Category Archives: For Visitors

Castle Gift Shop

Visitors are invited to browse the selection of goods on show in our Gift Shop, which is full of items specially chosen by the Laird’s wife to complement their visit to the Castle.

We have scarves, gloves, socks and woollen blankets by world-famous cashmere producer Johnstons of Elgin, luxurious soaps, moisturisers and bath products from Scottish Fine Soaps, sheepskin hats, gloves and rugs, ties, Harris Tweed bags, and a range of pendants, earrings and brooches from the Heathergems collection, as well as a delectable selection of biscuits and shortbread from Walkers of Aberlour, pure heather honey from Struan Apiaries, and an assortment of toys, games and books for children.

Featured alongside the more traditional Highland gifts and our own ‘Ballindalloch Castle’ souvenir range are items from some of our talented local producers: jewellery from Mhairi Walker, lavender Scottie dogs from ‘Blairies of Banffshire’, and a variety of locally-made jams, chutneys and marmalade. In addition, we have a new range of candles and home fragrancing which has been made locally, exclusively for sale at the Castle.

Our selection of books ranges from the natural environment, history and whisky to walking guides and maps – and, of course, we stock the cookbooks I Love Food and I Love Food 2 as well as I Love Banffshire (the latter produced for charity), all by the Laird’s mother, Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell – more about these on our Books page.

The Loos

We were flushed with success to scoop the prize in the ‘Best Loos’ category of the 2015 Hudson’s Heritage Awards. Clare Russell, along with her husband Oliver, accepted the award for the Castle from the broadcaster and historian, Dan Snow, at a presentation held at Goldsmiths Hall in London.

“Visitors to Ballindalloch are invariably impressed by this fairy-tale 16th-century castle, its elegantly furnished and tastefully decorated interior, and its glorious gardens, so it should come as no surprise to them to find that the loos are just as magnificent!”
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 own Ballindalloch Single Malt 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. 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:


Photo credit: Graham Lewis


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



‘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.



Responsible dog owners and their best friends are always welcome, although dogs (other than guide dogs) are not permitted in all areas of the Gardens nor inside the Castle.

There is a dedicated Dog Walking Area set aside in a paddock alongside the Car Park. In addition, visitors are invited to walk their dogs in the woods around the River Walk. These options are marked on the map of the Castle and Gardens that you will be given on arrival. We would ask visitors not to take their dogs into other areas of the grounds.

Due to the nature of the Gardens, the presence of other visitors and the ground-nesting birds and red squirrels that live here, we must ask visitors to keep their dogs under control at all times.

A shaded parking area is available and marked near the Duck Pond.

Photograph, with thanks: CC Sarah Joy


The Castle tearoom is run by Gemma Duncan and her team, who perform miracles in their tiny kitchen, in which they produce an apparently-endless supply of hearty soups, freshly made sandwiches, delicious cakes, scones and tray-bakes.

Our home-made soups are gluten-free, suitable for vegetarians, and we offer a dairy-free option too, all served with a bread roll. To follow, choose from our selection of freshly-made sandwiches: egg or tuna mayo, Aberdeen Angus beef with creamed horseradish, or Moray gammon and mustard, smoked salmon, cheese with onion or pickle, or bacon. If you fancy your sandwich toasted, we can do that as well!

Our cakes are all baked on the premises; you haven’t lived until you’ve had a slice of Hummingbird Cake, made with pineapple, banana, walnuts and cinnamon, and slathered with a delicious cream cheese frosting – or try our very popular Carrot Cake, which never fails to impress or, in the morning, a freshly-baked scone, still warm from the oven . . .

For something different, check out our ‘daily specials’ board; perhaps smoked mackerel pâté with toast would fill that little gap, or red pepper hummus served with pitta bread and olives?

Bon appétit!


Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, the current Laird’s mother, is the author of three splendid books, all inspired by her love for the culture, the countryside and, above all else, the cuisine of Speyside and the Scottish Highlands. Her two recipe books, I Love Food and I Love Food 2, have been widely commended for their accessibility, versatility, imagination and charming humour, and in I Love Banffshire, her wonderful tribute to the people and the place, she captures for posterity the richness and diversity of this historic county.

All three books are available from the Castle Shop, or direct from the Estate Office.

All proceeds from I Love Banffshire are donated to local charities, and to date over £25,000 has been raised.

To learn more about I Love Food, I Love Food 2 and I Love Banffshire, please read on.

I Love Food (£20+P&P)

This book of ravishing recipes features stunning photography along with personal observations, cartoons, poems and family photos. Starters, mains, puddings, teas, ‘naughties’, nibbles and greens are given a classy modern Scottish Highland twist – and you’ll even find a few treats here for the dog in your life!

I Love Food is a different, fun, informative, entertaining and, above all, practical cookbook for busy modern lives. As Clare says, “I do hope that you will enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and that your motto, too, will become ‘taste, ease and speed’.”

“At last a book that has helped me overcome my fear of cooking! The recipes are easy to use and look amazing. I highly recommend this book to everyone, as it caters not only for dinner parties but also has some v quick supper and lunch dishes.” [iona186]

“The recipes are simple and easy to follow with a great injection of humour – the results are amazing; honestly, they are. There is everything in this book including recipes for the dog and ‘midnight feasts’!” [David A. Jamieson]

I Love Food 2 (£25+P&P)

Following the success of I Love Food, Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell received so many requests for second helpings that she has now produced I Love Food 2. Full of fabulous recipes, amazing photographs, poems, sayings and ‘quirky bits’, this further feast of sophisticated culinary know-how is an elegant cook book, equally at home on both the kitchen table and the coffee table.

The book reflects Clare’s love of food, family and her idyllic Speyside surroundings. “I love food,” says Clare, “but I am not prepared to spend hours slaving over a cooker”, and so the recipes in this book are designed to achieve mouth-watering results with the minimum of time and effort.

The fantastic food photographs, all taken inside or around the Castle, reflect the combined skills of brilliant Castle chef Kenny Flesh, and Inverness photographer John Paul.

Apart from food, Clare’s other passion is dogs, and the ‘Woof!’ pages feature recipes concocted especially for man’s best friend. You’ll find also ‘Miaow’ for cats and ‘Tweet’ for garden birds, and a section on the recommended diet for another of Ballindalloch’s furry inhabitants, the Red Squirrel.

“As good as the original I Love Food which was excellent and have recommended it to several other foodie friends.” [Mrs Anne Dawson]

“Bought this for my wife as a Christmas present. Had previously bought her the 1st book and she loved it. Been drooling over some of the recipes so looking forward to sampling some of the dishes in due course. Wife spent Christmas flicking through the pages and seemed highly satisfied with this gift.” [Mr Les Harrow]

I Love Banffshire (£30+P&P)

Imagine a whole county beautifully encapsulated and portrayed within one book. Well, that is what Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire, Clare Russell, has achieved in I Love Banffshire, a spectacular 200-page book ‘by the people and for the people’ of the county.

Following on from her hugely successful recipe books, Clare’s work as Lord Lieutenant inspired her to capture for posterity the richness and diversity of her county – its glorious landscapes, towns, villages, coast, culture, history, personalities and many other aspects – in a memorable collection of stunning photographs and features. Uniquely, the book primarily comprises photographs and submissions by the county’s many photographers and artists, both professional and amateur, complemented by some of Clare’s recipes and anecdotes.

A strictly limited edition of 3,000, each copy numbered and signed by the author, has been produced by Heritage House Group, with a choice of either blue or pink dust jacket covers.


Ballindalloch Highland Estate
AB37 9AX

Tel : 01807 500 205

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Ballindalloch Distillery
Ballindalloch Highland Estate