The Built Environment

The historic development of the landscape and the surviving built heritage in the Park can be grouped into three main periods: prehistoric monuments; pre-improvement remains mostly of the 17th and 18th centuries; and improvement remains, spanning the late 19th century to the present. The distinctive building traditions and settlement distribution were frequently determined by local conditions of geology (available materials) and land-use.

 A large proportion of structures relate to farming and land-use activity. The agricultural improvements of the mid to late 18th and 19th centuries had a significant impact on the landscape, with the enclosure of fields; provision of drainage; amalgamation of smaller farms; construction of new farmhouses and steadings; improved communication routes to carry produce; depopulation of large areas to create sheepwalks and hunting/shooting estates; new planned settlements, enlarged or replacement churches; and enlargement or replacement of old tower houses with new mansions. Consequently very few structures of pre-18th century date survive, apart from some of the major houses such as Muckrach, Braemar and Abergeldie Castles.

The purchase of the Balmoral Estate by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852, and the subsequent arrival of the railway, had a major impact on the whole area, heralding the age of tourism and the sporting estate. The romantic Balmoral style spread through neighbouring estates, such as Invercauld, where the old house was remodelled with crowstepped gables and pepperpot towers in 1875. At a more modest scale, the villas in Braemar and Ballater also adopted baronial characteristics, together with hotels, shooting lodges, entrance lodges, banks and police stations.

The construction of the Speyside railway brought great changes to the area. Prior to 1863 Aviemore was little more than an inn, but with the railway the village became an important junction and developed into a small village with hotels. The expansion of the railway enabled local markets to develop as well as supporting the growth of the tourism market.

Built developments have increased considerably throughout the 20th century. Much of this has occurred in Speyside particularly, in which Aviemore was substantially extended as a tourist resort in the 1960s. Expansion of other towns has occurred but not on the same scale. In some rural parts, the population has gradually declined and holiday home ownership increased. Other structures include visitor facilities, the most well-known being the ski developments at Cairn Gorm, Glen Shee and the Lecht. More recently, pylons and power lines as well as telecommunication aeriels are dominating the landscape.