Visit Tomintoul and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Tomintoul, Moray. The best-known fact about this village is that, at an altitude of 1,160 ft, it claims to be the highest in the Highlands. Far more important is the fact that it is the only residential centre from which to explore the valley of the Avon. “The Avon”, wrote the late Sir Henry Alexander in his guide to the Cairngorms, “regarded from the point of view of river and mountain scenery, is perhaps the most perfect glen in Scotland. . . . It is rash to discriminate among the beauties of such a glen, but not the least attractive scenes are those in the middle reaches where the elder dips its branches in the singing water, and where the oyster-catcher sweeps and cries above the shingle.”
Tomintoul was founded by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon, in 1779, and was made of local stone — limestone from Craighalkie, freestone from Achriachan and Lynaachork; and it was slated almost completely from Knockfergan Quarry. Most of the houses were built by three generations of the Stuart family of stone masons. The first brick building in the village did not put in an appearance until 1950.
Tomintoul is stretched out on a sandstone ridge on the col between the glen of the Avon and the vale of the Water of Conglass. Its basic form is that of one long single street with a square in the middle, a square that makes the perfect village green, with seats amid a grassy expanse on which visitors can sit and sun themselves.
The history of the enchantingly beautiful country around Tomintoul — in ancient times the Lordship of Strathavon — is remarkable. Down the centuries, two quite different races of men frequented the area: those who lived on the land, and those who passed through it bent on conquest, plunder, or pacification. Landless men and outlaws “put to the horn” found hideouts in the remote glens of the Conglass and the Avon and their tributaries long before the murderer Percy Topliss showed what could be done by a refugee from justice in this area in modem times.
By 1377, the Lordship of Strathavon was completely in the hands of King Robert II of Scotland, who granted it to his son Sir Alexander Stewart, the notorious Wolf of Badenoch. In 1490 a grandson of the Wolf gave up most of it to the Gordons.
With brief interruptions, the Gordon family were to hold it for the next 450 years, until in 1935 the Duke of Richmond and Gordon sold the Glenavon estate of 45,000 acres to Col. Oliver Haig. Two years later the remainder of the lordship, including the village of Tomintoul, became Crown lands.
Tomintoul stands high above the actual river valley, where, until the 18th century, all the human settlement and traffic were concentrated. The middle and lower reaches of the Avon (which is pronounced “A'an”) were divided up into many small farms where black cattle were reared, but, because the home pastures were insufficient to feed the herds, each of the farms was allocated by the Gordon overlords a summer shieling high up in the Braes of Strathavon, sometimes as far as 18 miles from the main property. Every summer there was a great migration to these upland pastures. The institutional life of the area was centred round the parish church of Kirkmichael (which still stands on its lovely haugh by the Avon fronting Knockfergan) and the parish school of Tomachlaggan. These places, several miles lower down the valley than Tomintoul, should be visited to savour the lovely setting of a life that is no more. Many crofts and small farms have been amalgamated in the recent past to form larger and more economic units.
The very possibility of a village at Tommtoul was inconceivable until the making of the great military road from the Lecht pass to Abernethy on the Spey in 1754. The site chosen for the village was at the intersection of this new highway with two older roads — the track down Avonside to Ballindalloch and up Glenavon to Inchrory, and the road over the Conglass to Tomnavoulin and Lower Glen Livet.
Although, with the inexorable process of depopulation, the economic importance of this network of roads has dwindled, it offers the visitor to Tomintoul a wonderful variety of routes from which to view some of the finest landscape in Scotland. Loch Avon, in the very heart of the Cairngorms, is a magnificent mountain tarn surrounded by the high tops (Ben Macdhui, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, and The Saddle). It lies open to the hill walker, and no one who stays at Tomintoul for any length of time will be able to resist the lure of these peaks, which beckon perpetually from every point of vantage around the village.
There is a considerable Catholic population in Tomintoul, drawn from the indigenous North East Catholic survival. To quote the Statistical Account, “Protestants and Roman Catholics wholeheartedly patronize each other's social functions and live as one community unmindful of religious differences”. When a convent was built in the village, “Protestant as well as Roman Catholic farmers co-operated in the carting of stones for the building, during which time the nuns were most graciously given the house of the Protestant banker for their accommodation”.
Nearby towns: Ballater, Dufftown, Grantown-on-Spey
Nearby villages: Chapeltown, Cock Bridge, Tornahaish
Have you decided to visit Tomintoul or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Tomintoul bed and breakfast (a Tomintoul B&B or Tomintoul b and b)
- a Tomintoul guesthouse
- a Tomintoul hotel (or motel)
- a Tomintoul self-catering establishment, or
- other Tomintoul accommodation