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Fishing: Availability and Booking

The fishing season on the Spey and Avon runs from 11 February until the end of September. However, due to local conditions, fishing at Ballindalloch does not usually begin in earnest until around the middle of March.

Fishing on our two River Spey beats is usually let by the week, with room for up to ten rods, and can be booked to include self-catered accommodation at Marionburgh House.

Fishing on our River Avon beats can be let by the day or week and can include fully-catered accommodation at the beautiful riverside Delnashaugh Hotel or self-catering in one of our well-equipped Estate cottages.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Ballindalloch Estate for a week of top quality fishing. For current availability please contact us here or by phoning the Estate Office on 01807 500 205.

Fishing Beats

Ballindalloch Estate offers two beats upon the River Spey. Our ‘Castle’ beat includes the famous Junction Pool and is possibly the best known middle beat on the whole river.

Castle Beat, River Spey
Six rods supported by one gillie.
Marches with Tulchan D and Pitchroy.
All pools are double bank.

Pitchroy Beat, River Spey
Four rods supported by one gillie.
Marches with Ballindalloch and Knockando.
All pools are double bank.

Ballindalloch Estate offers six beats on the River Avon, spread over two area of riverbank.

Lower Beats, River Avon
Five rotating beats of two rods supported by one gillie.
Marches with Crown Estate and Ballindalloch Estate Water.
All pools double bank except for top two beats.

Upper Beat, River Avon
Four rods and does not require gillie support.

History of Aberdeen Angus at Ballindalloch

Black, hornless, cattle had been grazing the Highlands since the 12th Century. From the 16th Century onwards various types of hornless cattle were being bred in the North East of Scotland. By the late 1700s two local breeds had come to prominence: the old ‘Doddies’ of Angus and the ‘Hummlies’ of Buchan. Both breeds have a strong claim to being forerunners of the Aberdeen Angus.

In the 1820s Aberdeenshire farmer and member of parliament William McCombie, along with (but working separately from) Hugh Watson of Keillor Farm in Angus, through line breeding and selection for type, began producing a breed of cattle noticeable for the quality of its meat and the ease of its rearing.

Their pioneering work was taken up by the 3rd Baronet of Ballindalloch, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, who upon inheriting Ballindalloch Estate, set about the refinement of the breed: a labour of love that was to become his life’s work for almost half-a-century.

Today the Aberdeen Angus is one of the most recognisable and popular beef breeds in the whole world.

Painting taken from from ‘Life’ By Edward Herbert Miner

The Black Watch

The dark green, blue and black tartan and red heckles of the Black Watch, oldest of the Highland regiments, has become part of the iconography of Scotland and the history of the Am Freiceadan Dubh is interwoven with the history of Ballindalloch Castle.

Soldier of the Black Watch c.1740

Soldier of the Black Watch c.1740

Though today Badenoch and Strathspey is a haven for tourists, there was a time, four centuries past, when this part of the Highlands was a haven for rebellious clansmen and lawless bandits. Throughout the turbulent years of the English and Scottish Civil Wars the loyalties of the major Highland Clans were always volatile and at various times both royalists and republicans had found willing help in the mountains beyond Perth. The year 1645, for instance, had seen the flag of the Covenanters flying above Ballindalloch Castle, leading to its sacking by Royalist forces under the command of the Marquis of Montrose, who himself had sided with the Covenanters only a few months before.

The ‘pacification’ of the Highlands in the 1650s by government forces and subsequent Restoration of King Charles II encouraged the establishment of a permanent force to ‘watch over’ the region. Independent companies of loyal Highlanders were formed under the overall command of the Earl of Atholl. Alongside the clans Argyll, Murray, Menzies, Fraser and Munro, the Clan Grant offered its fealty to the newly restored Stuart monarchy by raising its own company of Highland troops to ‘watch over’ the territories of Badenoch and Strathspey.

