Room, where in times past the Laird and his gentlemen guests would retire after dinner for cigars and a wee dram. The nice collection of china displayed here dates from the 1770s.

Lady Macpherson-Grant’s Bedroom is also situated in the north west wing, but the decor here reflects the influences of later centuries. Do not be concerned with knocking before entering, for the room, though once her ladyship’s bedroom, is no longer so! The centrepiece of the bedroom is a grand four-poster bed, manufactured in Scotland from cherry wood in the 1860s.

The Library, which was also panelled and refurbished as part of the Mackenzie restoration, is home to the Macpherson-Grant’s private collection of original 18th and 19th Century European literature: a collection which runs to some 2,500 volumes. This valuable archive was begun by Colonel William Grant who was a keen collector of early 18th Century classic English and French literature. Sharing the Colonel’s antiquarian sensibilities, the 3rd Baronet, Sir John Macpherson-Grant, added many historic Spanish texts to the collection whilst serving as Secretary to the Legation in Lisbon in 1850.

At the fulcrum of the two wings of the Castle stands a tower, constructed in the early 1700s. Here, on the first floor, can be found the Nursery. This rather remote and austere room was, in reality, part of the servant’s quarters, but it is used today to illustrate the experience of growing up at Ballindalloch Castle throughout the ages. The furnishings here include a beautiful inlaid Georgian highchair dating from the 1770s, a cane and mahogany cradle from the 1830s, a collection of antique teddy-bears and a dolls’ house made by Mr. Oliver Russell, the current Laird’s father, for his daughter Lucy in 1975.

The Highland Tower

The Highland Tower

An ascent of the adjoining and steeply spiralling staircase finds the Highland Tower; a caphouse which sits atop the original tower and once served as a watchtower. In later years this lofty room, with its cold stone floor and small arch window, was part of the servants’ quarters. Today it is preserved as such, complete with a simple wooden bed, side table and washing jug; a salient reminder, amidst all the grandeur, that life for the domestic servants of a great house was often ‘a life apart’.

Beneath the stone floors of the original 16th Century Castle there lies a dungeon. Here, where once the enemies of the clan Grant would reside, these past three centuries the wine has been kept. It was once the favourite room of General James Grant, whose ghost is said to walk the corridors of Ballindalloch Castle by night, his spectral journey a vain attempt to rediscover his beloved cellar.

* For more writings on the architecture and furnishing of Ballindalloch Castle please see:

www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/ballindalloch/castle/index.html

Bruce B. Bishop Lost Badenoch and Strathspey (2011)


GalleryClick on the thumbnail to see a full size image

 

The Gardens

The Gardens are the pride and joy of the Laird’s mother, Clare Russell, and the Head Gardener, Giles Sumner. Although not blessed with the most ideal of climates to produce reliably horticultural firework displays, the Gardens have been planned to make the most of the soil and the landscape throughout the year!

The formal grounds of Ballindalloch Castle were principally laid down in the second half of the 19th Century, following the extensive restorations to the Castle made around 1850. To the north and east the grounds are bordered by the River Spey and the rising gradients of Cairn Guish. To the west lies the River Avon (pronounced Aan), its source on the summit of Ben Macdhui, with tributaries from the Cairngorms and Beinn Mheadhoin, and at 38 miles in length, the longest tributary of the River Spey. To the south stands the Bridge of Avon, dating from 1754, once the entrance to the Castle, once too a military road, built following the final subjugation of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. A remarkable structure, it is carved into the rocky gorge and consists of a lofty arch spanning two ornamental turrets. Although long disused, over the keystone can still be seen the Macpherson-Grant coat of arms and the family motto: Touch not the cat bot a glove.

Today the visitor enters the Gardens by passing the 18th Century Doo’cot (or dovecote) and soon discovers that there are, in fact, three distinct gardens waiting to be explored. Beyond the large lawn extending from the front of the Castle lies the Rockery, climbing up from the lower slopes of the valley of the River Avon, and affording fine views of the Castle itself. Adjacent to, and enclosed on three sides by the Castle, sits the Courtyard Garden, classically formal and hauntingly romantic. North of the Castle a laburnum arch and tree-lined avenue leads to the magnificent Walled Garden, redesigned in 1996 to celebrate the Castle’s 450th anniversary, and a profusion of colour and perfume all year round.

