Grantown – a Speyside Jewel
Grantown-on-Spey, in the heart of the Cairngorms and home to the offices of the Cairngorm National Park Authority, is a town packed full of history and things to explore and discover.
We recently popped up to Grantown-on-Spey for a wee visit. It is a place I know well as I’ve shopped here since I was knee-high to a grasshopper whilst staying in the local area. But I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated just how much there is to see and do in the town … and it was good to visit with fresh eyes.
Sitting on the river Spey and surrounded by ancient woodland, Grantown was planned and designed by James Grant of Grant, the young clan chief. Embracing the principles of the Scottish Enlightment in the C18th, he modernised his Highland Estate with Grantown as the centre piece. He wanted to improve the lives of the estate tenants through better housing and employment in industry. The plan for Grantown is an example of Georgian formal town design with perfect geometry and a controlled grid of streets. And even now, more than 200 years later, you can see how this legacy has lasted. The Town Square is still where today’s residents meet, greet and celebrate Hogmanay, sing Christmas Carols and hold community events.
Grantown Museum which also now acts as the town’s Visitor Centre, is well worth a visit to hear more about accounts of life, to see the plans and delve deeper into the history.
The High Street, like many towns has seen a lot of changes but what is so good about Grantown is the strength of the independant shops. Donaldson’s, the Hardware shop is a go-to for anything from kitchen utensils to gift ideas. Sledges in the winter and buckets & spades in the Summer. Across the road, Mortimer’s of Speyside is where you can buy your fishing permits, rods, reels, outdoor clothing and maps of the area for hill walking & exploring. For those self-catering, the Grantown Dairy is brilliant for fresh fruit and vegetables and in the summer is packed full of locally grown berries. Walkers and Ashers Bakery have fresh breads, rolls and all sorts of other goodies for your picnic whilst Cairngorm Butchers not only has fresh, local meats but also ready-made pies. And The Elephants in the Pantry is a good wee deli too along with Just Delicious. For all other the basics, the well-stocked Co-operative is perfectly sized.
You can get crafty too in Grantown with a visit to Smarty Art or the Craft Lounge. The Bookmark is a fantastic, independent bookshop with all the latest titles, a lovely children’s area and books about the local area. Find gifts in the Wishing Well, Imray Jewellers, Ewe & Me, the Craft Lounge, Cradle Days and the Flower Box. The newsagents has all you’d expect … and you never know what you may find in the Antiques & Collectibles store.
Grantown is also your perfect base for active holidays and, once here, you won’t have to travel far. There’s a fabulous network of paths, some of which are accessible for all, through the ancient Anagach Woods and the Beachen Woods behind the Grantown Caravan Park. You can walk to Forres from Grantown along the Dava Way – or walk the Speyside Way. There are mountain bike trails and a jump park too. Basecamp Bikes in the Town Square is an excellent shop to go for more information, for cycling accessories, bike rentals and repairs. And the Craig McLean Sport Centre has a good pool and gym facilities for those wetter days. If you love Wildlife – the Grant Arms Hotel runs a Birdwatching & Wildlife Club with dedicated holidays to the area.
Grantown Golf Course (18 holes) is one of prettiest in the area with some fabulous views across to the Cairngorm Mountains. And at Craggan Outdoors Activity Centre, there’s a par 3 course as well as the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities such as canoeing, gorge walking, archery and foot golf. And of course there is plenty of fishing on the Spey and its tributaries.
The other joy of Grantown is it’s position – 14 miles from Aviemore, 30 minutes from Inverness and up to the Moray Coast … and close to the Speyside Whisky Distilleries. Culloden, Cawdor Castle, Ballindalloch Castle and Logie Steading are all within easy reach. Step back in time to the steam age at the Strathspey Railway. Why not take an early train to Aviemore and return by foot on the Speyside Way?
There is a lot of accommodation in Grantown – with camping, hostels, B&B, hotels and self-catering properties. We popped along to Inverallan House which sits on the River Spey and is part of the Strathspey Estate. This Georgian house is an ideal place to book for a larger party as it sleeps up to 15 people.
Grantown-on-Spey motto has always been “Stand Fast” and it has done just that and continues to grow and develop with new housing being built and a High Street that backs Independent Shops.
Don’t just take our word for it – visit Grantown-on-Spey for yourselves in 2018.
Historical information from the Grantown on Spey Town Trail leaflet produced by Grantown Museum.
Visited first week of January – a snowy, grey day.