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 Findhorn at the Icehouse and Heritage Centre

The Findhorn Village Icehouse and Heritage Centre are fantastic places to explore when staying with Carden Cottages.

No secrets of what lies within are given from the outside of the Icehouse | Credit: Tim N

 

Both the Icehouse and the Heritage Centre allow visitors to delve into the history of the area, delivering information about the salmon fishing industry in the Moray area and revealing the secrets of the Sands of Findhorn.

When I first visited these sites I didn’t know what to expect – but I was truly blown away by the vast amount of historic information that was on display, as well as the fantastic knowledge that the volunteers had!

The Icehouse contains fascinating underground chambers that were built to store ice for packing salmon on route to London.  You can explore the almost 150 year old chambers and admire displays that teach you about different aspects of the local salmon fishing industry.

While exploring these intriguing underground arched chambers, you can learn about the history of ice houses, the life cycle of the Atlantic salmon, salmon net fishing across the Moray coast and a fisherman’s life in the bothies.

The Findhorn Heritage Centre and Icehouse have some interesting displays about the history of the area | Credit: Lightfolio

In the Heritage Centre you can learn the secrets of the Sands of Findhorn and enjoy hearing stories of the village all through history from knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers.  With albums of historic photographs and texts on village history showcasing information covering all the way back to the earliest residents of Findhorn and the Bronze Age, this is the perfect place to go if you are interested in local history.

The Centre and Icehouse make learning about the history of Findhorn and its fishing industry interesting and exciting.  This is mainly down to the work of the fantastic volunteers who gathered all the information together and do a wonderful job of greeting everyone and answering any questions you have.

The Findhorn Village Heritage Trust Centre and Icehouse are open from 2pm to 5pm daily in June, July and August.  They are open on Saturdays and Sundays only during May and September.  Entry is free, but a donation can be given to help support the facilities and the volunteers.

Findhorn is only just over a 15 minute drive from your stay at Carden Cottages, making it a must visit during your holiday.

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.