Race down to the superb Moray Motor Museum

A great place to visit during your stay at Carden Cottages is the Moray Motor Museum.  The museum is home to a superb collection of veteran, vintage and classic cars and motorbikes.

Moray Motor Museum is a fantastic hidden gem for Petrol Heads and people who love reminiscing about days gone by | Credit: Moray Motor Museum

Located in a light and airy old mill building in Elgin, part of which dates back to the era of Elgin Cathedral when the Bishops of Moray ruled Moravia, the museum creates a classic atmosphere that matches the vehicles inside.

Upon stepping aside you are greeted by the fantastically enthusiastic curator, Brian.  He shares some fantastic stories about the vintage cars and eras gone by.

It is immediately obvious how much care and passion has went into caring for the vehicles that are available for viewing and hiring.

The museum showcases some fantastic classic vehicles, dating as far back as 1904.  There is a tremendous display of immaculate vintage vehicles, with plenty of information regarding their history available to read.

Although the exhibition is small, the brilliant condition of the cars, combined with how rare they are and the fact that they are all in perfect working condition, certainly makes up for the lack of size.

My favourite car in the museum is the 1963 Tojeiro Ford.  The car was probably the first to be driven by a then young Jackie Stewart as a professional driver, and would have recorded successes such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone.  These interesting stories are part of what makes the museum so exciting!

The 1963 Tojeiro Ford is my favourite vehicle currently at Moray Motor Museum | Credit: Moray Motor Museum

There are also a variety of Corgi/Matchbox toy cars from around the 60s and 70s that evoke some fantastic childhood memories at the museum.

Moray Motor Museum also offers vintage wedding car hire, so you should definitely check out their website for more information if you plan to stay at Carden for your or a loved one’s wedding.

The museum, like Carden, has disabled access, making it accessible for everybody.

All of these memories can be seen for the price of £7 per adult, £3 for juniors (aged 5 – 14), £15 for families (two adults with children) and £6 for OAPs.

The opening hours for the Motor Museum are between 11am and 5pm every day from Easter Weekend until October.  For more information, you can contact them on 01343 544 933 or email them on info@moraymotormuseum.org

Moray Motor Museum is just a 10 minute drive from your stay at Carden Cottages and there is free parking on site.

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.

Great family adventures at Millbuies

A brilliant place to relax when visiting Moray is the incredibly beautiful Millbuies loch.

Millbuies is a lovely relaxing place for all the family

I often enjoy going for relaxing walks in scenic areas with my wife and son.  The feeling of finding a peaceful spot where you can take in beautiful scenery with your loved ones and feel like you are the only people in the world is unmatched.

We often venture to Millbuies, a fantastic loch surrounded by beautiful trees for family picnics, barbeques, fishing, or just to escape.

The loch has fantastic facilities which make it a great destination for a family day out.  There is a grass area for the kids to play, or for a picnic or a barbeque.

You can take a relaxing stroll around the loch, with your loved ones, kids, friends, or on your own in around an hour.  It is a simple, tranquil walk, with a mostly flat, level path with good surfaces.

Millbuies is the perfect spot for some fly-fishing | Credit: Anne Burgess

The total distance of the route, that takes you all the way around the stunning loch and back to where you started, is around 1.5 miles.  The circular path allows you to take in so much beautiful scenery, never retracing your steps.

We have had many great strolls and fantastic picnics at Millbuies, soaking in the scenery and enjoying each other’s company, far away from the hardships of everyday life.

Millbuies is not short of fantastic wildlife either, with red squirrels, roe deer, badgers and rabbits hiding in the trees.  If you are really lucky and quiet you might also see pine martin hidden among the rhododendrons and trees.  There is also often exquisite looking dragonflies fluttering through the sky.

On the loch itself you might see mallards, tufted ducks, moorhens and swans enjoying a leisurely paddle.  Meanwhile, underneath the surface of the loch there is a large amount of rainbow trout, blue trout and brown trout swimming around, making it the perfect spot to hire a boat and go fly-fishing.

