Find out all that Burghead has to offer

Carden Cottages is surrounded by lots of gorgeous towns and villages.  One of my favourite villages is Burghead, a beautiful coastal settlement with a rich history.

Burghead is a beautiful coastal village off Moray Firth | Credit: Anne Burgess

The peaceful village is located on the shores of the Moray Firth in the North East Scotland and is known for its fantastic Pict history, beautiful scenery and the traditional burning of the Clavie.

The stunning seaside village is the perfect place to visit for relaxing or adventuring.  The beautiful views of the sea and wildlife are relaxing, and the various hidden historic sites make the village very exciting.

Burghead Visitor Centre

Burghead Visitor Centre offers a great insight into the history of the area | Credit: Andrew Curtis

There are lots of activities to do around Burghead, I would recommend first having a look around the Visitor Centre.  The centre sits where the former Coastguard lookout was, and gives visitors a unique insight into the history of the village.

Burghead Visitor Centre takes visitors through the history of the area, starting around 400AD and ending in present time.  In 2013 an extension feature was added to the building, which gives stunning views over the Moray Firth.  It also showcases the lives of the herring lasses who followed the herring fishing fleet from Barra to Lowestoft, and also information of the natural history of the headland and the Moray Firth.  It is open from 12 noon to 4pm daily from April until the end of September, you can call 01343 835 518 for more information.

The Burghead Well

Burghead Well has a mysterious history | Credit: Mick Garratt

The Burghead Well is another historic gem in the village.  The structure was cleared out in 1809 and has confused archaeologists since.  It remains a mystery by whom, when or why this incredible monument was created.

A flight of 20 stone steps lead down into the ground to a square chamber with a square rock-cut tank fed by an underwater spring.  When the chamber was cleared out objects recovered included a stone with a bull carved on it, part of a Pictish stone cross and bizarrely a number of Spanish coins.

There have been many theories regarding the function of the “well”, including:

  • a shrine to Celtic water deities
  • a place of ritual execution
  • an early Christian baptistery
  • a Pictish cult centre, later converted to Christian use

To visit the well you have to get a key for a locked gate from the Visitor Centre, to find out more, visit the Visitor Centre website.

Burghead Fort

Burghead was the site of a Pictish fort, occupying a good strategic site with clear views all round | Credit: Mary and Angus Hogg

The village of Burghead was built on top of a Pictish promontory fort.  It was one of the earliest power centres of the Picts and was three times the size of any other enclosed site in Early Medieval Scotland.  It is likely that the fort may have been the main centre of the Pictish Kingdom of Fortriu.

The remains of the fort were largely destroyed when the harbour and town of Burghead were remodelled in the early 19th century, but its layout is recorded in a plan drawn by William Roy in 1793.  Sections of its inner ramparts still stand up to 9.8 feet (3.0m) high, and a small section of the innermost outer rampart survives on Doorie Hill.

It is great to explore Burghead and try and spot the remains of its Pictish heritage.

The Burning of the Clavie

The Burning of the Clavie is an exciting tradition that brings good luck to everyone lucky enough to grab a piece of the smouldering embers | Credit: Anne Burgess

One of Burghead’s longstanding traditions is the burning of the Clavie every year on the 11th of January.  It is a fantastic event that I believe everybody should witness at least once in their life.

The unique fire festival is a day meant for greeting the New Year and bringing good luck to the people who attend the burning of the Clavie for the rest of the year.

The flaming Clavie (a barrel full of staves) is carried around the town followed by a large crowd until it reaches its final destination on top of Doorie Hill, on the ramparts of the ancient fort.  It is wedged there and allowed to burn out and fall downhill until it reaches the bottom, where people eagerly gather the smouldering embers.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to grab a piece of the Clavie then it is said that you will have good luck for the coming year.

It is a great sight to see if you are staying with Carden Cottages in January.

Dolphins & Wildlife

 

Dolphins can be spotted swimming in the Moray Firth from the shore at Burghead | Credit: Walter Baxter

As well as the stunning scenery Burghead has to offer, there is great wildlife on land, in the sky and in the sea.

One of the main wildlife attractions of Burghead is the birds, making it a fantastic place for keen bird watchers to visit.  The bay is a favourite wintering ground for many seabirds, such as scoter or eider, and the perfect summer fishing spot for spectacular osprey.

The town’s sea life is also incredible – with grey seals, porpoises, mink whales and dolphin swimming in the Moray Firth.  The Firth is home to the most northerly resident population of bottle nose dolphins in the world – and Burghead Headland offers a great vantage point for spotting them.

 

All of these great activities, historic treasures and beautiful wildlife can be found in Burghead at only a 10 minute drive from Carden Cottages.

Discover the history of Kinloss Abbey

The ruins of a beautiful Abbey lie within the picturesque setting of Kinloss village.  It is a must visit for history fans and lovers of fantastic scenery when staying at Carden Cottages in the Moray area.

