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Grantown is having a party

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This weekend, all roads lead to Grantown as it bursts into life with an eight-day party celebrating its 250th birthday


The streets of a Highland town will come alive at the weekend (June 20-21) when an eight-day celebration kicks off to mark its 250th birthday. Grantown 250: The Strathspey Seven Festivals is being held to mark the laying of the first stone of the first building in the town and although it is an event steeped in history, with more than 100 events taking place, the event organisers promise there is something for everyone.

Grantown was founded in 1765, by James Grant of Grant, later known as “the good Sir James”, and what evolved from his vision is a distinctive Scottish 18th-century planned settlement. It is this history and Grantown’s present and future which is being celebrated. Bill Sadler, of The Grantown Society, the group organising the event, explained why they felt it important to mark the sestercentennial.

Bill said: “Grantown has such a rich history and there are few towns where you can trace back the history so clearly. This festival, which involves the whole community, is a celebration for local people and visitors from home and abroad. It will showcase the history and attractions of our unique community, but it also illustrates the dawn of the modern Highlands, so it’s as much a celebration for the whole region as it is for Grantown itself. The project is the brainchild of several local people who wish the special qualities of Grantown to be celebrated and become more widely known, creating a lasting legacy.”

Bill Sadler, who is heading up the organisation of Grantown 250: The Strathspey Seven Festivals
Bill Sadler, who is heading up the organisation of Grantown 250: The Strathspey Seven Festivals

Grantown 250 will begin this Saturday, June 20, with an extravaganza at Castle Grant. From noon until 4pm, the grounds will be open to the public for a family fun day with clowns, bouncy castles, magicians, fun games and food. In the evening, the Grantown 250 week will be officially launched by former Runrig star Donnie Munro at a three-course banquet, concert and firework display.

Bill said: “It is remarkable that Donnie Munro has agreed to come and kick off our festival. We are very lucky to have him onboard. What a way to begin what is sure to be a very exciting week.

“We are also thrilled that we are able to use the grounds of Castle Grant. It is a marvellous setting and has been used all throughout its history to host some wonderful parties and events. For example, at the coming of age of the Countess, Lady Seafield in 1927, when close on 800 tenants, feurs, employees and townspeople gathered at Castle Grant garden fete and the next day when some 750 children were entertained in the castle grounds preceding a dazzling display of fireworks.”

Donnie Munro
Donnie Munro

The festivities will run until Sunday, June 28, with events based on seven themes: environment, food and drink, sport, heritage, tourism, trade and music and will include interactive displays, a historical pub crawl, music evenings, cycling events, buffets, barbecues, tastings and a traditional market.

One highlight looks set to be the recreation of the town’s Regality Cross, the story of which dates back to 1694 when a market cross was erected in Old Grantown beside Castle Grant. Shortly after the current town was established in 1765, the cross was moved to the new settlement’s marketplace. However, at some point, it was taken down and there is no record of what became of it.

However, the Regality Cross will become a feature once again. “This really is momentous for the town. We are recreating something which has been lost for over two centuries. It is an appropriate way to mark the town’s anniversary,” said Bill.

Other highlights include:

As well as the family day at Castle Grant on Saturday, June 20, the programme includes mountain-bike trails, a re-enactment of a Highland encampment, a chance to take part in a birthday bell ringing, street entertainment, picnics and trips to Grantown’s famous Mossie for a bogtastic time learning about pond life.

Every day, there are events which revolve around food, ranging from barbecues to banquets. The highlight of the week for gastronomes is Wednesday, when many of the events are themed around food, such as a regality food fair in The Square, with stalls, samples and demonstrations. But if you want to learn a bit about the history of food, you can sample a heritage lunch themed on a menu from the 18th century and learn about smuggling and the crimes of food and drink.

There are musical events on every day throughout the festival, from organ recitals, evening concerts with pianists and violinists to ceilidhs, but for many the highlight will be the musical extravaganza taking place on June 25 and starring Rachel Sermanni, Findlay and Hamish Napier, of Celtic Connections, and Owen Sinclair.

The Castle Grant family day with clowns, bouncy castles, games, magicians and food, from noon on Saturday, June 20. Opening ceremony from 1pm on Sunday, June 21, includes a Highland encampment, heritage games such as shinty and tug o war, a picnic and pipes, drums and Highland dancing. Picnic in the Square, which will include the Great Grantown Cake Bake, musical entertainment, drama presentations and prizes for those best dressed in heritage costume, takes place on Sunday, June 28, from 2pm.
Tickets are now on sale for the variety of events during Grantown 250. For full details, visit or follow on Facebook and Twitter (Grantown 250).

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