The Hotel

Aberlour Nursery and the history of the Dowans Hotel

The Hotel

Over the past one hundred and twenty five years the Dowans Hotel has held an important role in the cultural and social life of Speyside.

Built in 1888 for John Cummings, the owner of nearby Cardhu Distillery, the grand elegance of the building and its outstanding setting, atop the village of Aberlour overlooking the Spey Valley below, stands testimony to the huge significance of whisky to the region’s economy by this time. John Cumming’s business at Cardhu also held a significance unique to itself, it being the only distillery in Scotland to have been pioneered by a woman: John’s grandmother Helen and mother Elizabeth both performing the role of ‘chief distiller’.

The Dowans remained a grand family home for the next fifty years. Then the outbreak of war in 1939 saw the house being requisitioned by the British Army to serve as a senior officer’s mess. This was to prove the end of its time as a private residence. At the cessation of hostilities the Dowans was bequeathed to the Governors of the Aberlour Orphanage; an organisation renowned nationally for its care of underprivileged children and central to village life ever since its founding in 1875. In 1953 the Dowans was rechristened the Princess Margaret Orphanage Nursery School and at any one time was to become home to thirty young children over the next fifteen years.

Reflecting changes in approaches to community care, both the Nursery and the Orphanage were closed in 1967 and the children dispersed to family homes across Moray. In the early 1970s a resident of Aberlour bought the premises and a new chapter began: the former Dowans House became the Dowans Hotel. Over the subsequent forty years the Dowans Hotel has continued to play an important part in Aberlour’s evolving history, welcoming guests from far and wide to enjoy the unique heritage and idyllic landscape of Speyside.