Discover the Victorian spa town of Strathpeffer at the start or end of your NC500 Travels!
Although not directly on the NC500 route, the Victorian village of Strathpeffer is only 20 minutes north-west of Inverness. The village was in it’s heyday during the late 1800s and early 1900s due to the popularity of the spa, with visitors coming from as far away as London to ‘partake of the waters’.
When you drive through today though, it’s the stunning architecture of the Victorian villas and hotels that appear to be the main attraction.
The old railway station
As you arrive at the outskirts of the village from the east via Dingwall, the first place to stop is the old railway station. Taking the road on the first left follow the driveway down to this charming building. Constructed in 1885 it was once the busy hub of the village where tourists and visitors arrived from all around the country. When you walk around the corner onto the platform you can enjoy the beauty of the structure of the station and the serenity of the gardens.
Highland Museum of Childhood
The station buildings now house the Highland Museum of Childhood, which tells the story of childhood throughout the Highlands from the 1800s to the present. You can also find information here about the history of the old station and the railway or find out more on the Old Station Blog. If you’re looking for refreshments the Museum Coffee Shop is the ideal place for lunch or coffee and home-baking . And if it’s a souvenir or unusual gift you need, the museum has a small gift shop and Small Planet Trading shop – both have a great selection of local and fair trade products.
After you leave the station just a short walk across the main road is the Eagle Stone or Clach an Tiompan. It is a Pictish symbol stone standing nearly a meter high. The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in the north and east of Scotland. The stone stands on a mound so it could possibly be a grave marker or memorial but the most famous legend about it features in a prophecy by the Brahan Seer. He foretold: ‘When the Eagle Stone falls three times, the waters will come up so far that ships will be moored to the stone’. The stone is believed to have moved twice already and is now cemented in place!
Another notable building in the area is Castle Leod which is the seat of the Clan Mackenzie. The castle’s beginnings can be traced back to the Norse period. The estate was the ancestral home of the Earls of Cromartie, who were supporters of the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. It is still occupied today by the present clan chief, John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie.
As you travel further up into the village you will appreciate some of the finer buildings such as the Highland Hotel, built in 1911 by the Highland Railway and which overlooks the village square. Across form the village shops you will see the
Spa Pavilion, a historic building which was and is still used as an entertainment venue. Built in 1881 it was commissioned by the Countess of Cromartie and was based on the design of the Casino in the German Spa town of Baden-Baden. During the Victorian era it was a favourite with the increasing number of visitors as it provided entertainment throughout the day and evening with concerts, social events and lectures.
The Pump Room
The small stone building in the car park next to the Pavilion is the one of the original Pump Rooms.
Here you can see an exhibition detailing the different types of treatments available. Visitors could drink the waters which contained sulphur and were believed to be of benefit to your health and could cure certain ailments. Also on offer were treatments such as a hot sulphur bath in which you would soak in.
There was the peat bath in which you could wallow for a prescribed time and this apparently would ease stiffened or thickened joints. Unfortunately you can’t taste the waters now. Also in the Pump Room you will find The Real Sweets & Gift Company selling traditional sweets and a range of gifts from the local area.
If you prefer outdoor activities there are many walks around the village including through Blackmuir Wood which gives fantastic views across the Ben Wyvis. If you follow the route through the woods and long the ‘Cats Back’ it will bring you to Knockfarrel. It is a vitrified Pictish Iron Age fort which lies on the hill, about one mile east of Strathpeffer. Towards the other side of the village is Loch Kinellan which is popular with bird watchers. And from the centre of the village you can walk up to the Touchstone Maze which is constructed of ancient rocks dating as far back as 3,000 million years.
To find out more about the history and heritage of Strathpeffer visit: