A Walking tour of Forres and a visit to the Tolbooth

Saturday, August 6th 2022

A total of 35 members took part in the day’s activities, which as well as the walk and the visit to the Tolbooth, also included a 50th anniversary lunch at the Mosset Tavern.

The group assembled at 10.30am at Forres Town Hall on the High Street. The Hall is itself of great interest having been, over the last two centuries, a Masonic Lodge, a library for the Mechanics Institute and a hospital during the First World War. Between the wars the building became Forres Town Hall. The Moray Council closed it in 2017, but since then the building has been taken over by FACT, Forres Area Community Trust, and now has a bright future, and a full programme of activities.

Because of the numbers, the group was divided in two, one section with club member Norman Thomson as guide, and the other with Kath Todd, a Forres guide. Norman led his group through the park, admiring the beautiful floral displays created by the Forres in Bloom volunteers. From the park they crossed to Sueno’s Stone, a magnificent Pictish monument, 23 feet high and four feet wide at its base; the sandstone (possibly from Clashach quarry near Hopeman) is richly carved on both sides, an intricate Celtic cross on one side with a figural panel below, and four panels depicting a battle on the reverse. There is general agreement that the stone dates from the late 9th century. There are many interpretations of its meaning. After admiring the stone, the group crossed the A96 and followed the footpath past the wildlife sculptures, and made a brief visit to Christie’s Tree Nursery.

Kath Todd’s group crossed the High Street to the Co-op on the site of Forres’ oldest inn, the terminus for mail coaches from east and west. Then down Tolbooth Street to the Falconer Museum, now sadly closed. Here Kath told us the story of the Falconer brothers who founded the museum – Alexander Falconer who made his fortune in India and left £1000 for establishing a museum, and Hugh Falconer, doctor and polymath, associate of Darwin and Huxley, who provided many of the original exhibits. We proceeded on down Tolbooth Street to the junction with St Leonard’s road, also known as Bulletloan, and then walked into Grant Park, where Kath recounted the history of the park and its benefactor, Sir Alexander Grant, an apprentice baker in Forres, who went to work for McVitie in Edinburgh, and eventually inherited the firm. He is credited with inventing the digestive biscuit. Kath’s group also visited Sueno’s stone before returning by way of side streets to the Mosset tavern, where both groups re-assembled.

Gordon Brailsford and his team at the Mosset tavern provided an excellent lunch accompanied by delicious non-alcoholic cocktails. The service was as good as the food. Club Chairman, Jo Jones gave a short address, and then we all sang Happy Birthday to Kerstin Keillar, one of the founder members , who was on holiday in Sweden.

In the afternoon, after a visit to St Lawrence Church, which is now sadly threatened with closure, some of the members met at the Tolbooth in the centre of the High Street. The Tolbooth is now cared for by another enthusiastic group of Forres volunteers – the Forres Heritage Trust – who have completely restored the building, and now offer guided tours at the weekends. We were shown the refurbished Courtroom, now used for community meetings and explored the police cells in the basement which present a history of crime and punishment in Forres. At the end of the tour we climbed to the top of the tower, via a newly installed staircase, for a magnificent 360 degree view of Forres and the surrounding area. Back down in the Courtroom, we were served tea and biscuits while watching Norman’s slide show of Forres in all seasons.

Many thanks to Norman Thomson for organising this day, to Kath Todd for her informative and enjoyable tour, to the Mosset Tavern for an excellent lunch, and to the team at the Tolbooth for providing such an interesting conclusion to the day.

For further information, please consult ;

Forres Area Community Trust : forresarea.org

Forres Heritage Trust : forresheritage.co.uk

And Norman Thomson’s A Forres Companion, 2015

Posted in Outdoor Event.