Elgin, the administrative and commercial capital of Moray, has a long and fascinating history, still reflected today in the buildings and layout of the town. It grew up on a low ridge between the loops of the River Lossie, and by the thirteenth century, when it was created a Royal Burgh by Alexander II, was a thriving town with its castle atop Lady Hill to the west, and the great Cathedral to the east.
The Cathedral was founded in 1224 as the seat of the Diocese of Moray, which had previously been at Kinneddar, Birnie and Spynie. In 1390 the notorious "Wolf of Badenoch", son of King Robert II, quarrelled with Bishop Alexander Bur, who excommunicated him. In revenge he burned the Cathedral and the towns of Elgin and Forres. The Cathedral was rebuilt and continued in use until reformation. In 1567 the lead was stripped from the roof by order of the Privy Council and Regent Moray and the process of decay began. On Easter Sunday 1711 the great central tower fell, and by the end of the eighteenth century the once-magnificent Cathedral was being used as a quarry for building stone. In 1825, however, the Exchequer assumed responsibility for the preservation of the structure, and restoration work is still going on.
The mediaeval street plan of Elgin is well preserved. The main street widens to the old cobbled market place, now known as the Plainstones, and is linked to parallel streets by a series of narrow wynds and pends. A few buildings still retain the arched facades which were typical of early eighteenth century Elgin.
Much has been done and is being done to invigorate the centre of the town while retaining and restoring the old buildings. The relief road, Alexandra Road, built to free the High Street of heavy and through traffic, has cut a swathe through the area behind the shops on the north side of the high street, opening up new vistas towards the Cathedral and Lady Hill. The landscaping along Alexandra Road is of interest to gardeners, and new housing developments at each end of the road show how modern council housing can be fitted into the environment of a historic town.
A Profile of Moray
Moray has many pleasing characteristics, it includes the fishing towns in the north such as Buckie and Lossiemouth; the agriculturally rich Laich of Moray and the main town of Elgin; the Spey Valley, home to world renowned food processors such as Walkers and Baxters; and the highlands of the south which form part of the Cairngorm mountain range.
Most people (almost 60%) live in the 5 main towns of Elgin, Buckie, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth. The overall population density is low at 38 persons per square kilometre (compared to 66 in Scotland). There is a clear difference between the populated, rich agricultural land in the Laich of Moray along the northern coast and the sparsely populated upland areas to the south. The population of around 86,000 is expected to increase gradually to 89,000 over the period to 2011.
Moray is an attractive place with 70 percent of its area being open countryside with a further 25 percent being made up of woodlands. The area to the south around Tomintoul will form part of the Cairngorms National Park proposed by the Government.
There is a high degree of reliance on the food processing and whisky industries. The food processing industry is concentrated in a small number of local family-owned firms, whilst the ownership of local distilleries is dominated by major multi-national firms. The local economy also relies heavily on the presence of RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks, which comprise 12 percent of Moray’s overall workforce. Moray is a fragile, remote area, which has the lowest average wages in Scotland together with a high dependency on the car with fuel costs comprising an increasing part of the household budget. There are high levels of demand for affordable housing resulting from the low wage economy within Moray.
The Moray Council is responsible for providing all the major local authority services in the Moray area, including Education, Social Work, Roads, Economic Development & Planning and Leisure Services. The Council employs around 4,500 people across a whole range of professions and skills.