Following the failed Jacobite Rebellions of 1689 and 1715, and the split loyalties once again evident amongst the Highland Clans, the independent regiments were disbanded, only to be revived again in the 1720s. At the request of Major-General George Wade – famous (or perhaps infamous) for overseeing the second ‘pacification’ of the Highlands in the aftermath of the 1715 uprising – six companies, each comprised of one hundred men, were to be raised and commanded by clan leaders loyal to the Crown. In Wade’s own words, these men were to be “employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hinder rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom.”

Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758

Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758

One of these independent companies was formed under the command of Colonel William Grant, the 9th Laird of Ballindalloch who, like his forefathers, took on the responsibility of ‘watching over’ Badenoch and Strathspey.

To set themselves apart from the existing regiments of the British Army, and to drum home their ‘independent’ identity, the soldiers of the Highlands eschewed the traditional red coat of the British soldier and donned the now famous dark green, blue and black tartan. This idiosyncratic uniform, when combined with the force’s primary role of ‘watching over’ the Highlands, gave rise to the Gaelic epithet Am Freiceadan Dubh: and the name ‘Black Watch’ was to stick.

In 1739 the independent Highland companies were brought together to become a ‘regiment of the line’ – the 43rd, or Highland Regiment of Foot. Seven years later the 43rds passed their first significant test of loyalty to the Crown, helping to put down (what proved to be) the final Jacobite Rebellion.

Details from Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758

Details from Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758

Records suggest that a significant number of the Black Watch serving in 1746 had relatives fighting alongside Bonny Prince Charlie. It may have helped that the regiment itself was stationed upon the Kent coast to repel any possible invasion from France. Nevertheless, companies of the Black Watch were involved in the bloody security operations that followed Culloden and carried out their duties without wavering.

Despite their indisputable loyalty, from the regiment’s inception and beyond, men of the Black Watch saw themselves as something apart from the British Army. Writing in 1822, one of their commanders, Major-General Sir David Stewart of Garth, wrote of his men that they were:

[O]f a higher station in society than that from which soldiers in general were raised; cadets of gentlemen’s families, sons of gentlemen farmers…men who felt themselves responsible for their conduct to high-minded and honourable families, as well as to a country for which they cherished a devoted affection. [cited in Trevor Royle, The Black Watch: A Concise History (2006) p.20]

This devotion to the Highlands would help sustain the morale of the Black Watch throughout the following centuries; fighting far from home upon the battlefields of Fallujah, Waterloo, the Somme, Ypres and Alamein, to name but a few. Today the proud military traditions of the Highland soldier are upheld by the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, or the ‘Black Watch’ as they still prefer to be known.

Header Image: Black Watch at Fontenoy, 1745 William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929)
Soldier of the Black Watch. Engraving of Samuel MacPherson of the 43rd Regiment of Foot, National Army Museum, London
Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758 Artist Unknown

The Biggles Story

Best known by the sobriquet Captain W.E. Johns, William Earle Johns was the creator of one of the best loved characters in English literature – Biggles. Drawing upon his time as an RAF pilot during the Great War, Johns penned over one hundred Biggles stories, charting the rip-roaring adventures of his eponymous fighter-pilot ace. He was also the author of over sixty other novels and factual works, as well as scores of magazine articles and short stories, and the brave new world of aviation remained his passion throughout his prolific writing career.

Captain W E Jones

Captain W E Johns

What is perhaps less well known is that Captain W.E. Johns wrote many of his Biggles stories here at Ballindalloch. In September 1944 Johns became the tenant of the 5th Baronet, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, when he took up the lease on Pitchroy Lodge.

His attempts at re-joining the RAF had been thwarted (at 46 he was too old) and Johns had spent the period of the Blitz serving with his local ARP (Air Raids Precaution) unit in Reigate Heath, Surrey. For the majority of the war he had worked for the Air Ministry, helping with the recruitment and training of RAF and WAAF personnel.

His reasons for seeking refuge in the Highlands lie in the complexities of his private life. Unhappily married and with his wife refusing him a divorce, Johns wished to make a home with his long-term partner Doris Leigh, but without prejudicing his standing as a children’s author. So he chose Ballindalloch, far off the radar of polite London society. William and Doris were to make Pitchroy House their home for the next nine years.