There is lots of beautiful wildlife at Millbuies, including this lovely duck having a paddle

There are five boats available for hire at Millbuies, making booking in advance essential (by calling 079601434983) as there is no bank fishing allowed on the loch.

With 16 acres of loch to fish in, no one is ever stepping on anyone’s toes, or getting in anyone’s way, making it an even more relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Millbuies Loch was created by the damming of streams to provide angling facilities on the loch.  It was taken over by Moray Council in 1975 and the fishing was extended to members of the public.

This beautiful and tranquil loch can be found only a 20 minute drive from your stay at Carden Cottages.  There is even a free car park for you to leave your car behind and enjoy being immersed in nature!

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.

Elgin – a great ‘little city’

For over a thousand years the local town of Elgin has welcomed travellers from across the world. Back then it may have been traders keen to sell their goods, woollens, sheep or perhaps silver or other precious metals. Nowadays it’s more likely to be many thousands of holiday makers who still flock to this region, attracted by not only the great weather with above average sunshine, but also the many great places, wonderful landscapes and fantastic beaches close by.

Wherever you’re going, it’s always a good idea to check out the weather before you set off for as we say here in Scotland ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes’. Check out weather station software like ambient weather ws-2902 for up to the minute reports.

We also have a great range of distilleries located in the beautiful highlands all around Elgin, all benefiting from the crystal clear water off the mountains and with 14 golf courses, dozens of forests and woodlands and more salmon rivers than you can fish in a week, we have something for everyone.

Kids are never far from our minds as we have lots of great parks filled with exciting play equipment and adventure centres offering everything from Go Carts to Goat Walks and Frizbies to Four Wheel Motor Cycling. All of our beaches are family friendly and many of our woodlands not only offer great play sites for children but full BBQ facilities for the entire family.

Don’t worry if the weather is a little ‘dreich’ as our museums, art galleries, wide range of shops and indoor play sites are guaranteed to keep you occupied throughout the day.

I hope to see you soon.

 

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.

Escape at Hopeman

A great reason to visit Carden Cottages is to escape the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life.  A great place to do this in the Moray area is the quaint village of Hopeman.

Hopeman beach is a great place to relax and take in surrounding scenery and wildlife

I love visiting Hopeman’s stunning beach, with family and friends, or even just on my own, to relax, take in the scenery and enjoy the wildlife.

Hopeman is well known for its beautiful beach, along with its exquisite wildlife.  From birds like the Curlew, the Oystercatcher and the Yellowhammer soaring above, to Bottlenose dolphins swimming in the sea, it checks all the boxes for fans of wildlife.

The seaside village also proudly presents lots of plaques in the area, informing visitors of it’s rich history.  Many of these sit alongside pieces that showcase the village’s relationship with the fishing industry, including the Braemou well and the Hopeman Harbour Crane.

Along with its beautiful scenery, Hopeman has some gorgeous colourful beach huts
The Braemou well was seen as a holy well, with people travelling from the surrounding area to wash their hands in the holy water.  According to the plaque, people have been coming on pilgrimages to the well from Elgin and beyond since the 17th century.  These people would venture by horse or by foot just to drink or wash their hands in the water.  They would also leave gifts for the spirit of the well, such as coins, buttons, pebbles or pieces of silk to ensure the potency of the power.

Standing proud by the harbour is the Hopeman Harbour Crane. Built in 1859 by Bowser and Cameron of Glasgow for the Clyde Navigation Trust, the cast and wrought iron crane cost around £102.50 in today’s money.  It most likely started its working life at one of the Clyde ports, preparing cargo for shipment to the Western Isles or Worldwide.

The Hopeman Harbour Crane stands proudly on the shore

It is believed that it was then bought by Wick Harbour Trust around 1880 to be used during the huge seasonal herring fishing.  Finally, it was taken to Hopeman in 1925 by a local engineer working in the village and remained operational until the 1970s. In 2012 it was refurbished to become the vibrant stand out piece of history that it is today.

