The beautiful town of Portsoy is located on the Moray Firth Coast of North East Scotland between Inverness and Aberdeen. The original name may come from Port Saoithe, meaning ‘saithe harbour’.
The Old Harbour dates to the 17th century and is the oldest on the Moray Firth. As a result, it is one of the most fascinating. Around the Old Harbour are a number of impressive buildings that date back to the end of the 1600s or early 1700s, with buildings getting younger as you climb the hill away from the harbour towards the Square in the heart of the town.
Portsoy is known for local jewellery made from ‘Portsoy marble’, which is not marble, but rather serpentinite. This was extracted from a quarry to the west of the town. Some Portsoy marble found its way into the fixtures and fittings of Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles. Portsoy marble is still worked locally and a range of products are for sale in one of the buildings overlooking the harbour.
Portsoy was established as a burgh in a charter signed by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1550, and the first harbour was built at around the same time. The trade in Portsoy’s early days included the import of coal for domestic fires and the export of locally produced thread and linen to England.
In 1692, Sir Patrick Ogilvie, the 8th Laird of Boyne replaced the existing harbour with another built entirely of stone. Further around the bay is the New Harbour, built in 1825 to meet the demands of the herring boom and the volume of trade going through Portsoy. This was rebuilt following storm damage in 1839.
Portsoy Old Harbour was the principal location for Gillies MacKinnon’s 2016 film Whisky Galore!; a remake of the 1949 film, when Portsoy represented the fictional island of Todday. The Harbour has also featured in BBC period dramas ‘The Camerons’ and ‘The Shutter Falls’ and a Tennent’s Lager advert parodying the 1949 film Whisky Galore!