With mountain grandeur all around and good transport links, Kingussie is an attractive ‘mini-resort’ in the valley of the River Spey.
Kingussie – in the heart of Speyside
The Duke of Gordon started to lay out the planned town of Kingussie in 1799. Before that, nearby Ruthven, with its ruined barracks on an earlier castle mound, was the bigger settlement along the River Spey at this point. Afterwards, road improvements and new bridges meant that Kingussie found itself on a junction, where the route from Fort William and the west via Loch Laggan joined the main road between Perth and Inverness.
In common with other little resorts along the Spey, the coming of the railway in 1863 proved a tourism bonus. More sturdy granite Victorian houses were built, as well as a golf course, before the end of the 19th century. Today, the little town’s main street is quieter since the main A9 passed it to the east, where the road has impressive views across to Ruthven Barracks. Kingussie remains an attractive base for visitors to Speyside.
Accommodation in Kingussie:
There is a good selection of traditional hotel accommodation, mostly smaller establishments, in Kingussie. Guest house and b & b accommodation is also widely available, and usually in substantial and comfortable Victorian property, typical of the town. Self catering is also easy to find in and around the town and there is also an independent hostel in Kingussie. There is also a caravan park above the town.
Kingussie was the original site of the Highland Folk Museum, now reckoned to be the first open air museum anywhere in Britain, though the main exhibits are now at Newtonmore. Ruthven Barracks are another landmark nearby, with the RSPB’s Insh Marshes also easily reached. To the south, the Clan Macpherson Museum is at Newtonmore, with the Dalwhinnie Distillery a little further. The Highland Wildlife Park is a few minutes away at Kincraig, with all the attractions around Aviemore, including the Landmark Forest Adventure Park at Carrbridge, within easy travelling distance.
There is a good angling choice around Kingussie, both on the Spey and lochs further afield. Permits are available locally. There are old-established 18-hole golf courses both at Kingussie and Newtonmore. Pony-trekking and riding is widely available, notably at the Newtonmore Riding Centre, often credited with ‘inventing’ the sport of trekking. Laggan Wolftrax is easily accessed from Kingussie and is a popular mountain biking centre. Loch Insh and, a little further, Loch Morlich, are two watersports locations.
Unmistakable when viewed from the A9, the prominent knoll on which the roofless barracks stand was once the site of Ruthven Castle, home of the infamous Alexander Stewart, ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’. After the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, barracks were built here by the Hanoverian government. By 1734 a further guardhouse and stable had been completed by General Wade. In the last Jacobite uprising (1745-6) the garrison surrendered after a rebel artillery attack. After Culloden, the Jacobites ineffectually rallied at the barracks in 1746. Thereafter the site fell into ruin and is now in the care of Historic Scotland.
The Highland Folk Museum started life at Kingussie in 1944 and the site today has extensive collections, archive and library open by appointment. The main displays are at nearby Newtonmore. There, visitors can experience aspects of Highland life from the early 1700s to the mid 20th century, with a fascinating variety of reconstructed buildings on an extensive site. The reconstructions of a Highland township, farm, school and many more make history vivid and alive. A Speyside ‘must see’.
Shinty is an important sport in the area and Kingussie’s own team have regular fixtures here. Other sporting events include the Corrieyairack Challenge in July – a cycling and running race passing through Kingussie. The Clan MacPherson Rally is usually held in August. Dannsa, a locally based traditional Scottish dance troupe, are holding a special weekend in early November. More information from www.visitaviemore.com or www.kingussie.co.uk