Pitchroy Lodge Ballindalloch

Pitchroy Lodge Ballindalloch

Whilst staying here in Ballindalloch the ‘Captain’s’ output was prodigious and many of Biggles’s best known adventures – Biggles in the Orient (1945), Biggles Takes a Holiday (1949) and Biggles Takes the Case (1952) to name a few – were penned as his creator sat in his study looking out across the River Spey. In Biggles Delivers the Goods (April 1946) Captain W.E. Johns has his hero deliver the following soliloquy:

“While men are decent to me I try to be decent to them, regardless of race, colour, politics, creed, or anything else…I’ve travelled a bit, and taking the world by and large, it’s my experience that with a few exceptions there’s nothing wrong with the people on it, if only they were left alone to live as they want to live.”

It does not seem too much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Captain W. E. Johns found a place he could be ‘left alone to live how he wanted to live’ here at Ballindalloch.

Biggles fans regularly come to Speyside to soak up the scenery that inspired the author; apparently, if one is very observant it can even be recognised in passages of his books.


Ballindalloch Castle

History of Ballindalloch Estate

The lands of Ballindalloch and Glencairnie were granted to John Grant of Freuchie by King James IV in 1499 in reward for his: ‘Good faithful and thankful service in peace and war’. It was John Grant’s grandson, also christened John, who began the construction of a castle at Ballindalloch in the 1540s.

Traditionally, the lairds of Ballindalloch have been, at heart, men of the Highlands, concerned first and foremost with being good custodians of their estate. Up until the early 1800s life on the Ballindalloch Estate changed only with the seasons. However, the tendrils of industrial and agricultural revolution spreading across northern Europe would eventually reach out to the Highlands and the 19th Century would witness considerable modernisation. In particular, Sir George Macpherson of Ballindalloch, the 1st Baronet, was a devoted farmer and his stewardship brought about tremendous improvements in the efficiency of the Estate. The 3rd Baronet, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, was also a dedicated farmer and agricultural innovator and is best known for establishing, in 1860, the Ballindalloch herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, now the oldest herd in the world.

The tumultuous era of two world wars would force a stark choice upon the great estates of Scotland: diversify or die. From the late 1970s onwards Clare (Macpherson-Grant) and her husband Oliver Russell devoted themselves to diversifying the activities of this ancient Highland estate, ensuring that Ballindalloch Estate would continue to play an important role into the 21st Century. The traditional activities of arable and cattle farming were complemented by new departures into forestry, country sports, leisure and tourism.

Today this process of sensitive diversification is carried on with the same dedication by their son Guy Macpherson-Grant and his wife Victoria, the latest evolution being the opening of Ballindalloch Single Malt Distillery.

Farming and Forestry

Stretching from the edge of the Crown Estate’s Glenlivet Estate in the south to Glenfarclas in the north, Ballindalloch Estate encompasses over 9,000 hectares of mature woodland, moorlands, grazing pastures and arable fields, interspersed with farms and cottages.

We currently farm about 400 acres of arable land, with production centring upon the Estate’s Home Farm. The primary crop is Spring Barley, with the bulk of the crop destined for our own Ballindalloch Distillery. Working in partnership with local contractors, we sow the Laureate variety of barley each year and this provides the tonnage required for the following year’s whisky production. This is a very significant development because it means that every ingredient going into our Ballindalloch single malt has its origins here in Speyside – something that is not true of other local distillers, who often source their barley from across the United Kingdom.

Our livestock holding focuses primarily upon our world famous pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus, the oldest herd in the world, which currently stands at 100 beasts. The herd is a passion for the family, driven by the desire to continue the standards set by our forebears.

Ballindalloch Estate forestry operations encompass native broadleaf woodlands, stands of Scots Pine and commercial forestry blocks. Management of all forestry on the Estate is conducted in accordance with an adopted and approved Forest Plan and utilises local contractors wherever possible. The careful management of our resident deer population, which is essential to preserve the right balance between our commercial interests and habitat diversity, is an important element of this Forest Plan.

