Tomintoul History

The planned village

The village of Tomintoul, situated at 1,150ft (345m) above sea-level is the highest village in the Highlands of Scotland. 

Tomintoul derives its name from the Gaelic "tom-an-tsabhail", "the hill of the barn", and owes its origin to Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon who in the 1770's decided it was his duty as an improving landlord to develop this "bleak and barren moor". 

The Duke's proposal for erecting a "Town at Tamantoul" stipulated that it should be laid out in a regular manner, that the houses should all be built fronting the main street and of equal height, and conculuded that by encouraging a lint mill and a "Bletchfield and spinningtomintoul plan stool", as well as permitting the use of the freestone quarry and an "unexaustable (peat) moss" the town will "very soon be the most populous place in the country".

He also ordered a "right Publick house for the accomodation of Travilers and others to be built in the most centrical part of the town". 

The Duke's plan went ahead in 1776, but it was not until 1780 that the first feus were occupied, but there was no considerable growth of the village before the 19th century. Not all of the Duke's expectations were realised, the linen industry did not catch on in Highland parts and the villagers were dependent on the produce of their cattle and small lots of lands. However the peat-cutting at the Feith Musach moss, the slate quarry, the regular plan and the good accomodation for visitors are all still there.

Queen Victoria passed through Tomintoul in 1860 although was somewhat underwhelmed, her diary entry noting that "Tomintoul was the most tumble-down poor-looking place I ever saw - a long street with three inns adn miserable dirty-looking houses and people with a sad look of wretchedness about it".

However the growth of the tourism industry during the 20th century led to a revival of Tomintoul, with a wealth of beautiful river scenery, access to the might Cairngorm Mountains for hill walking, salmon fishing and sporting activities, and the development of the Lecht ski centre in 1978 the village thrived.

Today, the original grid layout of the village has been well-preserved; the mile long main street is still to a large extent neatly fronted by houses of local stone, roofed with the lovely grey-gold slates from the Cnoc Fergan Quarry.  The east side of the square has some particularly pleasant examples of local vernacular architecture, the oldest house in the village probably being the one in the south-east corner.  The narrow 'tenements' - or tenants' plots - stretch out behind the frontages, up to the 'back Dykes', as the second roadway on each side is colloquially known, where the more modern housing of the village sits.

The main street follows the south-east - north-west line of the old military road, although today's modern road now makes an awkward dog-leg turn at the southern end of the village before ascending up the Lecht Pass.  The military road was built in 1745 by Lord Charles Hay and the 33rd regiment.

tomintoul fountainThe green village square, with its mature lime, sycamore and whitebeam, has at its centre the fountain 'presented by Robert Grant MD to his native village as a memento of his boyhood 1915'. The now dry drinking fountain gives character to the Square, although the lady carrying her water pot on her head has never been identified. 


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