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Mackay's Holidays: Holiday Cottages Throughout Scotland
Cottages all over Scotland in beautiful locations
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all over Scotland in stunning locations
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Elgin Cathedral
Elgin Cathedral
Glen Grant Distillery
Glen Grant Distillery

Moray Main Page

Moray extends from the high mountains of the Cairngorms in the south to the Moray Firth in the north, broadening all the while as it does so. The River Spey flows through much of the area and Moray passes from the uplands to the coast via a varied and attractive landscape. It is worth noting that there is a high degree of overlap between Moray and Speyside, though on Undiscovered Scotland each is self contained and features that appear in both are listed in both areas. For accommodation in the area see the links in the menu on the right. Parts of the south of Moray are also mirrored in our Cairngorms area. See the map below for an outline of the area and links to surrounding areas.

Elgin, the capital of Moray, is a lively market town which grew up in the thirteenth century around the River Lossie. Much of the original medieval street plan remains; the busy main street opens out onto an old cobbled market place and there are wynds and pends to explore. Elgin Museum is to be found at the top of the High Street in a building which has housed it since 1843, though as an institution it is much older.

The High Street itself is pedestrianised, and the buildings are attractive. To the west it widens out into the market place, known as the Plainstones, an area dominated by the Neoclassical parish church of St Giles, built by Archibald Simpson between 1827-8. On the western edge of Elgin is Glen Moray Distillery, complete with its excellent visitor centre. Elgin cathedral, which dates back to the 1200s, was known as the Lantern of the North until destroyed in 1390 (see our Historical Timeline). Near the cathedral are the Bishop's House and the Biblical Garden. Two miles north is Spynie Palace, the residence of the medieval bishops of Moray.

Straight roads and ditches criss-cross the flat land to the west of Spynie, which is home to RAF Lossiemouth. Lossiemouth, five miles north of Elgin, and its nearest seaside town, boasts two beaches and is popular with golfers. The East Beach is reached over a footbridge across the River Lossie from the town park and contains an expanse of dunes.

East of Lossiemouth are the coastal villages of Hopeman and Burghead, the latter home to the site of Burghead Promontory Fort, a Pictish fortress that probably served as capital of the Kingdom of Fortriu for up to 500 years. Nearby is the mysterious Burghead Well. Inland is Duffus. This attractive village stands at the gateway to Gordonstoun School while nearby are the medieval St Peter's Kirk and the remarkably well preserved Duffus Castle.

Forres, to the east, is one of Scotland's oldest agricultural towns and well worth a visit. Its centre is dominated by the magnificent St Laurence Church. The town is also home to one of the most remarkable Pictish stones in the country, the 21ft Sueno's Stone. Just south of Forres is the Dallas Dhu Distillery, maintained as a visitor attraction by Historic Scotland, while to its north is Speyside's smallest working distillery, Benromach.

Moray, Showing Main Settlements & Surrounding Areas
Moray, Showing Main Settlements & Surrounding Areas

Also north of Forres is the village of Kinloss, with the ruins of Kinloss Abbey. On the coast nearby is the attractive harbour and seaside resort of Findhorn, which is home to the Findhorn Foundation, an international spiritual community founded in 1962. Brodie Castle, near the western edge of Moray, provides an interesting excursion, during which you pass the 19 OTU Memorial. Next to the drive leading to the castle is a nice example of a Pictish symbol stone known as The Rodney Stone.

Six miles south west of Elgin is Pluscarden Abbey. Largely destroyed in the centuries after the Reformation, the Abbey returned to life in 1948 and restoration has continued since. Between Pluscarden and Elgin is another remarkable church, Birnie Kirk, one of the oldest churches in continuous use in Scotland.

To the east, the A96 bypasses the interestingly named Lhanbryde and nearby Urquhart before crossing the River Spey at the very attractive village of Fochabers. This is a popular stopping off point on the route of the Speyside Way, a long distance footpath from Aviemore to Buckie. On the west side of the River Spey is the old port of Garmouth, with Kingston just to its north, named after Kingston-upon-Hull.

Beyond the Mouth of the River Spey is Spey Bay with its golf course and wildlife centre. Next along the coast is Portgordon. Then you come to Buckpool, the start (or end) of the Speyside Way long distance path. East again, and you come to the large fishing port of Buckie emerging in the middle distance, which is followed by the very attractive fishing village of Findochty. This really is a gem, giving visitors a true feel of the variety of the fishing settlements in the area.

The eastern end of Moray is rounded off by Portknockie, and then by Cullen. This is a lovely little town whose fishing cottages are built between the beach and the enclosing curve of a disused railway, complete with three very imposing viaducts. On the edge of Cullen is Cullen Old Kirk, while four miles to the south is the intriguing Deskford Church.

Dallas Dhu Distillery
Dallas Dhu Distillery

The inland areas of Moray form a large part of Speyside, and are frequented by the many visitors from all over the world visiting the distilleries here. Villages like Aberlour and Carron lie beside the River Spey itself, while the small settlement of Archiestown lies on the northern slopes of the valley. Aberlour is also home to the Aberlour Distillery: and to the factory of Walker's Shortbread.

If you follow the A95 from Aberlour towards Grantown on Spey you pass through Ballindalloch. A little to the north, though invisible from the main road, is is Ballindalloch Castle, complete with its superb gardens. South west of Ballindalloch is Cragganmore Distillery, while in the valley to its north east is Inveravon Parish Church and the Inveravon Pictish Stones. A little further north east is Glenfarclas Distillery. On the north side of the river valley is Knockando, home to Cardhu Distillery and the nearby Knockando Parish Church.

South of Strathspey you start to climb towards the Cairngorms. The B9008 south from Ballindalloch passes close to Drumin Castle and Glenlivet Distillery en route to the village of Tomintoul. A side turning leads to the remote Braes of Glelivet. Here you find Scotland's highest distillery, Braeval, and a fine church, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Here, too, are the remains of the Catholic Seminary at Scalan. Standing at a height of 345m, Tomintoul is popular with visitors to the nearby Lecht ski resort. Tomintoul Museum, which shares premises with the Tourist Information Centre, is well worth a visit. The village is also the start of a spur of the Speyside Way. The southern end of Moray falls within the area of the Cairngorms National Park.

If the inland area's road network has a single focal point, it is probably Craigellachie. This is home to a fine bridge over the river built by Thomas Telford, and to the Craigellachie Hotel. There is also a distillery on the hillside to the south, while another, The Macallan, occupies a fine location to the north of the river. A little way to the south of the village on the Dufftown road is the Speyside Cooperage, a fascinating glimpse of a traditional industry with an excellent visitor centre.

Dufftown was a planned town, established in 1817, though its story as a settlement can be traced at least as far back as the 700s, when Mortlach Church, one of the earliest religious sites in Scotland, was founded. There are seven working distilleries in and around Dufftown. Two of these, Glenfiddich Distillery and Balvenie Distillery are open for tours. Glenfiddich Distillery is overlooked by the ruins of the 13th Century Balvenie Castle. Two miles to the south of Dufftown, the remarkably complete Auchindoun Castle stands in a high moorland location guarding the traditional routes into the mountains.

On the north side of Dufftown is the terminus for the Keith & Dufftown Railway, which as the name implies is a restored line linking Dufftown to the market town of Keith, eleven miles to the north east. Keith is home to the fascinating and extremely pretty Strathisla Distillery.

Rothes, reached by heading north from Craigellachie along the A941, is where you find the very attractive Glen Grant Distillery and, hidden away in the glen behind it, the superb Glen Grant Garden. Overlooking Rothes on its western side is a single imposing wall, all that now remains of Rothes Castle.

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