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The pretty town of Forres has been the site of civilisation since earliest times.

Although generally recognized as one of Scotland’s oldest towns, it may actually be a lot older than most think as it could have appeared as Varis on a map drawn by the ancient traveler and cartographer Ptolemy 2,000 years ago.

It may also have featured in the aftermath of the great Roman victory over the Caledonians at Mons Graupius as the Roman historian Tacitus in his biography of the victorious Roman general Agricola refers to a tribe called the Boresti.

A Royal Burgh since 1140, Forres was granted its Royal Charter by King James IV in 1496 and the wealth of the town is shown by a number of fine buildings which give the town centre an impressive appearance.

Grant Park lies east of the centre and is not only a gathering place for a number of local events but through much of the year proves a stunning attraction with its intricate and accomplished horticultural displays. The town has achieved considerable, repeated success over the years in a series of Britain in Bloom and Scotland in Bloom competitions, of which Forres is rightly proud. In summer it is a blaze of colour with baskets hanging around practically every door.

Forres is an attractive place in other ways as well. In the High Street, the medieval Tolbooth reconstructed in 1838 and the mercat cross from 1844 are just part of the rich architectural heritage, as is the magnificent St Laurence Church. Visitors to the Falconer Museum can gain an in-depth account of the town’s history.

Also, clearly visible on the eastern outskirts of the town, is a feature which should prove a real delight for the historically minded – the 20ft high Sueno’s Stone, one of the largest and best-preserved Pictish sculptures in Britain. Little is known of what it depicts but it is obviously some form of monument to a great battle. One of the more intriguing details is the beheading of captives.

The Witches’ Stone, on Victoria Road, is not Pictish. It marks the spot where witches were burnt after having been rolled down Cluny Hill in barrels. It was around 200 years ago that the last witch was burned here. You can walk to the top of Cluny Hill and from Nelson’s Tower there are magnificent views of Moray, stretching towards the shimmering Findhorn Bay.

Other places to visit in Forres include Dallas Dhu Distillery. Although no longer producing its own malt, the distillery has been turned into a museum allowing visitors an in-depth view into the alchemical process of making whisky. To tour a distillery still in full flow, visit Benromach Distillery near the railway station.

Forres makes a good base for exploring, with plenty to see within easy reach. The seaside village of Findhorn is just 10 minutes away, and the beautiful Brodie Castle is just along the road.


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