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Cheering crowds welcome King Charles to Tomintoul on visit to one of Scotland’s highest villages

The King was shown projects to preserve the village's past and safeguard its future.

Excited crowds lined the square in Tomintoul to welcome King Charles on a rare royal visit to the tiny Cairngorm community.

Saltire and Union flag bunting was hanging from a hotel as hundreds gathered to line the barriers in the heart of the village.

And the monarch saluted their enthusiastic welcome with a wave before immediately joining them at the barrier to hear their stories, be shown their decorated finger nails, send birthday wishes and grant various other requests.

King Charles was in Tomintoul to tour the refurbished Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre and visit an affordable housing development aimed at sustaining the rural community.

Tourists join locals to welcome King to Tomintoul

Stirring notes from Dufftown and District Pipe Band sounded as the royal convoy pulled up in the village square.

King Charles, wearing his new King Charles III tartan, immediately greeted two toddlers and their parents before making his way down the huge line of well-wishers.

King Charles waves outside Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre.
King Charles, joined by Banffshire Lord Lieutenant Andrew Simpson, waves to the crowd in Tomintoul. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

And he surprised the owners of the village shop by popping in for an unexpected browse before thanking them for their service to the community.

Cathal Breen, who has run the shop with his wife Caroline for eight years, said: “We weren’t expecting him to come in. We thought we would just greet him outside.

“He had a look around and thanked us for staying open for the community and during the pandemic. It was obviously very difficult, we’d shut the shop and then go round making deliveries.”

King Charles meets a lady with grey hair on a visit to Tomintoul.
King Charles spoke to countless people during a walkabout in Tomintoul during his visit to the village. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Tomintoul Primary School children took a break from lessons to line the street outside their classrooms to wave flags while wearing paper crowns they made themselves.

Among the crowds in the square were tourists and coach tours visiting the village surprised to learn the reining monarch would be stopping-by.

Ina Middelkamp and Ernst De Vries, who were staying in a neighbouring hotel while visiting from the Netherlands, only learned of the King’s visit in the morning.

Miss Middelkamp said: “We only found out he was coming by chance from the neighbours.

“I have been involved in some of the Dutch king’s visits and it’s so interesting to see the differences of the whole thing with the bagpipes and interest.”

Eva McKellar was joined by daughter Margot Proctor and her husband Davy Proctor, who were all visiting from Balloch on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Mrs McKellar said: “I was actually invited to the Queen’s garden party in 1994 because I did a lot of work with Age Concern for many years.

“It was a very exciting thing to go to. Charles wasn’t there though, so it’s very exciting to see him today.”

King Charles given glimpse into Tomintoul’s past and future

During his visit to Tomintoul, King Charles was given a tour of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre.

The building was saved by closure from locals in 2017 after Moray Council pulled its funding.

It is now home to the local post office, a community food larder and showcases the area’s history of illicit whisky smuggling and its future as a destination for dark sky tourism.

King Charles inspects the Tomintoul Coat inside the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre.
King Charles sizes up the Tomintoul Coat, once worn by a whisky exciseman. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Inside, the King took an interest in the night sky, pointing out the dazzling Northern Lights had been seen last night.

Staff also showed him the Tomintoul Coat, which was discovered in the rafters of a house in 2003 and is understood to date from the 1820s.

It is believed the weathered cloak was once worn by an exciseman as he toured the area searching for illicit whisky smugglers.

The King was then given shown an affordable housing development on the site of the village’s former secondary school, while also stopping to speak French to some well-wishers.

Two dogs nose-to-nose with King in background.
Dogs get to know each other at the Tomintoul housing development during the King’s visit. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust spearheaded the 12-unit housing project to provide places for locals to stay as well as businesses to move to the area.

Operations manager Oli Giles explained the King was curious to learn about the environmental benefits of the properties, including air source heat pumps and solar panels as well as the creation of local jobs.

He added: “Three of the properties have a small extension for a workshop space, which was a condition when people applied for the housing.

“It’s a place for an ongoing business to be run from and stimulate some economic activity in the area.

King Charles was gifted a book, Spirit of Banffshire, by writer Eleanor Gillespie and Andrew Simpson. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“We’re not finished yet either. We are developing a 28-pitch touring-style campsite for Tomintoul given the rise in campervan ownership, which we hope will bring an enormous benefit to the area.

“We’ve done a lot of work in Tomintoul but we’ve got plans to broaden that to Glenlivet and Inveravon to drive forward some more developments.”