£5.3million visitor attraction to celebrate Scotland’s illicit whisky history
A planning application for a historical distillery and heritage centre for the remote Cabrach region has been lodged with Moray Council.
The plans submitted by The Cabrach Trust, hope to transform the existing Inverharroch Farm into the visitor attraction with the aim of putting the Cabrach on the tourist map and stamping its place in the story of Scotch whisky.
Said to be one of the birthplaces of Scotch whisky, the Cabrach – which lies in a scenic area on the southern edge of Moray – is famed for illicit stills and smuggling routes in years gone by.
Researchers employed by the Trust have already discovered the site of an illicit whisky bothy thought to date back to the early 19th-century, sheltered by a small crag and built into the side of the hill, offering smugglers a vantage point to keep an eye out for excise men on the nearby highway.
The planned £5.3million centre makes use of the existing traditional farm steadings and has been designed by a team led by local architects, AKA Ltd, interior designers, Surface ID and landscape architects, Erz.
The plans include the distilling, maturation and bottling of a unique whisky, using the blueprint of an early 19th-century distillery using traditional methods and made available for purchase.
The proposals for the adjacent interactive heritage centre include a café, exhibition space for public and private hire and a gift shop, built around a courtyard and overlooking rolling hills and fields.
Earlier this year, Moray Council approved a community asset transfer which sees the Cabrach Trust taking over the ownership of several buildings previously owned by the Council.
The Acorn Centre – formerly the Lower Cabrach Primary School and used as a community facility – would be repurposed as a bonded warehouse for the distillery, while the Old Cabrach Hall would be used as a much-needed community centre and training venue.
The former schoolhouse would provide accommodation for workers as well as being used as a holiday let.
The planning documents state: “The Cabrach distillery and heritage centre, located at Inverharroch Steadings in the Lower Cabrach, will be a major contributor to the local economy with income derived from a sustainable combination of sale of Cabrach whisky, distillery tours, café and shop sales, events, courses, and accommodation.
“The visitor centre will be a major contributor to the tourism offer in North-east Scotland, Aberdeenshire and Moray’.
Chairman and founder member of the Cabrach Trust, Grant Gordon, says, “The Cabrach has a long and colourful whisky distilling history. The heritage centre will celebrate this rich birth right, telling the as-yet untold story of the early days of farm distilling and the smuggling which was rife in the area, while the historical distillery will reflect production methods that were used in the Cabrach at the dawn of the modern distilling era in the early 1800s’.
The visitor centre will offer an engaging and informative experience, with a dedicated interpretation centre, a flexible performance and exhibition space and smuggling trails, designed to appeal to whisky enthusiasts, heritage lovers and children alike.
Landscaping around the centre will be designed to be fun and adventurous with short river walks, links to the wider countryside and a highly imaginative play area for young children.
The Cabrach Trust is a social enterprise and all profits generated by the distillery and heritage centre will be reinvested to further the social aims of the Trust of providing jobs and services to regenerate this rural community.
Cabrach Community Association spokesperson, Patti Nelson says that, ‘the development of the Inverharroch site by the Cabrach Trust will be a great opportunity for the further regeneration of our historic and beautiful area. It’s great to see too, that as part of this development, the original school hall which is 150 years old next year, will be developed as a community centre for the benefit of all local inhabitants.
Funding for the refurbishment work would come from a mix of social finance, grants and charitable trusts and foundations.
Led by executive director Sue Savege and a board of trustees, The Cabrach Trust was established to facilitate rural regeneration within and around the Cabrach area.
Sue said: “The submission of the planning application is an exciting milestone in this project and is the result of many months of work to ensure that the plans are sympathetic to this spectacular and largely untouched area and in keeping with the landscape.
“We believe the centre will be a vibrant and successful venture, bringing new people to the area, creating at least 12 jobs, raising the morale of the local communities and contributing to a sustainable future for the Cabrach, while preserving all that makes it unique.”
Located in the lower Cabrach, Inverharroch Farm stands on the site of Inverharroch Castle.
The planning application is expected to be considered by councillors later this year.
Subject to planning consent and funding, work would start on the distillery in 2018 and the heritage centre later on, with a projected completion date for both of spring 2020.