The Cabrach

JH Cabrach Crofts

The Cabrach is a unique and beautiful location rich in cultural heritage, typified by its haunting landscape and the great numbers of tumble down crofts and steadings, which today litter this upland plateau. The Cabrach’s intensely rich history of farming, whisky, migration and land battles is the story of Scotland in miniature.

‘Cabrach’ means, antler moss, and deer can still be seen wandering in the wild hills and moorlands of the Upper Cabrach.

Illicit distilling

Despite its remoteness, the Cabrach was once a thriving hub of activity with farming, whisky distilling on a significant scale, two local mills, and a slate quarry providing employment. In the 18th century the Cabrach was famous for its illicit whisky industry and some claim it as the birthplace of Scottish malt whisky. Local inhabitants mixed farming and illicit distilling with consummate skill, using the remote landscape and difficult to access farms to create a well organised underground network of illicit stills and a communication network designed to evade customs and excise raids. The smugglers distributed spirits locally, nationally and beyond and were known to have had skirmishes and even bloody battles with any figures of authority who tried to stop them.

The history of Illicit distilling in the Cabrach

The Great War

At the turn of the century the Cabrach had a thriving community of around 1000 people, but after the Great War, the local population was severely decimated and historians have called the Cabrach, ‘The biggest war memorial in Europe’.

Prince Charles at the War Memorial

Prince Charles at the War Memorial Cairn in the Lower Cabrach. Image courtesy of Speysideimages.co.uk