The village of Tomintoul is generally thought
to have been founded in 1750 by Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon,
but in fact the initial surveys were carried out in 1775. The first
tenants moved in during 1780.
The village was laid out along the military
road which had been built between Fort George and Corgarff a few
decades earlier, in a location which makes it the highest village
above sea level in Highland Scotland. Each plot of land was unusually
broad, measuring approximately 22m as opposed to 14m. As a result,
many of the cottages were built with an extra outbuilding or an
additional 'half-house' at the side. Some of these half-houses,
which were often used to house elderly relatives, can still be seen.
In 1792, there were only 37 families in
Tomintoul. The local minister noted that they all sold whisky, and
that they all drank it, too. Other than this, they supplemented
their income by manufacturing odd items or offering their services
as casual labour. By 1831, the Duke of Gordon had implemented improvements
in agriculture and animal husbandry, and had encouraged the growth
of the village. His encouragement paid off: Tomintoul's population
had by then risen to 143 families.
In 1853, Queen Victoria described Tomintoul
as a 'tumbledown, miserable, dirty-looking place'. A century later,
the village had been transformed. The water supply was upgraded
in 1890, coal replaced peat as the major domestic fuel by 1920,
and in 1949 electricity was introduced. By that time, Tomintoul
was already able to hold its own as a popular tourist destination.
Of the residential buildings in the village,
only a few of the original single-storeyed eighteenth-century cottages
remain substantially unaltered, most having been subject either
to alteration or rebuilding in the later nineteenth century. Three
generations of a local family of masons, the Stewarts, were particularly
involved in this work. Much of this rebuilding work took place towards
the end of the nineteenth century and into the early years of the
twentieth century, and many of the town's existing commercial and
residential buildings date to this phase. Characteristics of buildings
of this period include pedimented upper floor windows, plain gable
copes and coursed rubble facades with dressings, usually granite.
Large pieces of dressed stone, often granite, may be used as lintels
over doorways and windows.