16 May 2016

With our first three residents settled in to their on-site accommodation and beginning to find their way around locally it’s time to start broadening horizons and exploring further afield beyond the Glenfiddich Distillery and Dufftown.  Living  in the heart of Speyside we are blessed not only with the scenic surroundings of mountains and of course the river Spey itself but we are only a short drive the sandy beaches of the Moray firth giving way to dramatic cliffs to the east along the Buchan coastline.

The first stop on our itinerary was historic Duff House in Banff, Commisioned in the first half of the  18th Century by Lord William Duff of  Braco. Duff who would later become the earl of Fife, was a member of parliament for Banffshire when he decided to hire the renowned Scottish architect Joseph Adam to design and over see the construction of a country mansion suitable for a man of his standing.  Unfortunately Braco fell out with Adam over rising costs and so although the house itself was completed in just over five years, Braco never actually lived there. It is said that in fact he was so embittered by the whole episode that every time he was driven past the house he would order the curtains in his carriage to be drawn so he did not have to look at it. The house lay empty and unfinished and was not internally completed until Braco’s younger son James ( the 2nd Earl of Fife) picked the project up once again a number of years later. The house then served as the family seat to the Duffs until the early 20th century before its conversion in to first a spa hotel then a sanatorium. Officers of the Polish free army were billeted there for a period in the second world war when for a time it even served as a prisoner of war camp.

In the post war years the house suffered badly from neglect until it became the focus of a major restoration in the 1990’s. Now fully open to visitors and managed jointly by Historic Scotland, The National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, the building has been filled with art and furniture contemporary with the period in which it was inhabited by the Duffs.

Further along the cost from Duff House lies another iconic historic structure, the Tarlair lido.  Opened in 1931 this art deco style lido was a great attraction for locals and holiday makers up until the 1970’s when the growing popularity of cheap overseas holidays  saw a decline in its fortunes and the start of its structural decay. Now the foucs of an ongoing conservation project its crumbling sea wall has been improved and its broken pathways repaired.

Leaving the coast behind we returned to Dufftown via the small hamlet of Rothiemay where we stopped to visit the ancient stone circle. Over four thousand years old the stones are arranged in a way particular to the north east of Scotland know as recumbent, where the largest stone known as the alter stone  lies flanked between two standing stones. Although at Rothiemay a number of the stones have been removed or shattered through erosion the massive alter decorated with so called cup and ring carvings still lies in the same place since it was first placed there by our Neolithic ancestors.