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Accessing Scotland's Past

  NJ11NE 37 - Tomintoul Village View site details on CANMORE  
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The village of Tomintoul is generally thought to have been founded in 1750 by Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, but in fact the initial surveys were carried out in 1775. The first tenants moved in during 1780.

The village was laid out along the military road which had been built between Fort George and Corgarff a few decades earlier, in a location which makes it the highest village above sea level in Highland Scotland. Each plot of land was unusually broad, measuring approximately 22m as opposed to 14m. As a result, many of the cottages were built with an extra outbuilding or an additional 'half-house' at the side. Some of these half-houses, which were often used to house elderly relatives, can still be seen.

In 1792, there were only 37 families in Tomintoul. The local minister noted that they all sold whisky, and that they all drank it, too. Other than this, they supplemented their income by manufacturing odd items or offering their services as casual labour. By 1831, the Duke of Gordon had implemented improvements in agriculture and animal husbandry, and had encouraged the growth of the village. His encouragement paid off: Tomintoul's population had by then risen to 143 families.

In 1853, Queen Victoria described Tomintoul as a 'tumbledown, miserable, dirty-looking place'. A century later, the village had been transformed. The water supply was upgraded in 1890, coal replaced peat as the major domestic fuel by 1920, and in 1949 electricity was introduced. By that time, Tomintoul was already able to hold its own as a popular tourist destination.

Of the residential buildings in the village, only a few of the original single-storeyed eighteenth-century cottages remain substantially unaltered, most having been subject either to alteration or rebuilding in the later nineteenth century. Three generations of a local family of masons, the Stewarts, were particularly involved in this work. Much of this rebuilding work took place towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the early years of the twentieth century, and many of the town's existing commercial and residential buildings date to this phase. Characteristics of buildings of this period include pedimented upper floor windows, plain gable copes and coursed rubble facades with dressings, usually granite. Large pieces of dressed stone, often granite, may be used as lintels over doorways and windows.

  Accessing Scotland's Past