A young family have become the first residents of a new town near Inverness which will eventually house more than 10,000 people.
Jonathan and Madeleine Hewitt picked up the keys for their new home at Tornagrain on Friday – and began to settle in with their two-year-old daughter Millie over the weekend.
Mr Hewitt has actually been working to help some of the houses currently under construction.
More people are expected to move in over the next few weeks.
The new town will eventually include 5,000 homes and more than 10,000 resident – making it roughly equivalent in size to Nairn or Forres.
It is being developed by landowners Moray Estates – with John Stuart, the Earl of Moray present yesterday to welcome the Hewitts.
He revealed yesterday that the pace of development is going to accelerate – because there has been twice as much as interest in the houses than anticipated.
First residents the Hewitts had been renting a property at Geddes near Nairn, but were keen to move their young family into a place of their own.
They stumbled on Tornagrain after an extensive search of other new build properties in the area.
Mrs Hewitt, who works as a make-up artist in Inverness, said: “We went into Inverness, we went all around but no new builds really caught our eye.
“I think it was my dad who said have you heard about Tornagrain.
“We didn’t really know about so we came up and really we were just like, wow, this is so nice.
“I’ve always been brought up in old houses so it was all about the quirkiness and the character, so I was a wee bit unsure about a new build.
“A lot of new builds I’ve been into, they just don’t have that feel.
“So when we came here it was look, I don’t know but it looks so nice, should we go for it?
“And basically it was just like nothing is saying no, we should just go for it.”
Mr Hewitt works primarily as dive support technician in the oil and gas industry – but with limited opportunities in the present climate he has taken up work on his new doorstep helping build the next set of houses.
Mrs Hewitt said: “He went up to the guys and asked if there’s any jobs going.
“And at the time they didn’t know we were getting a house so they were really good and they gave him a job.
“It wasn’t until after he told them.”
The first phase of construction is being handled by contractors ZeroC and will include 200 homes, with 42 already reserved.
The new town will eventually include a school, shops and a community green.
Interest has been shown in three of the commercial properties, while work to mark out new allotments began last week.
Lord Moray said: “I have to pinch myself every time I am here and that’s a couple of times a week.
“I see things developing so quickly.
“Where we’re standing now was a ploughed field this time last year.
“Now it really feels like a community is starting to appear and it’s very, very exciting for us.”
He added: “So far we’ve started to deliver what we said we would and we intend to continue with that.
“In fact they’ve been selling twice as fast as we expected and so the build-out will be faster than we initially expected.
“That is good, but we need to make sure we don’t lose the design quality if we do that.
“We need to strike that balance.”
Business leaders believe that the extra housing in the A96 corridor to the east of Inverness will be a major boost to the area in future.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s a really important day. This is a really significant development in terms of the location and the design concept which has been developed by Moray Estates.”
He added: “I would offer my congratulations to Moray Estates for reaching this point.”