Aviemore’s position on the edge of a 600 acre nature reserve enhanced its importance as the heart of Britain’s winter sports area in the 1960’s when a massive leisure complex was built. The concrete plaza contains shops, restaurants, hotels, a theatre and concert hall as well as many sports facilities, including ice-rinks, a swimming pool and a dry ski-slope. Though the design is modern, the materials used were wood and granite, blending well with Aviemore’s setting at the foot of Craigellachie, traditional gathering place of the Clan Grant.
Fortes is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth as the home of Duncan’s court. Three and a half miles south west is Darnaway Castle where Mary Queen of Scots stayed in 1562.
Keith, an agricultural centre ‘of Strath Isle, was once famous for its Fair. Auld Brig 0’ Keith over the River Isla dates from 1609. Ruined Milton Tower was once the home of the Oliphant family. The Milton Distillery founded in 1785 and now called Strath Isla, is Scotland’s oldest working malt whisky distlllery.
At the Tamdhu Distillery visitors to Knockando can see the whole process of whisky making. The Cheeryble brothers in Charles Dickens’ Nichoals Nickleby are said to be based on the Grant brothers, who lived here. There are some ancient carved stones in the churchyard, and the church has an internal gallery.
The Glen Grant Distillery was established in the town in 1840. It produces a fine malt whisky, and blending whiskies. Traditional methods are used and visitors are welcome. On the opposite side of the Spey Valley is the wooded Viewpoint of Conerock Hill.
Between the River Avon and the Conglass Water, 1160ft up in the Grampian foothills, Tomintoul is the highest village in the Highlands, a centre for tourists, anglers and skiers. It is near the Glenlivet Whisky country, with four inns. Its limestone houses and slate cottages are centred round the village green and main street. The Avon rises amid the high tops of the Cairngorms to the south west, flowing into Loch Avon, through Glen Avon, past 3843ft Ben Avon, and so north east to Tomintoul. One of the river’s many tributaries is the Water of Ailnack, which cuts through a series of spectacular, inaccessible gorges, beneath 2692ft Geal Charn. Alongside the Conglass Water to the south east runs the famous Lecht road, built by the army in 1745.