The fantastic remains of Kinloss Abbey lies in the beautiful landscape of Kinloss | Credit: Valenta

The Cistercian Abbey is a great place to visit to learn about history, folklore and to admire the beautiful ruins and surroundings.

The Kinloss Abbey was founded in 1150 by King David I of Scotland.  He was said to be hunting nearby when he was separated from the rest of his party.  Then, lost in the thick woodland that used to cover the majority of that area, he prayed for guidance.

It is said that he was then led by a dove to a shelter belonging to some shepherds where he spent the night.  During his slumber, he apparently dreamt that he was instructed to establish a church to give thanks for his rescue and marked out the plan of the Abbey with his sword the next morning, before leaving to find his party at Duffus Castle.

After he told his nobles of his vision, he called architects and masons that were working on various royal projects and ordered that the Kinloss Abbey would be created.  He remained at Duffus to oversee his project, until he was called away by other affairs.

The idea for Kinloss Abbey came to King David I of Scotland in a dream | Credit: Wikimedia

When King David I had to leave, he sent to Melrose for a monk, whom he set in charge over his builders and the rising monastery, of which he was afterwards made the first Abbot.

Upon visiting today, you can see that only ruins remain where the once richest Abbey in Scotland used to stand.  The remains of the South Transept with associated Chapel and the Sacristy with the Prior’s Chamber above can all be found and admired in Kinloss.

At the south and west are two near complete cloister walls one containing the Lavatorium and archway into the Refectory.  South of the Abbey, outside the cemetery is Abbot’s House.

From ground level you can see the remains of most of the foundations or low walls of the Abbey including the south wall of the church, the north Transept and many of the columns within the Nave.

Kinloss Abbey is surrounded by beautiful countryside | Credit: Kinloss Abbey Trust

Walking around the Abbey grounds, you can see information boards that are full of interesting facts that help guide you through the ruins.

Entrance to the Abbey grounds is free and is cared for by the Kinloss Abbey Trust.

Kinloss Abbey is only a 10 minute drive from Carden Cottages, and only around a 5 minute drive from Forres, where you can visit other historical sites such as Nelson’s Tower and Sueno’s Stone.

Moray Walking festival showcases the great walks in the area

The Moray Walking Festival is returning for another year from Friday 14th June to Sunday 23rd June – but Moray’s great walks are here all year round.

The festival allows you to explore and discover Moray’s natural, historical and cultural landscapes.  With all sorts of activities including: walking, cycling, white water rafting, health walks, heritage events, bushcraft and more – there is something for everyone at Moray Walking Festival.

The main aim of the festival is to allow you to explore the stunning scenery that Moray has to offer.  Whether you opt for a gentle stroll or a challenging hike, the beautiful surroundings will help you on your way.

Prices vary based on individual events, information and tickets can be found on The Moray Way website.

If you can’t make it in time for the festival, don’t fret!  Incredible walking trails can be found in the Moray area all year round.  There are plenty to choose from, including coastal walks, hill climbing and woodland adventures.

In fact, there are many walking trails that are right on the doorstep of Carden Cottages that will help you explore the area.

Quarrelwood Ancestors Trail – 2.5 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes estimated walking time

The Ancestor’s trail is a woodland walk of around 2.5 miles, with a few short steep sections and various surfaces.  The beautiful woods was used in the Neolithic era for ceremonial purposes because of the Henge, where pottery and a Bronze Age axe mould were found.

Some fantastic wildlife can be found in this area, including roe deer, red squirrels and a large variety of bird life.

Millbuies Loch Trail – 1.5 miles – 1 hour estimated walking time

The beautiful loch, created by the damming of streams to provide angling facilities on the loch, makes for a beautiful, leisurely walk with picturesque views.  It is a generally flat and easy trail, with a distance of less than two miles.

The area also provides plenty activities, including a grass area for play with picnic tables and barbecue points.  Red squirrels, roe deer, badgers, rabbits and pine martins can also be spotted at Millbuies.

Brodie Castle Path – 2.5 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes estimated walking time

The Brodie Castle Trail is made up of many beautiful paths offering a wide variety of scenic and historic features along the way.

The paths around the pond and the woodland paths are suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters, however the rough paths and slopes of the walk make it unsuitable for wheelchairs and buggies.

Culbin Forest (Route 99) – less than 2 miles – 2 hours estimated walking time

Located between the coastal sand dunes of Findhorn Bay and Nairn, this walk route has a wide network of paths, including the “all abilities trail”, known as Route 99.

This route winds through forest and mossy clearings, up hill 99, and offers a “squirrels-eye” viewpoint that makes the walk worth it.

River Findhorn – 8 miles – 5 hours estimated walking time

This circular walk through and around the town of Forres follows the banks of River Findhorn and showcases some of the less frequented beautiful countryside spots of the town.

With a 5 hours estimated walking time, this long, but relatively level, route allows you to take in some fantastic scenery along the way.

Clarkly Hill – 3.5 miles – 1 hour 45 minutes estimated walking time

A circular route beginning in the Pictish Fort town of Burghead, passing through farmland and Rocky shores.  This route offers spectacular views of the Moray Firth along the ridge of Clarkly Hill.

