There are many fine buildings in Forres, but none dominates it quite like St Laurence Church, a magnificent neo-Gothic building towering over the centre of this ancient town.
As befits the age and importance of Forres, there has been a church on this site since the 1200s when King Alexander III erected a chapel here in memory of his late wife Margaret and dedicated it to St Laurence, the patron saint of Forres. He was a Christian martyr best remembered for the unpleasant manner of his death: he was roasted alive in Rome in AD258.
Today's St Laurence Church is the latest in a line of churches on the site. Its foundation stone was laid on 17 August 1904 and it was first used for worship just over 18 months later on 28 February 1906. The church cost just £9,600 to build: it is estimated that it would cost £6m to replace today.
What emerged was a truly wonderful church built on a grand scale. The spire is some 120ft high and the exterior is a riot of pinnacles and beautiful stonework.
Internally you could be forgiven for thinking you had somehow slipped from Church of Scotland to Church of England. The focal point of the east end of the church is the marble communion table, in style and position looking very much like an Anglican altar. Above it hangs a stone cross, a replacement for a Sicilian marble original badly damaged many years ago.
High in the east gable is the three light War Memorial Window "In memory of those connected with the congregation who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1919". In the west gable is a stained glass window in memory of the Revd Dr James Keith, who was Minister in Forres from 1852-1905. Both windows were unveiled on 3 September 1922.
These and the many other stained glass windows in St Laurence Church contribute significantly to the lovely atmosphere of the church and the fascinating quality of the light within it.
Towards the east end of the church is the baptistry alcove, home to a lovely white marble font modelled on a stone original found at Dryburgh Abbey. The major decorative elements at the eastern end of the church are rounded off by a brass eagle lectern and a magnificent pulpit. Like the font this was a copy of one in a pre-Reformation abbey.
At the west end and along the north side of the nave there are large galleries, originally intended for the great and the good of Forres. Today they provide visitors with some of the best views of the interior of the church: and allow an excellent appreciation of the stained glass windows along the south wall of the nave.
From here, too, you begin to appreciate the scale of the three-manual Lawton Pipe Organ installed at a cost of £535 when the church was built, but costing nearer £500,000 to replace today.
You won't get to see the bells during your visit, but you might hear them. The belfry is home to two bells, each weighing upwards of a quarter of a tonne. These might well be relics from earlier churches on the site as one is inscribed as being cast in 1682, the other in 1781.
For many, St Laurence Church will be enjoyed as a spectacular adornment to the town in which it stands. But while the exterior of the church is rather special, it is nothing compared with the interior. This is definitely a church worth going out of your way to visit.