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Location within Moray
Population716 (Census 2011)
OS grid reference NJ165185
  Edinburgh 90 mi (145 km)
  London 418 mi (673 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district AB37
Dialling code 01807
Police Scotland
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57°15′04″N3°22′41″W / 57.251°N 3.378°W / 57.251; -3.378 Coordinates: 57°15′04″N3°22′41″W / 57.251°N 3.378°W / 57.251; -3.378

Tomintoul ( /ˌtɒmɪnˈtl/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); from Scottish Gaelic : Tom an t-Sabhail, [1] meaning "Hillock of the Barn") is a village in the Moray council area of Scotland in the historic county of Banffshire.


Within Cairngorms National Park, the village lies close to the banks of the River Avon and is said by some to be the highest village in the Scottish Highlands, although at 345 m (1,132 ft) it is still much lower than the highest village in Scotland (Wanlockhead, in Dumfries and Galloway). By 1841, the parish reached a population of 1,722. In 1951, this had fallen to just 531. The 2011 census indicated a village population of 716 people. [2]

The 2004 film One Last Chance , starring Kevin McKidd and Dougray Scott, [3] was filmed in the village and the areas around it.

The village is on the famed Whisky Trail, which also includes Dufftown, Keith, Tomnavoulin, and Marypark. The surrounding countryside forms the Glenlivet Estate.

Tomintoul Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1897. The club and course disappeared at the time of World War II. [4]


The village was laid out on a grid pattern by Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon in 1775. It followed the construction, twenty years previously, of a military road by William Caulfeild now the A939. The duke's motivation for his efforts was the hope that a permanent settlement would minimize cattle theft and illegal distilling of spirits in the area. [5] Estimates suggest that in the early 1700s there had been up to 200 illicit stills in the Livet glen, with spirits smuggled out over the Ladder hills. [6]

In this "model village", he encouraged the production of linen but this plan was not successful; the locals stuck to subsistence agriculture, growing vegetables and raising cattle. A report in 1797 indicated that there were 37 families in the village "without any industry. All of them sell whisky and all of them drink it". In 1820, some 14,000 illegal stills were confiscated annually in the Livet glen area. The 1823 Excise Act allowed for making whisky under licence and some took advantage in order to make a legal profit. [7] One of the first to do so was George Smith who started a distillery on his farm in the nearby Minmore. That small operation, founded in 1824, eventually grew to become The Glenlivet distillery in Upper Drumin (4 miles from Tomintoul) which produces The Glenlivet single malt whisky, known around the world. [8]

St Michael's RC Church, built 1837 St Michaels - - 1048657.jpg
St Michael's RC Church, built 1837

In the Victorian era, the village was receiving some tourism; in 1860, there were three inns here. [9] An 1857 Commercial Gazetteer described the community as a mean-looking village on a bleak moor with superstitious residents. [10] The 1882-4 Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer for Scotland also did not depict Tomintoul as a prosperous village: [11]

"Consisting of a central square and a single street, running ¾ mile north-north-westward, it is described by the Queen, under date 5 Sept. 1860, as 'the most tumble-down, poor-looking place I ever saw-a long street with three inns, miserable dirty-looking houses and people, and a sad look of wretchedness about it'. ... Tomintoul has a post office with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a public and a Roman Catholic school, cattle fairs ... and hiring fairs ..."

Both churches, built prior to 1840, remain open in the village, Tomintoul Church and St Michael's. According to the above source, the population was as follows: 530 in 1839 and 686 by 1881.

Regeneration efforts

The Malt Whisky Trail Map; Tomintoul is located close to Glenlivet The Malt Whisky Trail Map.jpg
The Malt Whisky Trail Map; Tomintoul is located close to Glenlivet
The Whisky Castle (2004) Highland Supermarket - - 5139.jpg
The Whisky Castle (2004)
Main Street, Tomintoul (2007) Main Street, Tomintoul - - 632003.jpg
Main Street, Tomintoul (2007)
The Hotel Square The Hotel Square.jpg
The Hotel Square

The Queen's visit in 1860 helped boost tourism which still remains the primary economic activity. Marketing initiatives in the area today include SnowRoads and North East 250 scenic routes. [12] Still billed as "the highest village in the Highlands", with a town square and Victorian buildings, Tomintoul offers tourists options such as snowsports in winter. Areas of interest in the vicinity include Glenlivet Estate (fishing as well as walking, cycling and horseback riding trails), north eastern Cairngorms and the (Speyside) Scotland's Malt Whisky Trail. [13] The village also has a museum, the Tomintoul & Glenlivet Discovery Centre.

