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Charlestown of Aberlour (Scotland)

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Charlestown of Aberlour is quite a small town which lies on the banks of the Spey with several distilleries and many places of interest. The area surrounding the former railway station has been attractively landscaped and is now the Alice Littler Park.

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      21.08.2006 23:45
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      I love this place, its in-grained in my soul, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!

      Charleston of Aberlour, or Aberlour, as it is mostly known as, is where my heart lies. I’ve been to lots of places, lived in lots of places, but it’s always Aberlour I get homesick for. How strange then, that although I know it like the back of my hand, could wander its streets and lanes blindfolded, I’ve never actually lived there.

      Aberlour is where my Father’s family stay, and it’s where we spent all the summers of our youth, growing up in the highland sunshine, playing in the woods, by the river, generally roaming wild.

      It is a place where I learned how beautiful nature is, and how harsh. It's where I learned how to tell a wild raspberry from a bramble, and where to source the finest specimens of pine cone. It is where I learned to fish for minnows with a jam jar and a crust of break, and where I first saw the almost prehistoric grace of a Heron in flight.

      My siblings and cousins and I spent long days out in the fresh air, roaming the hills and the woods. Our parents had no idea where we were, but knew we would be safe, because we knew the land, and its dangers, and were wise to them.

      All pretty rose-tinted really, but my childhood summers in this place have given me the gift of having a place to retreat to, a place I can go to where I know I will always feel at home. A place of utter peace, and tranquillity.


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      *****Aberlour*****

      Aberlour is a small village situated in the Spey Valley in the Highlands of Scotland. It is on the main A95 road which runs from Aviemore in the south west to Keith and beyond in the north east. It has a pretty main street, with traditional butchers, tea rooms, gift shops and Post Office, and a Village Square, in front of the Parish Church. The Square is where the main buses to and from Elgin stop, and there are always flowers everywhere here – the floral displays in Aberlour are always very colourful and eye-catching.

      The Village of Aberlour is a two minute walk from The River Spey, which is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Scotland. Also running close to Aberlour, is the Speyside Way, a long distance walk which runs the route of the old train line from Buckie to Aviemore. It is an 84 mile walk, and Aberlour is a popular stopping place along the way.

      Aberlour Village is in the valley of mountains, overlooked by primarily Ben Eigan and Ben Rinnes, which is a good climb at 840m/2755ft. Both make excellent day trips, and certainly the pathway up Ben Rinnes is fairly easy going, and the summit can be achieved within a couple of hours if you take it steady. As always, be prepared if you are going to climb one of the Bens, as the weather can change incredibly fast in this part of the world. Wear good walking boots, layer your clothing, and carry navigation equipment (map and compass) and emergency food.

      I can also highly recommend you take a camera, as the views from the summit are to be believed, and you certainly want the proof of your climb to show your friends later!

      Aberlour is incredibly famous for being the home of Walkers Shortbread, the most famous shortbread to come out of Scotland, and the factory is at the north end of the village. 60% of the shortbread that comes out of Scotland is made by Walkers, which is pretty impressive. It also tastes fantastic.

      The factory has a seconds shop, which is well worth a visit, to stock up on the shortbread you will no doubt have become addicted to during your stay! There is also a normal Walkers shop in the village, on the High Street, where you can buy fresh bread and pastries – all made on site and tasting like nothing on earth!

      Aberlour is also famous for being slap bang in the middle of the Whiskey trail, with Aberlour Distillery being the first building you see as you enter the village from the south. Small tours of the distillery can be arranged (maximum 16 people per tour) and the tour, including nosing and tasting lasts about 1 hour 45 minutes.

      A tour will cost you £7.50, and presumably its adults only. You can also hand-fill and purchase your own bottle of the single-cask version of The Aberlour, which I guess is very popular with whisky enthusiasts the world over! However you really don’t have to be a whisky connoisseur to enjoy a trip round The Aberlour Distillery – its really fascinating seeing how everything works, how the whisky is make, and little things like having The Angels Share explained to you. From an artists point of view I just love the copper stills, they are really quite beautiful close up, and they are still made by hand, no machines, which is great!
      Find out more on:
      www.aberlour.com
      or call:
      +44(0)1340 881 249


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      The Lour Burn is the small stream that the village gets it's name from – Aber meaning Mouth of, and Lour being the burn that runs off the slopes of Ben Rinnes into the Spey at Aberlour. Before it gets to the Spey, however, it produces a most amazing waterfall which is only about a 15 minutes walk through beautiful woodland. The path follows the course of the Lour Burn, and after about ten minutes you can hear the crashing of water – you turn a corner and suddenly you are in front of a beautiful waterfall. A grexat place to see red squirrels, rabbits, herons, and all manner of birds, as the area around is woodland, with pine trees and silver birches and it the most peaceful place I know. It’s really beautiful. There is a clearing where you can have a picnic, and the rocky outcrop is perfect for quiet contemplation.

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      *****How to get there*****

      The village is on the main A95 from Aviemore to Elgin, and appears clearly marked both on the map, and road signs, whether you are travelling up from the south, or down from the north, Aberlour is very easy to find, if you know you’re looking for it!

      Airports close by are Aberdeen, and Inverness, both approximately 1 hours drive away.

