MACDUFF is an archetypal Scottish fishing town set in an attractive location overlooking the Moray Firth and Banff Bay to the west.
It is a classic maritime community whose roots are succoured by the sea and its fine harbour and boat-building stand testament to its rich past.
While Banff’s attempts to create a safe harbour just a mile away across Banff Bay were doomed to disaster because of silting from the River Deveron, Macduff’s predecessor, the village of Doune, was ideally placed.
This was not lost on the landowner, the then Lord Fife of the Duff family, who established the town and went on to successfully petition King George III in 1783 to allow him to create the Macduff that had grown out of Doune village, and establish the "new town" as a burgh.
This was duly granted and the Duke’s factor, William Rose, was installed as Macduff’s first provost.
The town’s last provost, former Banffshire Lord Lieutenant James McPherson, served for three years and stood down in 1995 when the Local Government Reform (Scotland) Act did away with town councils – but his passion for Macduff has not diminished.
"Macduff is a special place," he says. "It was created by a local benefactor, Lord Fife of Duff House, who genuinely wanted to improve the lives of people on his land.
"He was a far-seeing landowner who also established the town’s first harbour and had started its construction by 1770. His successor later agreed to sell it to the Town Council of Macduff for the knockdown sum of just £10,000."
Lord Fife’s heart had been firmly rooted in the wellbeing of the burgh he created, as was further evidenced in 1907 when the family gifted the massive mansion of Duff House to the twinned communities of Banff and Macduff. It is a local asset that still stands today as a major visitor attraction in its role as an important Scottish art gallery that mounts significant exhibitions of works of art.
In Macduff Town Council’s ownership, the harbour flourished, was improved and expanded by adding a new breakwater and lighthouse in 1903 and the huge Princess Royal Basin and patent slipway that was opened in 1921.
It is because of that investment that Macduff has fared better from the sea in more recent times, compared to its near neighbour.
It has a far better harbour, sheltered basins and a boat-building industry that thrives today by servicing its dwindling, but still significant, fishing fleet and constructing high-technology steel fishing craft for fishermen throughout the country.
In fact, Macduff Shipyards is an internationally renowned ship design and build business which constructs steel and timber craft for a world market.
Within a few minutes walk east of the harbour is another visitor attraction – the Macduff Aquarium that was opened by Princess Ann in 1997. Every year it attracts thousands of tourists, school parties and other groups.
Royal Tarlair Golf Club is another key asset for Macduff – a prime 18-hole championship cliff-top golf course at the east end of the burgh with some of the scenically most spectacular fairways in Britain overlooking rugged cliffs and the Moray Firth.
Nearby is another historic gem – once a mecca for locals and visitors alike and now waiting to be reawakened.
Generations of Banff and Macduff youngsters learned to swim and respect the sea at the outdoor, unheated Tarlair Swimming Pool. Built around 1930, it attracted thousands of visitors to its salt water fed swimming, paddling and diving pool – not to mention its fine cafe.
For many years it lay abandoned, but thanks to local concern it has now been A Listed as an historic structure. It is regarded as the "finest example of an art deco pool in Scotland".
Macduff, like so many Moray Firth coastal communities, is a fascinating town to explore. From its seatown area, port, shipyards and aquarium to its fine hotels, cafes and character-packed steep and narrow streets it is a hidden jewel in the north-east.