In 1962, with little money and no employment, Eileen and Peter Caddy, their three children and friend Dorothy Maclean, settled on a caravan site at Findhorn. Dorothy believed she had a special relationship with what she called the “devas … the archetypal formative forces of light or energy that underlie all forms in nature – plants, trees, rivers”, and from the uncompromising sandy soil they built a remarkable garden filled with plants and vegetables, far larger than had ever been seen in the area. A few of those who came to see the phenomenon stayed to help out and tune into the spiritual aspect of the daily life of the nascent community. With its emphasis on inner discovery and development, but unattached to any particular doctrine or creed, the Findhorn Foundation has blossomed into a permanent community of a couple of hundred people, with a well-developed series of courses and retreats drawing another eight thousand or so visitors each year. The original caravan still stands, surrounded by other caravans, a host of newer timber buildings and a group of round houses made from huge reclaimed whisky distillery barrels; all employ green initiatives including solar power and earth roofs. Elsewhere you can see an ecological sewage treatment centre, a huge wind generator and various community businesses including a café, pottery and weaving studio.

The foundation is not without controversy: a community leader once declared that “behind the front lies a hard core of New Agers experimenting with hallucinatory techniques marketed as spirituality”. Whether that is true or not Findhorn can certainly be accused of being overly well-heeled, as betrayed by a glance into the shop or a tally of the smart cars parked outside the well-appointed eco-houses. However, there’s little doubt that the community continues to prosper, and its worldwide reputation attracts visitors both sympathetic and sceptical.

Visitors are generally free to stroll around, but the guided tour is worthwhile; you can also guide yourself via a booklet (£3) available from the shop or visitor centre, which also has information on staying within the community.

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