Multimillion-pound plans have been unveiled to breathe fresh life into a Moray community with a new distillery and visitor centre.
The Cabrach Trust is aiming to tap-into the region’s rich whisky heritage to attract more visitors and create jobs.
Its blueprint for regenerating the community involves transforming a historic steading and building a replica of one of the distilleries founded in the 19th century.
The area south of Dufftown is thought to be one of the birthplaces of the Scottish whisky trade.
The new visitor venue would shed light on the illicit stills and smuggling routes which dominated the industry in its infancy.
The distillery would use traditional methods to distill, mature and bottle its whisky.
Developers say the £5.3million project would act as “the catalyst to revive the community”.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has pledged to help deliver the trust’s aims – which he says would offer the local economy a “massive boost”.
The Cabrach Trust revealed its plans at the Inverharroch Farm development site yesterday.
Members are now embarking on a fundraising drive to ensure their ambitious proposals become a reality.
They are about to submit a major grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund which – if successful – could pave the way for the new plant to be up and running by 2020.
The Cabrach Trust’s executive director, Sue Savege, said: “This is a special location with a rich heritage and culture, and we want to share this unique bowl of spectacular, untouched scenery with a wider audience.
“The planned heritage centre will be the catalyst to revive the community and put the spotlight on the heritage of the Cabrach and its place in Scottish history.”.
The distillery and visitor centre would make use of the traditional farm steadings, on land near Inverharroch Castle.
The heritage centre would feature a cafe and exhibition space for public and private hire and a gift shop.
The trust is in the process of acquiring nearby buildings to convert into accommodation and training facilities to support the initiative.
Chairman of the scheme’s board of trustees, Grant Gordon, said yesterday’s announcement marked the opening of a new chapter for the Cabrach.
He said: “We believe that the distillery, heritage centre and the associated amenities will establish the Cabrach as a must-see in the north-east, bringing in new people and sustaining the local economy.
“The centre will celebrate the Cabrach’s place in whisky history and folklore, but it is to be built for the future and we hope this will act as the conduit for economic growth and regeneration.”
Mr Lochhead added: “I’m looking forward to seeing the plans develop and will do all I can to help the trust deliver what will no doubt be a massive boost for the local community.”
The chief executive of the Visit Aberdeenshire tourism body, Steve Harris, said he expected people to flock to the area to learn more about the malt whisky industry’s illicit beginnings.
“Whisky remains a key driver for visitors to come to this part of Scotland, and additional reasons for them to visit should be warmly welcomed,” he said.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing also welcomed the scheme last night.
He said: “This kind of initiative is exciting, and the sort of development that could bring significant benefits for the area.”
The Cabrach Trust will lodge a planning application with Moray Council by the end of the year.