Down the centuries, Forfar’s status as the county town of Angus has pulled in people from all around.
But while times have changed – and a by-pass built more than 35 years ago now takes A90 traffic past it – the many charms remain.
From the 1700s until the late 1920s it was the burgh capital of Forfarshire.
It also retains the important role as the administrative heart of the district and location for Angus Council’s HQ.
Forfar was a textile town, and remains so through the modern-day success of one of its longest established employers, Don & Low.
The fairways of 152-year-old Forfar Golf Club are a natural legacy of that commercial prosperity, their distinctive undulations formed by long rows of flax laid out to dry.
The ‘toonie’ boasts an array of famous sons and daughters – from 19th century confectioner and benefactor Peter Reid to 2022 Winter Olympic curling gold medal heroine Hailey Duff.
Its name was even carried to 1970s small screen fame by actor Stuart Mungall as the trucker in the TV adverts for Yorkie chocolate.
And there is one other culinary creation which has put Forfar firmly on the map – but we’ll let Owen Foster get to the meat of the matter.
Young entrepreneur Owen’s success story began when he was still a schoolboy.
With guidance from his gran he turned his hand to jam-making.
The stately shelves of Glamis Castle were among the first to stock his tasty products and since then he hasn’t looked back.
He now operates Owen’s Angus Jams alongside a farm shop and cafe in Forfar, and has added a gin range to the business.
It’s a busy operation for the 22-year-old businessman.
But he manages to squeeze in time to enjoy what Forfar has to offer.
1. Savoury success
“When you tell people you’re from Forfar there’s one thing that they are likely to mention straight away – the Forfar Bridie,” says Owen.
“It’s such a famous thing for the town,” he adds of the horseshoe-shaped pasty originating from the mid-1800s.
“There are two famous Forfar Bridie shops – Saddler’s and McLaren’s.
“Everyone in Forfar has their favourite.
“Through my own business I know Mike and Morna Saddler quite well and the bridie is definitely known around the world.”
When the new Earl of Forfar – Prince Edward – visited the town after the 300-year-old title was re-introduced in 2019 he sampled a Saddler’s bridie in their East High Street shop.
Owen adds: “There is so much good produce in Angus.
“We’re very lucky to live in the heart of such a strong farming area and I know that from the quality of fruit I get for my own jam-making and cafe.”
2. The view from Balmashanner
“There’s nothing like the view from Balmashanner Hill,” he says.
Bummie, as it is known locally, is on the south edge of Forfar and the setting for the town’s war memorial.
Its stunning vista takes in the Vale of Strathmore, west to Schiehallion and north to the Airlie Monument above Kirriemuir and then the Angus glens and Cairngorms beyond.
“It’s a really enjoyable walk up and a great photo when you get to the top,” Owen adds.
“Forfar Loch’s also another really nice spot.
“It’s an easy walk round and doesn’t take too long so you can see why so many people love going there.”
He also hopes more people might take the time to seek out Forfar’s hidden gem – Castle Hill.
It was once the site of the royal burgh’s castle and is now accessed from a quirky gate off Canmore Street.
3. Sport for all
“I enjoy rugby and play with Dundee now, but I started out at Strathmore Rugby Club in Forfar,” says Owen.
“It’s a really friendly family club and is doing a lot of good things through the Strathmore Community Rugby Trust.
“It includes autism-friendly rugby and the trust led the way on that in Scotland a few years ago.”
He also hails the skating and curling offered at Forfar Indoor Sports.
“Forfar is one of the rare places with an ice rink outside the big cities and it’s really good to have it on our doorstep.
“I love going up there to enjoy the skating.
“I’m not really a curler but to have an Olympic curling champion who started out at Forfar is pretty cool.”
And he adds: “Forfar also has a number of great gyms – I think there are about six here.
“I’m hoping to train as a PT instructor so I’m up at the gym quite a lot and it’s great to have such a good choice.
“Of course we also have Forfar Athletic’s Station Park and Strathmore Cricket Club so there are plenty sporting things to do or watch.”
4. Independent businesses
“From my own experience I know how tough it is to be an independent business,” he continues.
“But I think Forfar still does really well on that front.
“There’s still a really good mix in the town centre, with a number of long-established shops and others that are newer.
“We also have a good selection of pubs and restaurants.
“The Royal Hotel has its own swimming pool and is a decent size for a town like Forfar.”
5. The Loons and lasses of Forfar
“I’ve been really grateful to the support of the people of Forfar.
“I was really lucky to get my jam in places like Glamis Castle when I started.
“It’s been hard work but really enjoyable.
“Forfar’s a great community and I think people like to try to support the small businesses especially to keep them going and make sure the town continues to thrive.”