The primary retailers for tourists include the Tomintoul Gallery that sells work created by local artists, the A’anside Studios that sell arts and crafts and the Whisky Castle, which offers hundreds of single malts. [14] The Castle has operated for over a century and offers whisky from every major distillery as well as some rare products from distilleries no longer in operation. The Tomintoul Distillery, in nearby Ballindalloch provides some employment; the company has been making whisky here for many decades. There is no visitor centre but some visits are allowed, by prior appointment. [15]

The two main hotels in the village had closed by 2010, however. In an attempt to improve the economy, the area created the Regeneration Strategy and Action Plan in 2011, which led to the establishment of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust in 2012. The group has taken several steps to "develop, inspire and embrace a vibrant future for the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area", seeking investment and promoting the area's visitor attractions. The regeneration effort obtained funding of approximately £3.5 million to be used for projects that would benefit the "cultural and natural landscape" of the area. [16]

As of 2019, the village offers many small accommodation facilities (The Smugglers hostel, B&Bs and holiday cottages) as well as three larger hotels (Hotel Square, The Glenavon and the Richmond Arms). [17] Hotel Square has a "highly recommended' restaurant using local seasonal produce. The regional whisky offerings and craft beer can be sampled in the Hotel's pub. The village also made the Glenlivet Walking Festival an annual event as suggested by the 2012 Regeneration Strategy and Action Plan. In addition to tourism and the nearby whisky industry, sheep and beef cattle are raised on farms around the village. [18]

Local personalities

The artist and writer Mary Barnes died there in 2001 after living there for some time.

The immunologist Prof Kenneth Boyd Fraser FRSE retired to Tomintoul and died there.

Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer farm the nearby Lynbreck Croft.

The author Captain W. E. Johns lived in the Richmond Hotel at Tomintoul from 1944 to 1947, before renting Pitchroy Lodge on the nearby Ballindalloch Estate from 1947 to 1953.

Infamous personalities

Percy Toplis - The "Monocled Mutineer"

Percy Toplis took refuge in the area in 1920 before being discovered by a local farmer. He made his escape, shooting and wounding the farmer and a police constable while doing so. Within a week, he was shot dead by police in England.

Lord Tony Williams

In the 1990s an individual, styled by the media as Lord Tony Williams, spent £1 million on improving the Gordon Arms Hotel (now Hotel Square) and invested money in other businesses. He was later shown to be a fraud who had stolen £4.5 million from his former employer, the Metropolitan Police and was sentenced to seven years in prison. [19]

Grigor Willox

Grigor Willox was a reputed white witch who lived in Tomintoul in the 18th century. He was said to derive his powers from two amulets: a brass hook from a kelpie's bridle and a mermaid's crystal. Among his alleged powers were making cows produce milk, curing barren women, and detecting thieves. [20]

"Mrs MacKay"

The late Terry Wogan helped bring the A939 road from Tomintoul to Cockbridge to national attention, along with local, fictional postmistress "Mrs MacKay". As reported in the Scottish daily newspaper The National:

In 1999, after he criticised the council for never being prepared for the snow, locals wrote in to say it was not the local authority that cleared the snow, but rather Mrs MacKay, the silver-haired postmistress and her silver-handled shovel. She was doing the best she could, they insisted. For the next decade listeners would phone in with sightings of the near mythical Mrs MacKay shovelling snow. Sometimes, they said, she would be out shovelling snow as early as June. [21]

Related Research Articles

Scotch whisky Malt or grain whisky distilled in Scotland

Scotch whisky is malt whisky or grain whisky, made in Scotland.

Islay whisky Scotch whisky distilled on Islay, Scotland

Islay whisky is Scotch whisky made on Islay or Ìle in Gaelic, one of the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is one of five whisky distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law.

Single malt Scotch

Single malt Scotch is single malt whisky made in Scotland. To qualify for this category, a whisky must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted barley. As with any Scotch whisky, a single malt Scotch must be distilled in Scotland and matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years.

Speyside single malt

Speyside single malts are single malt Scotch whiskies, distilled in Strathspey, the area around the River Spey in Moray and Badenoch and Strathspey, in northeastern Scotland.

The Glenlivet distillery Distillery near Ballindalloch in Moray, Scotland that produces single malt Scotch whisky

The Glenlivet distillery is a distillery near Ballindalloch in Moray, Scotland that produces single malt Scotch whisky. It is the oldest legal distillery in the parish of Glenlivet, and the production place of the Scottish whisky of the same name. It was founded in 1824 and has operated almost continuously since. The distillery remained open throughout the Great Depression and its only closure came during World War II. The Glenlivet distillery has grown in the post-war period to become one of the biggest single malt distilleries. The Glenlivet brand is the biggest selling single malt whisky in the United States and the second biggest selling single malt brand globally.

Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park is a national park in northeast Scotland, established in 2003. It was the second of two national parks established by the Scottish Parliament, after Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, which was set up in 2002. The park covers the Cairngorms range of mountains, and surrounding hills. Already the largest national park in the United Kingdom, in 2010 it was expanded into Perth and Kinross.

Chivas Regal

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Dalwhinnie distillery

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Alness Human settlement in Scotland

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Tomintoul distillery

The Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery is a distillery in Ballindalloch, in the Speyside region of Scotland, producing malt whisky for blends and bottled as single malts. The distillery was founded in 1964. It doubled in capacity when two extra stills were installed in 1974, and started bottling single malt whisky in that year. It produces a range of single malts of different ages, a peated malt, and a vintage malt. The distillery is owned and operated by Angus Dundee Distillers, PLC, of London, England, which also owns and operates the Glencadam distillery.

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