Last week I visited Inverness and Grantown-on-Spey and rather than take the usual route down the A9 to Carrbridge, I drove through Nairn.
Following the route of the old military road from Fort George,built following the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745, look out for a sign to Ardclach (Gaelic:High stony ground). A series of single track roads follow the river Findhorn upstream as it flows through 13 miles of the parish on its journey to the Moray Firth.
Another sign indicates the way to Ardclach bell tower,a historical monument I had not yet visited though often passed.
A curious building,it was originally built in 1655 by Brodie of Lethen,a Covenanter whose lands had been repeatedly ravaged by the Marquis of Montrose following the battle of Auldearn in 1645. More akin to a Border bastle for defence it has served as a watch tower,prison and belfry. The bell tower was a later addition and served to draw the congregation to service. Now in the care of Historic Scotland it sits atop a hill overlooking the rocky and precipitous wooded banks of the Findhorn and the former parish church in the valley below.
On the roadside beside the tower sits an incongruous memorial to the Rev Donald Mitchell (1792-1823)for it is based on his gravestone in Poladhpur,India. Mitchell a son of the manse began his career as a lieutenant in the Honourable East India Company but returned to Aberdeen where he completed his theology studies.Appointed by the Scottish Missionary Society,he was the first ordained minister of the Church of Scotland to become a missionary in India.
From here follow the single track road round a couple of hairpin bends down to a dead end beside the parish church and the foaming river Findhorn.
A very plain T-plan parish church, Ardclach has seen better days.It closed it's doors in 1958 and after consent to demolish followed by many false hopes it remains on the register of buildings at risk.
Return to the main road negotiating the hairpins and follow the sign to Dulsie bridge which spans the Findhorn. Built for the sum of £150 in 1755 by Major Caulfeild and not General Wade as erroneously mentioned on maps,this was a major crossing point over the fast flowing river.The minister in the Old Statistical Account refers to the high number of people killed fording the Findhorn,despite the services of a ferry. The building seen to the left of the bridge is the old Kingshouse inn where Robert Burns stayed in 1787 on his tour of the Highlands. He entered in his diary
Come through mist and darkness to Dulsie to lie, Findhorn River, rocky banks.
Leaving the bridge the road continues to follow stretches of the military road onwards to the Spey, through the Grampians and south to Coupar Angus.
Ardclach is well worth a detour if you are in the area for it's historic buildings and sylvan romantic setting will not disappoint.
Ordnance Survey map 1:25000 Sheet 422
Ardclach Parish Publications
Old Statistical Account Ardclach Parish
New Statistical Account Ardclach Parish
Bain,G (1893) History of Nairnshire
Bishop,J Nisbet,K Death and Places of Burial 1855- 1860 Parishes of Ardclach and Cawdor
Farrell,S (1997) Ardclach Churchyard A Survey of its Memorials
Ferness Primary School (1984) Ardclach Parish Then and Now (Copy in NLS)
Moray & Nairn Family History Society,Monumental Inscriptions,Parish of Ardclach
Taylor,W (1976) The Military Roads in Scotland
Thomson,R (1900) The Natural History of a Highand Parish
Ardclach Parish Links
Scotlands Places Ardclach Parish
Family Search Ardclach Parish
Undiscovered Scotland Ardclach Bell Tower
The Scottish War Memorials Project Ardclach
Buildings At Risk Register for Scotland Ardclach Parish Church
Old Roads of Scotland Ardclach