The hidden historic sights of Scotland can be easily lost amidst the modern buildings and extensions of towns and high streets. Elgin is a place you could easily drive through without stopping to take a proper look. It is only 45 minutes from Strathallan Guest House and is well worth a visit…there is just too much to see in one day, but we managed to visit the stunning Cathedral.
Before I start you absolutely must visit the helpful volunteers at the tourist information point in the library. They will be able to give you a map of the town and point out all of the historic sights in the area. (It saves arguing with your satnav and your husband!)
Elgin Cathedral was lovingly known as the Lantern of the North and is a beautiful example of medieval architecture and stonemasonry. Work on the building of the cathedral started in 1224 and after a fire and two attacks it was abandoned in 1560. It is currently managed by Historic Scotland, who have spent time researching the history of this once magnificent building. You can walk around the ruin and there are a lot of information boards scattered around, which will give you a really good idea of how it would have looked when first built. Between Monday and Friday you can also have a guided tour by the enthusiastic and helpful Historic Scotland staff too.
Take time to walk around and soak in the atmosphere and you can also climb to the top of the ruined archway, look out across the Cathedral city, or simply shout down to your partner (like I did) to get their attention and have a photo taken of you at the top. You can also seek out Scotland’s tallest gravestone and the octagonal chapter house too.
Just 2 minutes away is the world famous Johnstons of Elgin woolmill, founded in 1797 they have been trading in cashmere from the same location to this very day. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall sent a specially commissioned blanket woven by Johnstons of Elgin to their new grandchild, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, as a keepsake for her.
There is a free exhibition in the home-ware shop where you can watch a short film about the history of the mill, see some examples of their products and even get to grips with the different types of wool they use. Look out for the long haired stuffed sheep and the cute sheep statues at the front of the building (which would make a funny little picture!) The tour of the woolmill leaves from this exhibition every hour and the last tour is at 3pm.
Once you finish the tour, you can visit their clothing shop and go through to the lovely cafe for a selection of hot snacks, cakes, cream teas and coffees. After eating a big lunch I just had to buy a slice of coffee cake to take home. Well, I couldn’t leave it there uneaten!