The Cabrach Trust
Thursday, 16th March at 7pm in Elgin Town Hall
Heritage and history at the Cabrach: a presentation by Jonathan Christie and Sam Dowdall from the Cabrach Trust
Jonathan Christie (CEO) and Sam Dowdall (Development Manager) gave a most interesting and inspiring presentation on the work of the Cabrach Trust in bringing new life to a forgotten and depopulated area of North East Scotland (on the A941 between Dufftown and Rhynie).
The talk was illustrated with fine photographs of the Cabrach, past and present.
The Cabrach Trust was founded in 2011 by Grant Gordon, a member of the Wm Grant distilling family, who have been connected to the Cabrach since the 1400s.
A hundred years ago over 1000 people lived and worked in the Cabrach; now there are barely 100.
The Trust began by buying Inverharroch farm with surrounding steadings and 170 acres. In 2014, a war memorial was built for the community. The Cabrach sustained very high casualties per capita in the Great War, which hastened the decline of the community. For some years after this development was quite slow, and the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns brought activity to a halt.
However since then Jonathan and Sam have made great progress. Three strands of development have been identified:
- The building of a distillery, operated in an environmentally sustainable way, with a heritage still. In 1823 distilling was legalised and until 1850 there were three distilleries producing whisky in the Cabrach. Two hundred years later plans are well advanced to open a new distillery.
- A heritage centre and a programme of heritage and cultural events. The collection and preservation of written, visual, and oral records.
- The promotion of community wellbeing and protection of the environment.
The Trust has raised £4.5 million to fund these aims. So far the site has been made accessible from the A941 with a new road and a carpark.
3,000 trees and a wild flower meadow have been planted and discovery trails laid out around the farm linking two ponds. Last year events were organised for the local community, including classes in spinning, weaving and basket making. All events were fully booked. 200 people attended a community picnic. The community have also designed their own estate tweed; the processes involved in this were illustrated by an attractive display of art work and woven samples. Johnstons of Elgin helped translate these ideas into patterns. The resulting tweed will be woven in Keith.
In the long term, the Trust wants to revitalise the Cabrach with improved infrastructure, increased population living and working there in restored and renovated homes, a profitable distillery providing employment, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and the preservation of local heritage.