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Windfall for Cabrach wilderness

By Lorna Thompson

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A WINDFALL will help a local charity push forward in its efforts to preserve a Moray wilderness and celebrate its fascinating role in Scottish history.

The Cabrach Trust's fundraising drive to build a £6.5 million visitor centre – which will be dedicated to exploring the area's secret whisky history – has been boosted by an award of more than £28,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The heritage centre – which is expected to create 15 jobs and bring investment to the area – will be the first to tell the whole story of illegal whisky-making in Scotland. The trust hopes to attract around 20,000 visitors a year to the Cabrach – some 80 square miles of stark and haunting beauty.

The Cabrach Trust has been awarded £28,000.
The Cabrach Trust has been awarded £28,000.

Dozens of illegal stills were hidden away in an underground network in the glens during the 1700s and early 1800s – making it one of the most important birthplaces of malt whisky.

The scale of the black market in whisky smuggling led to a change in the law in 1823 which legalised smaller whisky stills, becoming the foundation of the global Scotch whisky success story we know today.

The smuggling trade was choked off almost completely over the next decade after the Excise Act.

The Cabrach has also been described as a "living war memorial" due to the large number of scattered ruins – which are a reminder of the impact of World Wars I and II. Many crofts and cottages were abandoned by families who could no longer eke out a living in the harsh landscape after losing family in the conflicts. The heritage centre is the first concerted effort to breathe life into an area left desolate by the war years.

Cabrach Trust chief executive Anna Brennand said: "This important grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable the trust to build on its progress to date, improving our capacity and increasing our knowledge. The funding will ensure that the trust is fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead and will support the trust’s long-term ambitions to regenerate the Cabrach for our community."

The heritage centre will include a museum of illicit whisky and smuggling, a learning centre and a working distillery of the kind which would have been in operation in the Cabrach in the 1830s. The centre will be built at Inverharroch Farm in the Cabrach, eight miles from Dufftown.

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