      By train, you can travel to Inverness or Aberdeen from the south, changing at either to get the train to the other – the Inverness-Aberdeen service runs about every hour I think, and stops off in Elgin and Keith. From Elgin, a bus will take you direct to Abverlour, though check times before you travel, as it’s a limited service that often stops running about 4pm. From Keith you can either hire a car and drive the 20 minutes or so through beautiful countryside, or you can take a cab. This will set you back around £10.00.

      For me, the best way to get there is by car, as you benefit from the amazing scenery and get a real feel for Highland country.


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      *****Where to stay*****

      There are lots of places to stay in and around Aberlour, but here are just a few examples:

      ***The Dowans Hotel***
      This is a very plush hotel, about 10 minutes walk from the high street. Its very secluded, and overlooks the river. The hotel is over 100 years old, built in the Scot Baronial style, all turrets and towers, and a large double room will set you back £70.00 pppn including a full Scottish breakfast in the morning.
      www.dowanshotel.com
      +44(0)1340 871488

      ***The Aberlour Hotel***
      This hotel is right on the High Street in the centre of Aberlour, and sometimes it feels like it’s been there forever. There is a lively, friendly bar on the ground floor, tea rooms and a restaurant, and it’s a great place to stay if you want to mingle a bit with the locals. A double room, en-suite costs around £34.00 pppn, with full Scottish breakfast.
      www.aberlourhotel.com
      +44(0)1340 871287

      ***Ruth Gammack Bed & Breakfast***
      Ruth runs a B&B on the High Street, and has 2 rooms available. A double room costs £18.00 pppn, including breakfast. This is a lovely way to be accommodated, as staying in someone else’s home always feels so much friendlier and welcoming I think!
      Ruth Gammack, 83 High Street
      +44(0)1340 871000

      ***Aberlour Gardens Caravan Park***
      Within walking distance of Aberlour, this is a 73 pitch, 5 acres site in glorious woodland, and ever so peaceful. You can take your own caravan, motor home, or tent, and pitch up, or for about £200.00 per week you can rent a fully equipped static caravan/holiday home. The season runs from 1st March to 27th December, and there are details of prices on the website:
      www.aberlourgardens.co.uk
      +44(0)1340 871586

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      *****What to do during your stay*****

      ***The Speyside Way***
      This is one of four long distance walks in Scotland, running from Buckie, on the coast, to Aviemore, at the foot of The Cairngorms. Total length is aprox 84 miles, but the beauty of this walk is that you can just do a little bit here, and a little bit there, and still enjoy it. The walk comes right through the heart of Aberlour, following the old railway line, and there are some lovely stretches down by the river giving great views over the water, and up towards the mountains. Its also a great route for a bike, and when we are up there, we often get the bikes out and go for a run along the old railway line.
      For more information:
      www.speysideway.org
      +44(0)1340 881266

      ***Fishing***
      The Spey is well known for its salmon fishing, and access to a fishing beat costs around £20-£25 per day. Local hotels can normally arrange it for you, as well as a Ghillie service if you need it.

      ***Golf***
      There is a course at Ballindalloch, a nearby “Big Hoose”, and there is a Putting green in The Alice Littler Park, just off the High Street in Aberlour.

      ***Shopping***
      Both Aberdeen and Inverness are within an hours drive, as are many other sites like Aviemore and Elgin. All have good shopping facilities.


      ***Other ideas***
      Visit the Caingorm Mountain range
      Horse Riding – there are stables locally, ask at your accommodation.
      Cycling – take your own bikes or hire
      Standing Stones – for example the ones at Faerie Hill, up behind the Distillery.

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      *****Churches*****
      There are 3 churches that I know of in Aberlour, and all run Sunday services.

      Aberlour Parish Church
      St Margaret’s Episcopal Church
      Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church


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      *****Local buses*****

      Buses run daily to Elgin and Keith, and there is a funny old bus that runs to Aberdeen by all the back routes. For more information:

      www.carlberry.co.uk

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      *****Local amenities*****

      On the High Street there is:

      Bank of Scotland, open daily
      Co-Operative Food Store, open daily, weekends, and till 10pm most nights.
      Library, with free internet access, open most day except Wednesday and Friday afternoon.
      Post Office, open daily.
      Plus a Newsagents, Butchers, Grocer/General Store, Walkers Bakery shop, Craft/Gift shop, Antique shop, Art and Framing shop, and a Garage.

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      *****Conclusion*****

      Aberlour is a beautiful place to visit. The countryside around the village is out of this world, and the place is steeped in the history of whisky making, and peat cutting, and crofting.

      I have grown up in this place, and found inspiration for paintings here, written stories about the place, and it’s really kind of ingrained in my soul. It is one of those places which affects you, which tunnels down into the core of your being and kind of just, well, stays there!

      The people are kind, and you can’t ever get from A to B without at least six people saying hello to you, whether they know you or not! I can strongly recommend this little piece of Scotland as an ideal destination for a short break or holiday, maybe even a honeymoon! August is a busy time to go, as the annual Highland Games is always held on the 1st Saturday of August, but it’s a fantastic day, if a little busy.

      If you’re looking for a peaceful time, go in early May, or September, when the children are back at school and the land is glowing with the colour of turning leaves.

      It will take your breathe away!

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      More useful websites:

      www.speyside.moray.org/Aberlour/web
      www.moray.gov.uk/area/speyway/webpages/index.htm
      www.speyside.moray.org/Aberlour/web

      Thankyou so much for reading, let me know if you visit!
      Kate x

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