Earl and Countess of Forfar get into driver’s seat on Speyside’s whisky line train

The Earl and Countess of Forfar got into the driver’s seat of a train during their visit to Speyside.

The royal couple toured Glenfiddich in Dufftown yesterday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first whisky distillery centre in the world.

Bill Gordon and Grant Gordon, both descendants of William Grant who originally founded the world-famous firm, met the entourage as they arrived.

Following a tour of the distillery’s production facilities, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, bottled their own spirit to celebrate their visit.

Children from Buckie High School attended a reception which marked the completion of their Duke of Edinburgh awards, which the Earl of Forfar oversees as chairman of the charity’s trustees.

The couple then made the short trip to the heritage railway station in the town where they met the dedicated volunteers who maintain the tracks on the trail which has become known as The Whisky Line.

Group secretary Bob Balmer said: “We’re all volunteers on the railway, so it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to show the royals what we do and take them on a journey.

“They had visits in Dufftown and Keith, so it’s nice to get the chance to show them what we do while they travel between the two of them.”

The Countess of Forfar got behind the controls of the historic locomotive, which was packed with volunteers, and sounded the horn as the train departed for Keith.

Once they arrived in the town, they met students at the Keith Kilt School and Textile Centre where the Countess sewed a pleat on a kilt, which was later attached to a teddy bear gifted to the couple, and the Earl finished off his own cufflinks.

Children from a family support charity sung songs and prepared special paintings to welcome the Earl and Countess of Forfar to Moray.

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie joined youngsters at Elgin-based Step by Step in a bouncy rendition of ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ after taking part in games and stories.

Three-year-old Myah-Laya Burchell, from Elgin, presented the countess with a finger-painted flower made by all the children who attend Winchester House for the royal couple to remember their afternoon – returning to give her a hug before she left again.

The charity received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service last year during its 10th anniversary after supporting more than 2,000 children since its formation.

Musical and playful sessions are run by volunteers at its Elgin base to provide role models for new parents or those suffering difficulties.

© DC Thomson
Countess of Forfar visits Step by Step in Elgin, Moray.

Prince Edward and Sophie, who were making their first trip north of the border since being given their new Scottish titles, joined the storytime workshops and took part in games on wooden pirate ships and sand pits to sample the work done by volunteers.

Prior to their departure, they also stopped to join in a special rendition of Happy Birthday for the six youngsters who were celebrating their big day.

Project manager Gareth Jenkins explained the royal visit was a great reward for the decade of support work carried out by the group.

He said: “The charity was formed because it was recognised that the standard playgroup sessions can be quite intimidating for shy parents and maybe smaller sessions would work best.

“There are a lot of reasons why families come to us – it could be post-natal depression, mental health issues, low income, substance misuse, domestic abuse, maybe their partner is in the forces and is away a lot, or many other reasons.

“Parents can be quite competitive about when their children are teething, how many words they know, so the larger sessions don’t always work.

“We try to give families role models who read stories or play games with their children so they can replicate it at home to strengthen the relationships between them.”