On this page you will find the designs of the Interpretation Panels for the Dufftown & Mortlach Heritage Trail. The panel at the Mortlach Church is replaced on request and has a different text on it then the original. The original text can still be heard on the audio tour and read below.
THE GIANT’S CHAIR
The name ‘Giant’s Chair’ comes from the seat-shaped rock formation and the ‘Giant’ of the Giant’s Chair is said to be Malcolm H, King of the Scots from 1005 to 1035. From here he overlooked the Danish Army’s camp set up before a battle on this site in 1010. It’s said that here the river had been dammed up with bull’s hides until the in water had accumulated in sufficient quantity to be let loose with great force upon the enemy encamped upon the haugh below the Parish Church.
The Giant’s Chair was long known as a romantic spot for couples to visit. Even Queen Victoria visited this spot when she was visiting Glenfiddich in 1867.
On 6th September 1887 a proposal to Improve “The Giant’s Chair” was accepted and this new path was made to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee. The path was extended through the lands of Messrs Grant of nether Cluny and Stuart of Pittyvaich. The bridge over the Dullan was erected later that year.
The path was officially opened in August 1888 and approximately 300 people walked the route from Dufftown Square that day led by the Dufftown Volunteer Band.
This church is one of the oldest in Scotland. The oldest part dates to when Malcolm II, King of Scots, defeated the Dane army in 1010. The first clashes of the battle occurred between Mortlach church and what is now Mortlach distillery. The Danes, emboldened by their strength, attacked quickly and with speed. The Scots, seeing that a full ground attack was imminent, fled along the Black Water and up the course of the Dullan.
Malcolm was able to stop the retreat at the monastery dedicated to St Molocus or St Moluag and gathered his remaining forces. It is said that he kneeled in the graveyard of the church and prayed for the help of God and St Moluag. The monks saw that Malcolm was a good Christian, and with Malcolm’s promise to enlarge their church by three spear lengths, they joined Malcolm’s forces and defeated the Danes.
The Fleckit Doo Prophecy
A tod shall be slain this kirk within;
A boon the graveyard burn Gallie run;
A rose bush grow near the kirk stane stair;
And a calf one day come to join in the prayer,
Till the fleckit doo and the Easter day
That’s to see this biggin’ a’ melt away!”
After Thomas’ prophecy, the next Pace (Easter) Sunday came and went, but no fleckit
doo’ appeared. The church continued to stand as firmly as before, but just as people were starting to forget the prophecy, a speckled chicken strolled into the church, disturbing the congregation. Some people ‘sought refuge in flight’, running away from the church, but more close observers noticed that it was only a chicken and kept their seats. As this was not the fleckit doo: the prophecy technically remains unfulfilled but some said that crisis had been averted by the ‘salt having gone aboon the meal’.
A very old local tradition held that the ‘Mortlach Battle Stone’ commemorated the famous victory of Malcolm ll over the Danes under their General Sweyn on this site in 1010. It has been called a Runic and Scandinavian Monument on the (very unlikely) assumption that the Norsemen erected this monument to commemorate their own defeat. However, later research dated the stone from around 800AD and classed it as a Class Il religious stone, meaning that it has both Pictish and Christian symbols.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STONE
On the one side, there is the shape of an eagle engraved into the stone. Below the Eagle there is a serpent followed by a Bull’s head and a man on horseback accompanied by a dog, apparently engaged in the chase. On the opposite side, it has an upper compartment with two figures that may be two fishes standing at right angles with their mouths turned towards each other. Below them is a cross identified with four holes where the arms of the cross meet and at the base is the figure of a lion. The same imagery is found on the Netherton Cross, which in Egyptian means the divine seat.
MEANING OF THE STONE
The Stone signifies the transition of the pagan Pictish religion to Christianity by Saint Moluag of Bangor. It focuses on the similarity and continuity between early Christianity and paganism rather than the differences between them. The conversion process was one of gradual education rather than outright confrontation and there were remarkably few martyrs in the area.
Round the Battle Stone, the annual “Saint Molloch’s” fair was held.
Mortlach was once a common stopping a point on the main route between Tomintoul and Keith. The only inn for miles was the Hardhaugh Inn, the building you’re standing in front of now. Current records tell us it was built in 1808 but in 1857 provost Kemp tells the story of Hardhaugh being a smuggler’s Haunt in the 1780s. In those days it was hard to find a house without a distilling apparatus in Mortlach. The first owner of Hardhaugh was Peter McConnachie who ran it as a Coach Inn, this meant guests could park their coach/wagon and leave their horses with a caretaker of the Inn.
For a while they were busy times for McConnachie but in approximately 1810 a new Inn was established in Mortlach: Gordon’s Inn, owned by William Gordon.
When Lord Fife established Dufftown, the main road no longer went through Mortlach. This led to many businesses relocating to the Square which was now a much better place to do business.
Hardhaugh means hard shoulder or the bank of a river, in this case the Dullan Water.
William Grant, the founder of the Glenfiddich Distillery, lived here for long time with his family.
This spot on the River Dullan has been known as ‘The Pot’ for ages with the name being found on old maps and in the historic Ordinance Survey Name Books of Scotland. The Pot is a deep a pit in the water where people were drowned in feudal times and were known as a drowning pit or pool. Traditionally, women were drowned, and men were hung. Historians believe this was done because, in those days, people thought drowning was a less cruel way to die.
Drownings were carried out across Scotland as punishment for a variety of crimes. In 1623, eleven gypsy women were recorded as being drowned in the Edinburgh’s Nor Loch. More locally, in 1679, a woman named Janet Grant was tried for theft in the baronial court of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun. She was found guilty and drowned the next day in the Loch of Spynie.
Despite the infamous witch hunts which took place in Scotland between 1590 and 1662, witches tended not to be drowned, but burned at the stake instead.
There are no records of drowning being used as a capital punishment in Scotland after 1685, but the practice survived in France until at least 1793.
The Well is now known as the Maister’s Well but was originally known as the Bishop’s Well because it was used by the bishop from the monastery located where the Mortlach Distillery now stands. If you look to the north-east you can see the warehouses of the Mortlach Distillery where the remains of the old monastery were unearthed during construction.
In the 1800s, the Well was used by children from the school nearby as a free drink on their way to and from school until water became more available to households later in that period.
In the 1900s, the top stone from a well in Dufftown’s Square was fitted to the Maister’s Well and in 1901 a fountain front and seats were gifted to the Town Council by the provost Symon.
The path in front of the Maister’s Well was opened by Lord Mount Stephen, and whilst he was not present for the opening, he sent a telegram saying:
“To provost Symon, Pittyvaich, Dufftown. My warmest thanks to you and all the kind friends to thought of me yesterday and sent’m their good wishes. am very grateful. (Signed) Mount Stephen”
Mortlach Kirk may be the oldest and only surviving church in Dufftown but Mortlach also had its own monastery. The Bishop’s Palace stood on the oldest site of Mortlach Distillery: In an article from 1861 the writer tells that the Mortlach Distillery was built on the foundations of the Monastery. These foundations were still visible when the distillery was built, and part of the old Monastery is said to be incorporated in the Malt House.
Established in 1823 by James Findlater in the wake of the Excise Act, Mortlach Distillery is the oldest in Dufftown and was built on the site of an older illicit distillery.
Mortlach Distillery was also the first legal distillery in Dufftown and was the only distillery until Glenfiddich was founded in 1887. Glenfiddich founder William Grant worked at Mortlach distillery for 20 years prior to this.
The former malt Barn and Kiln on this site (No. 2 Kiln, No. 5 Store and Warehouses and 4 excluding 1960s addition to the North Elevation) are listed meaning it has a historic value.
For some time, it was believed that the Gordon’s Cross was a place of execution, but now it is best associated with the Gordon family. The story goes that when George Gordon of Beldornie of (son of the Dean of Caithness and grandson of Alexander, the first Earl of Huntly) died in 1575, a dispute arose amongst his sons about where he should be buried.
His eldest son George (by his first wife, Rose Belviat) wanted him to be buried at Elgin cathedral where their eminent ancestors were buried His youngest sons (by his second wife, a daughter of Leslie of Tullich of Kininvie) insisted on burying him in Mortlach Church with their relatives, the Leslies. When the funeral procession reach Pitglassie, the dispute between them became so violent that the body had to be laid down.
George was overpowered by his two half-brothers and he was compelled to return home and allow them to bury his father at Mortlach Church. It was a custom at the time to erect a cross on the spot where: corpse had been laid down and accordingly Gordon’s Cross was raised on the right-hand side of the old road near Pitglassie.
Sadly, all that remains today is a round stone with a hole in the middle of it which the cross would have been placed into. The older folks seem to have said the cross should have been that of Aberdeen. The stone has been moved from its original location and doesn’t any longer represent the spot where the cross once stood.
Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery Co
In 1891， Provost John Symon bought the Pittyvaich Estate, including the farm, the mills and the woods, from Lord Fife. The mills were originally a saw mill, and later a corn mill. They were powered by the current of the Dullan which runs below.
In 1895, the whisky boom bought Peter Mackenzie and Richard Stackpole from Liverpool to Dufftown because they thought that this land would be an ideal spot to build a new distillery in the Speyside area. They made a deal with John Symon and a local solicitor, Charles MacPherson, and the Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery Co. was founded.
Within a year after purchase of the mill it was converted and barley from Pittyvaich farm was being used for distillation. The first batch commenced nine hogsheads and Dufftown’s sixth distillery, Dufftown Distillery, opened.
While Dufftown was still waiting for their electric lighting, which they had been talking about for the past four years, Dr Alexander Cowie was ahead of his time.
In 1896 mills on the Pittyvaich Estate were converted to generate electricity and on Friday the 2nd of September 1898, 150 electric lights at Mortlach Distillery were turned on for the first time.
The dynamo registered a 135 volt and was driven by a Pelton wheel turbine which extracted energy from the moving water of the Nether Cluny dam, further up the Dullan. The electricity was stored in accumulators to give four days’ supply for incandescent lamps of 16 ‘c.p. (candle power). In the dynamo house was a switch board to control the lighting of the distillery, the brewer’s house and Dullan Brae.