From Pictish times and beyond, The Cabrach has been a rebellious land and a place of secrets.  The Cabrach’s hunting forests were once the pride of Scottish kings. Centuries later it became Gordon clan territory where deadly battles with rival families took place over disputed land, livestock and more.  

During the 18th century the area became a stronghold for the Jacobites, as portrayed in the hugely successful TV drama ‘Outlander’. Legend has it that the maid who once lived at the Trust’s headquarters at Inverharroch Farm was slain by the Duke of Cumberland’s army after she barred the door to allow a Jacobite leader to escape over the moor.

Around this time, The Cabrach became a famous haunt of illegal whisky distillers.  Local smuggled whisky became widely renowned and sought after for its quality. Local inhabitants mixed farming and illicit distilling with supreme skill, using the remote landscape to create a well-organised underground network designed to evade raids by Customs and Excise men. At the height of illicit production there were well over 100 pot stills operating clandestinely.

The scale of the black market not just in The Cabrach, but all over Scotland, led to the law being changed in 1823 to legalise whisky production. Some of the local people involved in illegal distilling continued to work in the whisky industry and went on to contribute to the global success story we know today.

Prince Charles at the War Memorial

More recent conflicts have also shaped The Cabrach of today. A thousand residents inhabited this thriving community in the early 1900s but the First World War decimated The Cabrach. So many of The Cabrach’s men lost their lives that the area has been described as “perhaps the biggest war memorial in Europe”.

Cottages and farm buildings were abandoned and remain derelict.  From a vibrant community of more than a 1000 at the turn of the 20th century, fewer than 50 remain. In 2007, the last primary school in The Cabrach closed its doors. The new Heritage Centre is the first concerted effort to breathe new life into the area.

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