Carron lies on the north side of the River Spey where it flows through a steep sided, wooded valley three miles west of Aberlour. Today it is usually visited by observant map-readers who have spotted that the only crossing of the Spey for some miles in either direction is over what turns out once to have been a joint road/rail bridge here.
Think Speyside, and think whisky. And the story of Carron is very much the story of the distilling industry in the immediate area. In 1851 the Dailuaine Distillery was established on a site on the south side of the river a mile east of today's Carron.
In 1863 the Great North of Scotland Railway opened a line from Grantown on Spey to Craigellachie. This approached Carron from the west along the north bank of the River Spey, where an iron bridge was built to carry it across the river for its onward travel along the south bank to Craigellachie. As a result it was able to serve Dailuaine Distillery via its own station and railway sidings: and workers, raw materials and the finished product were transported by rail for a century until the demise of the railway.
Dailuaine Distillery went from strength to strength and was greatly expanded in the early 1800s, at one point being the largest distiller of Highland Malt. The name is little known to whisky buffs because very little of the output of the distillery ever escapes as a single malt. Almost all goes into Johnnie Walker blended whiskies.
Just as the existing distilleries along the Spey helped justify the building of a railway, the building of a railway in turn helped justify the development of more distilleries. in 1897 land on the north bank of the river next to the existing Carron Station was used to build the ambitious Imperial Distillery, which also came complete with its own railway sidings.
Imperial was expanded in 1965, but closed twenty years later in 1985. It then reopened in 1989, before being mothballed in 1998. Last time we visited, in mid-2005, the distillery had signs suggesting it was for sale as a development site. Imperial's problems were always its very large stills, meaning that it could not be operated very flexibly. It could either produce in large quantities or not at all. The land was subsequently sold and the new Dalmunach Distillery was developed on the site, at a reported cost of £25m.
The old railway station still stands, and the platforms and trackways are visible, even though the trains have long gone. The railway bridge also still serves as a single track road bridge. And today the course of the railway serves a very different sort of traveller, following the route of the Speyside Way long distance footpath from Aviemore to Buckpool near Buckie.