Moray is known the world over as Whisky country but there is much more to the area than just whisky. It can offer something to everyone,
whether you want sandy beaches, history, shopping, golf or just the great outdoors. The city of Elgin is the centre of things with all of
the shops and amenities that you might need on holiday. Founded in 1224, the cathedral was known as 'The Lantern of The North' before
it was attacked and burned by The Wolf of Badenoch in 1390. Today, Historic Scotland welcomes visitors to the cathedral and tells
the fascinating, sometimes scandalous story of The Wolf's reign of terror in the North East.
The first and foremost business on Speyside is Whisky, and with over 50% of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries within 28 miles you won't be disappointed. The Whisky Trail is the world's only trail devoted to single malt whisky and takes in 8 distilleries as well Speyside Cooperage. These distilleries offer organised tours and tastings which are ideal for the whisky novice to learn about 'The Water of Life'. They are not the only distilleries that welcome visitors though, The Macallan, Glen Moray and Aberlour all offer tours.
Duncan Taylor & Company has ownership of one of the largest privately-held collections of rare Scotch whisky casks. The company has been "laying down" casks from premium Scottish distilleries for decades and has, in recent years, made its branded products available to whisky connoisseurs throughout the world. A visit to the shop in Huntly is an absolute must for anyone who is even remotely interested in Malt Whisky to purchase.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place in May each year and has quickly become an established part of the local scene for visitors and locals alike. Many special events take place such as tours to distilleries that are usually closed to visitors, whisky nosing competitions and ceilidhs. There is a real international flavour as people travel from all over the world to sample the unique atmosphere of the area.
Another shop which is worth a visit is Gordon & MacPhails shop in Elgin. It offers hundreds of unique bottlings of local whisky as well as a selection of fine wines and a delicatessen offering local specialities.
Johnstons of Elgin have spun wool and cashmere in the city for more than two centuries. Their mill, shop and visitor centre is open daily and offers tours around the mill where you can learn about cashmere production before visiting their coffee shop to sample some of the local specialities. Speyside is the perfect base for visiting one of the long sandy beaches on the coast which, more often than not are deserted.
Culbin Forest is a nature reserve owned by the forestry commission and has miles of waymarked paths and nature trails, many of them leading to the beach. We have spent many happy hours exploring Culbin Forest and the great thing is that there is so much there for everyone. Families will enjoy the waymarked trails which tell the story of the forest, on information boards.
Dolphin watching is not something that comes to mind when you think of Scotland but The Moray Firth
has its own school of bottle-nosed dolphins which can be seen year round from many vantage points
along the coast.
A day out along the eastern part of the Moray coast has the added benefit of taking in fishing villages
such as Crovie (pronounced Crivie) where we must leave our vehicle at the top of the hill and walk down
- you'll understand why when we get there! The easier alternative is a pleasant stroll along the seaside
path from the neighbouring village of Gardenstown. Pennan is just along the coast and was the setting
for the 1984 film Local Hero
starring Burt Lancaster, Jenny Seagrove and Dennis Lawson.
The area has long been a golfer's paradise with courses to suit all levels from pitch and putt for the family to the international links course at Nairn. In between there are courses at Elgin, Rothes, Spey Bay, Lossiemouth and Dufftown to name but a few.
Hillwalkers are well catered for both locally and further afield in The Cairngorms. We are both keen hillwalkers and will be happy to advise on walks for all abilities.
At the last count there were about 300 castles in Grampian. Some, like Ballindalloch and Cawdor are
still family homes and a visit there offers a real insight into the grand country house way of life.
Other castles like Auchindoun and Findlater are ruins but offer no less an experience for those willing
to go a little off the beaten track to find them.