To discover more about our world famous herd of Aberdeen Angus, both past and present, please click on the pages in this section.


The Macpherson-Grant family’s ambition is to support the diversification and growth of the rural Speyside economy through land management practices in keeping with the heritage and landscape of this beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands. These are the guiding principles which govern both the long-term management and day-to-day running of the Ballindalloch Estate.

Although we are always looking to improve upon our strong ethical approach to land management, we believe that our current mix of activities is making a significant contribution to the economy, community and environment of the Speyside region. With the help of our excellent team and the support of the local community we feel confident that Ballindalloch Estate can continue to meet the difficult challenges posed to rural communities in the 21st Century.

To learn more about the environmental and community work taking place at Ballindalloch Estate please contact us here or phone 01807 500 205.


Ballindalloch Estate has been a popular destination for lovers of Highland country sports for many years. Our many acres of mature woodland and heather bound moorland provide first class beats for grouse and pheasant shooting and the deer stalking is of the finest quality.


The shooting season starts in August (the ‘Glorious Twelfth’) and continues through to January, and we run organised shooting parties throughout the season.

The natural topography of Ballindalloch Estate, especially the steep banks of the Spey and Avon glens, and our abundant mature hardwoods, make it the perfect setting for both driven shooting and walked-up shooting. Thanks to the hard work of our team of dedicated gamekeepers our moorlands are now well stocked with both red and black grouse, partridge and other indigenous upland species. A limited number of let days for both driven and walked up shooting for pheasants are made available each season, so it is important to book early.


Stalking (aka ‘Hunting’) enthusiasts from around the world make the journey to Ballindalloch, attracted by the excellence of our deer stalking. The tranquillity of woodlands and the richness of the foliage helps engender superb quality bucks and does. Red deer are to be found both on the moors and woodlands hereabouts and offer interesting stalking challenges, although it is the iconic roe deer that Ballindalloch is particularly famed for. Our season extends from April to July each year, and we can accommodate two rifles on a daily or weekly basis.

We are experienced in arranging the relevant gun licences for clients visiting from abroad and we are happy to organise bespoke itineraries tailored to your needs. We offer self and full-catering options for our shooting parties and we can put together a package that includes shooting, fishing, distillery visits and other local activities at your discretion.

For current availability please contact the Estate Office via the Contact us page or by telephone on 01807 500 205.

Fishing at Ballindalloch

Two great Scottish Highland rivers converge at Ballindalloch Estate. The River Spey, springing from a small loch in the Monadhliath Mountains, is the second longest river in Scotland and indisputably the fastest. The River Avon, the longest tributary of the Spey, has its source some thirty eight miles distant upon the summit of Ben Muich Dhui. Both rivers are renowned for their clean and crystalline waters and healthy stocks of salmon and sea trout. Indeed, so clean is the River Spey that it sustains one of the largest populations of fresh water pearl mussel to be found in Scotland.

Ballindalloch Estate boasts over three miles of double-bank fishing on the River Spey and fishermen and women travel from around the world to fish the famous salmon pools of the Castle and Pitchroy beats. Well known for its torrents and steep gradients, the River Spey travels more gently through the Estate and provides good stocks of native Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon.

In addition we have six miles of challenging fly-fishing on the River Avon. Known hereabouts as the ‘Fisherman’s River’, the Avon (pronounced A’an) brawls and rushes on its journey toward the River Spey and our pools and runs offer excellent stocks of Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout.

Fishing vacations on the Ballindalloch Estate are tailor-made to suit the needs of our guests. Our beats can be fished exclusively by the week with some day permits available. Spacious and comfortable accommodation can be provided at either Marionburgh House or the Delnashaugh Hotel and both self-catering and full-catered options are available. All our beats have riverside huts and novices and experts alike will benefit from the local knowhow of our long serving ghillies.

For more information on our beats, availability and how to book a fishing vacation with Ballindalloch Estate, please browse the pages in this section.

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