From the riot of daffodils in Spring to the Autumn roses, with the herbaceous border through the summer, there is plenty to see around the Castle all through the year. All three gardens offer a cornucopia of flora and fauna. Red Squirrels darting here and there along the tree lined avenue; roe deer grazing along the banks of the River Avon.

A visitor to Ballindalloch Castle during the Edwardian era recorded: “There seems wood and water everywhere [and] there are so many ornamental trees that one forgets for a moment that the castle is in the Highlands.” A century later little has changed; the gardens of Ballindalloch Castle still provide a welcome oasis amidst a wilderness of granite topped mountains and heather bound moorlands.

As a result of careful planning, the Gardens perform for the visitor all through the year. From the lovely rose garden to the majestic tree-lined walks, this surely must be the most memorable part of any visit.


GalleryClick on the thumbnail to see a full size image

 

Highland Estate

Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens sit at the heart of a multi-faceted Highland estate. During the summer season up to 35 people are employed in the various activities.

You will find out more details about the businesses that go to make up the family business at the Estate’s website.

However, there are a number of elements of the Estate that bear mention here. You can explore them by clicking the links to the right of this page.

 

Photo: Creative Commons Licence - Graham Lewis

Visiting Speyside and Moray

Ballindalloch lies within the historic county of Banffshire, mid-way between its sandy beaches and picturesque coastal towns and villages in the north and the spectacular scenery of the Cairngorm Mountains at its southernmost point.

Climb Ben Rinnes, our local hill, and you will be rewarded with a view of the county from the sparkling waves of the Moray Firth to the heather-clad mountains, a patchwork of fields, woodlands and hills, dotted with settlements and cut through by shining salmon rivers.

Chief of these, and best-known, is the River Spey; renowned the world over for its salmon fishing, it is Scotland’s second-longest river but undeniably its fastest. It is joined in the grounds of Ballindalloch Castle by the River Avon, at the end of its 38-mile journey from Loch Avon, high in the mountains. The area’s third great river is the Findhorn, which flows serenely into pretty Findhorn Bay after a tortuous passage through a series of dramatic gorges in its upper reaches.

The Moray coast has been rated as one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. It has everything from sandy beaches and pretty fishing villages to striking cliffs and rock features, and it is also a nature enthusiast’s paradise with its resident bottlenose dolphin colony, and a variety of other wildlife such as seals, ospreys, ducks and otters, and even an occasional Minke whale. The seabird population, in summer, includes puffins, gannets, fulmars, shags, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills. On a completely different note, venture a little further east to the quaint little fishing village of Pennan, one of the locations for the 1983 film ‘Local Hero’, and you will see the red telephone box (now a listed building) which featured in the film!

Further inland, you may care to explore some of the area’s towns and villages, such as Dufftown, Aberlour, Archiestown, Tomintoul and Grantown-on-Spey, where you will notice the old stone houses set on generously wide streets, all arranged upon a regular grid system. These ‘planned villages’ were built by landowners in the 18th and 19th centuries to attract much-needed skilled labour to the Highlands of Scotland. Many of these settlements remain today in broadly their original form, though the industries upon which they were founded are long gone, and tourism has now become very much the basis upon which they survive.

Our local cuisine is rather special too: wild salmon, seafood, venison and game, and possibly the best beef and lamb in the country are all found hereabouts in abundance. The area’s rich seafaring and agricultural traditions not only survive, albeit in more modern form, but are flourishing too, and the quality of our local produce is second to none. Not for nothing have some of our larger food producers attained international acclaim – think Baxters of Speyside, Walkers Shortbread, Lossie Seafoods. Then we have whisky …

More than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are situated in the Speyside area; among them are famous names such as Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Tamdhu, Cardhu and Macallan. Banffshire alone has 29 distilleries, including our new, single estate, Ballindalloch Distillery. Over 40 are listed on the ‘Whisky Trail’ (although not all of them are in Banffshire), including the historic Dallas Dhu, which no longer produces whisky and is now run by Historic Scotland as a museum. Also open to visitors is Speyside Cooperage, the only place in the UK where you can experience the ancient art of coopering.

