Moray is one of the 32 unitary council areas into which Scotland had been divided since 1996. It 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. In terms of size, Moray is the 8th largest council area, and it is 26th largest in terms of population. For accommodation in Moray and a full list of features, see our Moray area pages.
Important settlements in Moray include Tomintoul in the mountainous south; Dufftown, Rothes and Aberlour in the central part of Moray; Keith and the coastal settlements of Buckie and Cullen in the north-east; and Elgin, Lossiemouth and Forres in the north-west.
Much of the central part of Moray is better known as Speyside and is home to a large part of Scotland's Scotch Whisky industry: though you will find distilleries dotted throughout much of the rest of Moray as well. The growth of the industry here is largely an accident of the historical availability of pure water and good barley. Today the industry is the mainstay of the economy of the area, both in terms of the jobs it provides and because it is one of the few industries in the modern world to attract tourists rather than put them off.
The north-west of the area centres on Elgin, a significant settlement which is one of several in Scotland to have a historical claim to be regarded as a city without technically being recognised as one today. Much of the coastal area of Moray is low lying and sandy, and parts are very remote. The small section of coastline to the east of the mouth of the River Spey is much more rocky and is home to a series of attractive fishing villages, as well as to the large fishing port of Buckie.
The designation of Moray and the area it covers have been through a number of changes over the years, though it has had a continuity of existence denied to its larger neighbour Aberdeenshire. "The County of Moray" was one of the 34 traditional counties of Scotland, and was sometimes also called Elginshire or Morayshire. Traditionally it had a large detached section within Inverness-shire, which in turn had a large detached section within the County of Moray. The reorganisation of counties in 1890 simplified matters, in effect swapping the detached areas and leaving the County of Moray with a contiguous area, though a rather smaller one than it has today.
In 1975, Moray became one of the five district council areas within Grampian Region, one of the 12 regions into which Scotland was divided. The change was accompanied by an increase in coverage, and Moray District took over the area including Buckie, Cullen, Dufftown, Findochty, Keith and Tomintoul from what had previously been the separate county of Banffshire. On the other hand, the area around Grantown-on-Spey was lost to the new district of Badenoch and Strathspey, part of the Highland Region. When regions disappeared from the scene in the 1996 reorganisation, Moray District simply became the new unitary authority of Moray, with its coverage unchanged.