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Forres in Moray

Welcome to Forres

the garden of Moray.....!

 
Few Scottish towns can boast the same kind of beauty and history that surrounds the ancient Royal Burgh of Forres.  One of the oldest towns in Scotland, Forres can also lay claim to being one of the most attractive with its many ‘Britain and Scotland in Bloom’ award winning parks and gardens containing magnificent floral displays. 


 
  
Forres is a small town with a population of approximately 9,174 residents (Census 2001) and is situated on the Moray coast, nestling between the floodplain of the River Findhorn and the protection of the Cluny Hills overlooking Findhorn Bay and the renowned Moray FirthForres is extremely accessible being on the main Aberdeen/Inverness rail link (approximately 12 miles West of Elgin and 27 miles North East of the Highland Capital of Inverness), and is just off the A96 within easy reach of the Cairngorm National Park.  Excellent transport links make Forres an ideal base for a holiday or business trip. 
 
Historically a market town and a centre for trade from nearby coastal ports, Forres packs a real punch in history and combined with its many attractions and local activities will appeal to visitors of all ages, whether you are visiting for a few hours or a few weeks.  While renowned for its parks and gardens, Forres has so much more to offer set in its enviable position amid such serene countryside with access to peaceful fishing villages, endless quiet sandy beaches and miles of waymarked woodland and river walks that cater to all abilities. Forres does not disappoint when it comes to activities, providing a base for the renowned Malt Whisky Trail and Castle Trail.  The town is packed with historical monuments and magnificent architecture and among an expansive list offers golfing; distillery tours; pony trekking; tennis, safe and expansive children’s play areas; world renowned fishing; nearby sailing centres; cycling and mountain biking. 
 
 
 If you feel exhausted by even reading the above, do not despair as Forres will offer a warm welcome combined with a first class selection of hospitality, good food and varied comfortable accommodation ranging from camping to country hotels that will suit all budgets and preferences. 
   
If undertaking outdoor pursuits in Forres you will hopefully benefit from the unique weather conditions that prevail in Moray. Forres benefits from the warming effect of the Moray Firth ensuring that coastal area temperatures are comparable to areas much further south.  As Moray is also sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds by the mountainous Scottish Highlands it has a drier, warmer and sunnier climate than you would assume from its comparatively high latitude within the United Kingdom. Indeed combine the heritage, culture and activities with some of the longest recorded hours of sunshine in the UK, and you can see why Forres is an established tourist destination.
 
 
Forres History

Established on a prehistoric sea terrace at the base of the Cluny Hills, Forres has been a key settlement in the prosperity and development of Moray.  There is debate as to whether the ‘Varris’ noted by Ptolemy on the chart he compiled following the Roman circumnavigation of Britain in AD86 was modern day Forres.  It is clear that Forres would have been an ideal area to settle with its access to the Moray Firth, fertile flood plain soil and defensive hills.  What can be verified is that there was significant Pictish activity within the area.  Take a stroll to the East of the town and between the old and new routes of the A96 you will be in the shadow of one of the most magnificent Pictish standing stones in Europe.  Standing over 20 feet tall, the Sueno’s Stone, was unearthed in 1726 and is estimated to have been carved in the 9th or 10th century.  The front of the cross depicts a large celtic cross with intricate scroll work on the sides of the stone.  The back is split into four panels depicting an important battle in the area.  Various theories have been presented regarding the battle, such as the victory of the Pictish/Scots over the Norse at nearby Burghead.  What is apparent is that it represents a significant historical event within the area.

Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’ written at the start of the 17th century, set much of the initial scenes within Forres, and has immortalised the characters of Duncan and Macbeth.  With a mix of fact and fiction ‘Macbeth’ locates Duncan’s castle here.  Interestingly Shakespeare portrays Duncan as strong and wise, while in reality he was rather weak and ineffectual. It was MacBeth who was respected for his strong leadership qualities and would rule successfully for 17 years after defeating Duncan, not at Birnam Hill in Perthshire, but at Pigaveny, near Elgin, in 1040.   

As the years rolled on Forres established itself as a major trading settlement within Moray supported by Royal Burgh status granted by King David I around 1140 AD.  This was an effort by the monarchy to ‘civilise’ Moray and Forres was granted specific charters to trade to encourage commerce and economic improvement within the area. Having suppressed a revolt by the men of Moray, David I greatly reduced the powers of the local rulers and was keen to establish Forres as a major power base within the region. By the 14th Century Forres was a typical medieval Burgh comprising of a High Street, castle, tolbooth, and a church. As with many towns the castle would eventually be abandoned as the economic and political climate evolved.  Today if you wander along to the west end of the High Street you will encounter a lovely public park displaying the 56 foot tall Thomson Monument. This was the location of Forres Castle, which played a key part in the town’s development and was a residence of early Scottish Kings and for 300 years would be the power base for the sheriffs of Moray.

Forres would see its fair share of unrest and violent political and religious struggle down the centuries exemplified by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, more commonly recognised as the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’.  Following a dispute with the Bishop of Moray in 1390, the ‘Wolf’ attacked and burned the original St Laurence Church situated on Forres High Street in a whirlwind orgy of ‘retribution’ throughout Moray

The 15th century would usher in a period of relative peace, stability and growth for Forres. The rule of monarchy would be consolidated, by granting Forres a Royal Charter setting out the rights and privileges awarded to the local population.  The church would become the focus of life, and grow in power and wealth.  Thatched houses of stone and wood in the Burgh would now be built up to two or three storeys high.

The Clergy would continue to gain more land in the 16th century and Forres would continue to prosper and grow in population.  The tolbooth on the High Street (probably originally a modest building and not the magnificent structure built in 1838 that you view today) would be the focal point for the collection of taxes, seat of local government, the court and the prison. 

Until 1810 building in Forres had entered a period of decline, many properties having stood since the 17th century. However, the effects of high taxation over previous years to fund the various conflicts that Britain was involved in were now diminishing. Forres would enter a period of economic growth and regeneration and by the 1820’s Forres was beginning to expand rapidly with the building of new villas in the outskirts of the town.  Many of the grand buildings that we view today on the High Street and throughout Forres were constructed over this period. 

The Great Flood of 1829 was to devastate Forres with many of the population having to scramble to higher ground on the Cluny Hills.  Despite this natural disaster Forres would be transformed in the 19th century into the form that we view today with many of the public institutions exhibiting neo-classical design based upon simplicity and symmetry. The introduction of the railway to Forres would transform its economy, new hotels were erected, roads improved, agriculture was extremely lucrative with the means to ‘export’ produce by rail.  Forres could rival any other similar town in Scotland
 
Today modern Forres has been shaped by its past, but unlike many other towns throughout Scotland, has managed to retain much of its traditions, heritage and impressive town centre which has not succumbed to a ‘chain shop’ mentality.  Through the community efforts of its populace Forres is a beautiful and interesting location to visit.  Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare, take advantage of the well sign posted and free car parks, and immerse yourself in a rewarding wander around the town.