Those whose interests incline to the historical will find traces of the area’s past are everywhere. The first Pictish settlers left their mark on the landscape with the standing stones, cairns and stone circles that scatter the moorlands. The real Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland in 1040 at Pitgaveny near Elgin, and Balvenie Castle, seven centuries old, lists the names of Edward I of England and Mary Queen of Scots in its visitors’ book. Our own Ballindalloch Castle and the neighbouring fortifications of Brodie Castle and Gordon Castle recall the time when Scotland’s most powerful clans called this their home.

Old clan traditions are revived during the annual Highland Games which take place throughout the area in summer. It is believed that these events were originally held in order for clan chieftains to choose the fittest and strongest athletes for their warriors and bodyguards, but they are now much more social occasions – although competition can be just as fierce! Most towns have their own Highland Games, where you can expect to see hammer throwing, tossing the caber, putting the shot, tug-o-war, highland dancing, solo piping, drum and pipe bands, and stalls selling souvenirs and local produce.

From coastal paths and trails to more strenuous hiking in the mountains, Moray offers some spectacular walking opportunities.  There is plenty of sport to be had too, and private estates like Ballindalloch offer game shoots in season, as well as day permits and ghillie support for keen fisherman. Swap the waders for plus-fours and you’ll find an excellent array of golf courses locally, including our own championship-standard Ballindalloch Golf Course. Also within easy reach we have the Royal Dornoch, ranked as one of world’s top ten golf courses, the Nairn Golf Club, host to Walker Cup and Curtis Cup competitions, and Castle Stuart, three-time host to the Scottish Open.

So whatever your reason for visiting Speyside – whether you’re here to relax and enjoy the beaches and the scenery, explore the castles and follow the ‘Whisky Trail’, walk the mountains, take in a festival, fish the Spey or Avon, play some golf, or travel far and wide – we’re sure you will enjoy your stay.

Haste ye back!

Where to stay

For accommodation options in the area, you can do no better than head to one of these local sites:

www.aboutaberlour.co.uk

www.dufftown.co.uk

www.glenlivet-cairngorms.co.uk

 

Photo credit: Graham Lewis

Walks

Ballindalloch Castle is set within extensive formal gardens, woodlands and riverside meadows. There are a number of designated walks around the grounds which offer walkers of all ages and abilities the chance to explore and enjoy this idyllic corner of Speyside. You will be offered a map on arrival, showing you the routes.

Our three beautifully manicured formal gardens – the Rockery, the Courtyard Garden and the Walled Garden – are ideal places for taking a relaxing stroll amidst an abundance of colours and scents. The tree-lined avenues and numerous gravelled paths skirting the edges of the Castle gardens offer the chance to espy Red Squirrels, Roe Deer and other wildlife native to the Highlands. At harvest time, hay and silage making will be underway in the grass pastures close to the Castle, adding the chance to observe the operations of a working estate.

For those who wish to venture further afield, the Riverside Walk wends its way along the banks of the River Avon, affording the chance to spot salmon and fresh water trout leaping in the summer months.

The Speyside Way, one of Scotland’s famous long-distance footpaths, also runs through the Ballindalloch Estate, following the course of the old Great North of Scotland Railway line, once a vital artery connecting Speyside to the wider world. About a mile west of the Castle can be found Ballindalloch Station, beautifully preserved, and a little further on, Cragganmore Distillery, founded by the 4th Baronet, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, along with the distiller John Smith, in 1869.

You can download .pdf versions of the latest maps of the Castle and Gardens and Castle Grounds below.

Ballindalloch Castle And Gardens: Map: Download
Ballindalloch Castle Grounds: Map: Download

 

Children

‘The Castle offers lots to discover and do for younger visitors. There are quizzes for various age groups to be answered, with a prize for those who manage to complete them.  Outside, there are friendly llamas and donkeys to say hello to. The children’s Play Ground has lots of swings, climbing frames and slides, a host of little tractors and diggers for the wee ones to ride, and a pedal go-cart racing track for the older kids.

And if they have any energy left, the Grass Labyrinth is perfect for dashing around and having adventures.