The route is generally level, with a gentle slope rising from the Burghead – Lossiemouth Road to Clarkly Hill.

The Moray Way – 95 miles – 6 to 9 days estimated walking time

Linking existing walking routes to form a circuit of 95 miles, The Moray Way can be walked comfortably in six to nine days.  The long route encompassed a wide variety of Scotland’s scenery into one walk including: beaches, clifftops, wide straths, farmlands, forests, open moorland and mountains.

The Moray Ways website has more information about fantastic walks in the area.

The route is circular and can be started from many points.  I would recommend starting from Forres when staying at Carden Cottages.

Walkers can experience history, beautiful scenery and interesting wildlife on this trail.

All of these walks are right on the doorstep of Carden.  With different routes to match different abilities it would be near impossible not to find a trail that suits you.

After your long relaxing walk, you can unwind in the comfort of your luxury cottage at Carden.

 

Great food at The Red Lion

The Red Lion, known lovingly by locals as The “Red Beastie”, is a fantastic little pub in Forres.

The Red Lion Forres from outside
The Red Lion is located just off Forres High Street | Credit: The Red Lion

Located just off Forres High Street, it is an ideal central location for when you are exploring the area.

I recently went to the beastie for my dinner and found myself spoilt for choice for starters, mains and desserts.  On my visit I opted to take advantage of the specials menu, treating myself to all three courses.

To start, I had the traditional haggis and clapshot with whisky cream.  This deliciously Scottish dish melted in the mouth.  The pub certainly did the classic combination justice!

Haggis, neeps and tatties
Haggis is a delicious Scottish dish that The Red Lion did justice | Credit: Wikimedia

I then had grilled butterflied chicken, served with rice and veg and a tasty honey Dijon sauce.  The chicken was cooked perfectly – moist and juicy.  The sauce added a nice sweet touch that brilliantly complimented the rest of the dish.

For my final and favourite course (dessert!) I had a fantastically sweet homemade oreo cheesecake.  It was the perfect combination of a crumbly biscuit base, with a rich, creamy top half.  The chunks of oreo mixed with the soft texture added a superb extra crunch that took the dessert to the next level.  I would definitely recommend you give it a go if it is on the menu when you visit.

Unfortunately, on this occasion I was driving so I didn’t get to put the bar to the test.  However, The Red Lion bar serves everything – from cask ales and premium lagers to wine or whisky.  It is definitely the spot to unwind and relax with a drink in Forres.

The Red Lion bar forres
The Red Lion bar boasts a variety of drinks including some wonderful cask ales | Credit: The Red Lion

The staff were all very friendly and the service was excellent.  You are never left waiting to be served or dying of thirst waiting on a drink!

I would recommend the Red Beastie to anyone looking to relax and enjoy some good, hearty food after a long day.

The pub is a 15 minute drive from Carden Cottages and is within walking distance from some historic sites in Forres, such as Sueno’s Stone and Nelson’s Tower.

Delicious lunch at The Peppermill, Forres

Last week for a Friday treat I decided to pay a visit to another of my favourite Forres spots, The Peppermill.

The Peppermill Forres from High Street
The Peppermill in Forres is a popular café and restaurant, serving delicious food | Credit: The Peppermill

I was on Forres High Street when I decided to nip in for a spot of light lunch.  I was seated straight away by the window, which gave me a great view of all the goings on of the High Street.

There were lots of excellent choices on the lunch menu – from soup to battered Buckie haddock.  I opted for the Cajun chicken and mayonnaise baguette with a side of lovely homemade chips.

The service was speedy and before I knew it I had a beautifully delicious baguette in front of me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the baguette was much bigger than I expected.  The chicken was perfectly cooked, the sauce was deliciously creamy, and the bread was just the right balance between soft in the middle and crisp on the outside.

Chicken tikka and mayonnaise baguette from The Peppermill Forres
My chicken tikka and mayonnaise baguette with salad and homemade chips made for a delicious lunch

Although I love my coffee, Friday was a nice warm day and I fancied something refreshing to drink.  I asked for an orange Fanta, however this is something they don’t serve at the Peppermill.  The lovely waitress offered to make me up some orange juice with lemonade which I gladly accepted.  Her kindness and helpfulness made the whole experience that bit better.

In a very out of character move I didn’t have any cake to finish off my lunch at The Peppermill – but the restaurant does offer delightful home bakes such as caramel slices, scones and tiffin.

The café and restaurant has a great cosy feel and the amount of people coming in and even ordering food to go showed just how popular it is.  I would recommend reserving a table at The Peppermill when you decide to pay it a visit as it does get very busy.

The scrumptious generous portions of food also come at great value for money.  It cost me just around £8 for my huge baguette, large portion of hand cut chips, salad and large drink.

For more information on The Peppermill, check out there Facebook page where they post pictures of their delicious food and baked goods.

The Peppermill can be found on Forres High Street, a short 15 minute drive from Carden Cottages.