- Friday 5th Apr 2013
- Posted in holiday ideas, natural Scotland, tips from the locals, walks
- 1 Comment(s)
The scenic Moray Speyside area, running from Forres along the coast to Cullen and jutting in a ‘V’ inland to Tomintoul, offers a wide variety of visitor attractions, such as Brodie Castle, Glenfiddich Distillery, Elgin Cathedral, Ballindalloch Castle and Johnstons Woollen Mill. While these attractions are certainly well worth a visit, there are many hidden delights to discover, such as beautiful woodland walks and the winding streets of charming harbour towns.
As a local to the area (I was brought up in Forres and Findhorn, and now live in Dufftown) these are my own personal highlights of Moray and Speyside.
1. Woodland walks south of Forres
As a child I spent many a Sunday afternoon walking in the pretty wooded areas south of Forres. If you head out of Forres on the A940, you will come across Sluie Walk, Blair’s Loch and Randolph’s Leap – three of my favourite walks in the area. Sluie Walk and Randolph’s Leap both follow sections of the swirling River Findhorn as it twists through rocky terrain, and the roaring of the river as it crashes into inky pools is quite spectacular. Blair’s Loch is a lovely circuit in any season, but particularly when the rhodedendrones are in bloom.
Head to nearby Logie Steading after your walk for a coffee and cake (trust me, you’ll want to try one of the home bakes!).
2. The view of Findhorn from the water
Findhorn is a picturesque village situated in the crook of an outstretched bay, and is popular with tourists who flock to its shores in the summer months. Instead of walking along the main beach you can take a water taxi to the other side of the bay – a quiet stretch of sand on the edge of the Culbin Forest (another great place for a woodland walk). And, in my opinion, looking back at Findhorn village from out on the water is one of the best views.
Keep an eye out at low tide for the resident ospreys (a good spot for osprey watching is in front of The Kimberley Inn – even in colder weather you can enjoy your drink at one of the tables outside under the heaters).
3. Giant’s Chair Walk, Dufftown
This is a lovely walk which loops around from Dufftown Distillery, tucked away at the foot of Church Street. Starting at the Clock Tower walk down Church Street, passing Mortlach Church (an ancient monument) and cross the bridge to your left at the bottom of the hill. The walk then follows the river and loops back around until you end up at the distillery. It’s a good place to spot a deer or two. After your walk you can enjoy tea and cake at Dufftown Glassworks, just up from the Clock Tower next to the Whisky Museum.
Of the many coastal gems along the Moray Firth one of my favourites is the Pictish town of Hopeman (probably because my grandmother lived here and I have happy memories of beach-combing and clambering over rocks). As you walk along the beach look out for the line of colourful beach huts.
5. The drive from Dufftown to Forres – B9102
Instead of taking the main route from Forres to Dufftown (the A941), I prefer the B9102 through Archiestown, Dallas and Rafford. It takes roughly the same time and is much more scenic – with beautiful views of Ben Rinnes.
6. Millbuies Country Park, near Elgin
The last time I walked here it was October and the loch had an autumnal frame of yellows and reds. It is an easy family walk, with ducks to feed and a picnic area at the start of the walk. There are two sections to the loch, divided by a bridge, so you can either follow the path in a circuit or a figure of eight.
7. Picnic on the Spey
The River Spey snakes past the town of Aberlour, and other than walking along the river (famed for its fishing), my favourite thing to do is buy some deli food and a takeaway coffee from the fantastic Speyside Larder (on the high street) and have a picnic by the river. There are benches along the river bank where you can enjoy your alfresco lunch and look out for the fish jumping.
8. Roseisle Beach
Roseisle beach lies between Findhorn and Burghead, and is a quiet stretch of sandy beach backed against a forest. (There are three forest trails to follow if you prefer the woods to the beach). It is only a short walk from the car park to the beach and is a lovely place to do some wildlife watching (you can sometimes spot porpoises and dolphins in the Firth).
9. Califer Hill Viewpoint
For the best view in the area, drive up to Califer Hill Viewpoint (5 miles from Forres). From here you can see right across to the Black Isle and beyond, with wonderful views of Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth.
10. East Beach and Harbour Lights Lossiemouth
There are two beaches in Lossiemouth to explore but my favourite is the East Beach. As a child I used to run quickly over the old wooden bridge (while my brother delighted in jumping up and down to make it bounce) and I always feel like I’ve swept away the cobwebs after a walk here. Dunes line the beach not far from the bridge (perfect for some dune jumping!) and you can often see surfers bobbing about in the waves. After your walk have some lunch at the nearby Harbour Lights – a great little cafe.
If you love stepping off the beaten tourist track and walking in the footsteps of locals, why not embrace Moray from your own holiday home and get tips and local knowledge from the owner? EmbraceScotland has a range of accommodation in Moray and Speyside.