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
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
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.
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
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
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.