The beautiful village is definitely a must visit during the summer. It has a rich history, beautiful scenery and fantastic wildlife.  All of this scenery, wildlife and history can be found at just a 15 minute drive from Carden Cottages.

Relax and Unwind at Elgin Biblical Garden

Elgin Biblical Garden is a beautiful, serene escape from the busy trials and tribulations of everyday life.

 

The Biblical Garden is a beautiful hidden gem in Elgin | Credit: Karen Bryan

The Garden sits between the medieval Elgin Cathedral and Cooper Park – a gift to Elgin from Colonel George A. Cooper in 1903.  It makes for a beautiful retreat from life, with 110 plants with Biblical references creating a delightfully vibrant landscape.

Although the garden is Biblical, you don’t have to have an interest in the Bible to appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of these glorious trees and flowers on a beautiful sunny day.  It is a fabulous place to relax and unwind and forget about the world for a few moments.

You can let your troubles and worries drift away as you take in the beautiful views, including a spectacular range of shrubs, herbaceous plants and trees such as Cercidiphyllum japonica and Liquidambar styraciflua.

Brightly coloured plants light up the Biblical Garden in Elgin | Credit: Biblical Garden

It is also the perfect spot to sit down for a nice relaxing picnic – on your own or with family, friends and loved ones.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bible, there are lovely statues situated throughout the garden.  There are also very interesting information boards located in various parts of the Biblical Garden.

The Biblical Garden has been open over 20 years now, opening in June 1996.  It was made possible by donations from local businesses, Churches, schools and organisations.  There was a lot of community involvement in its creation, with local schools making the fantastic mosaics which can be seen on the wall by the entrance.

Fantastic Mosaics at the entrance of the Biblical Garden | Credit: Biblical Garden

The garden has been very successful in attracting visitors from all over, and this success is owed to the hard work and partnership among the Friends of the Biblical Garden, Moray Council and Moray College UHI.  It is the perfect example of the community spirit that you will witness on your visit to the Moray Area.

The Biblical Garden is just one of many beautiful and tranquil landscapes in the Moray area, with a beautiful pond even sitting just a short walk away from Carden Cottages.  You will never be short of beautiful scenery and relaxing spots on your visit to Carden.

It is open to the public daily from May to September and is free to enter, but there is a donations box if you feel like leaving one.  You can drive to the Biblical Garden from Carden Cottages in under 15 minutes.  You could combine this trip with a visit to Elgin Cathedral, which is just across the road.

Delicious food at Chimes, Forres

If there is one thing I love as much as coffee and cake, its a tasty bacon roll, and Chimes in Forres offers some of the most delicious bacon baps I’ve ever had.

Chimes has a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere | Credit: Chimes

Chimes is a lovely and quaint cafe/restaurant, that also offers an outside catering service.

I went there this week for a nice relaxed breakfast, where I had amazingly juicy bacon in a soft roll with a wee dash of tomato sauce.  My lovely wife Debbie, who isn’t a big meat eater, opted for vegetarian sausage in a roll, which she said was delicious.

Chimes pride themselves on using locally sourced foods for their breakfast, lunches, snacks and fresh baking, which I believe is a great ideology to have!  They also offer a range of tasty gluten free, vegetarian and vegan food, cakes and drinks.

I had my usual coffee on my latest visit to Chimes, but I have to recommend the amazing Mint Aero Milkshake that they have on their menu.  The sweet tooth in me absolutely adores it!  It is a delicious blend of chocolate and mint goodness, and makes the perfect combination of dessert and cold drink.

I can also highly recommend their delicious home bakes – from their tasty brownie to their scrumptious cakes – everything they produce is top notch!

Chimes offers delicious home bakes, with gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options | Credit: Chimes

The cafe/restaurant has a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, which makes it the perfect place to chill out and enjoy some good food and good company.

The staff at Chimes are always very friendly and happy to help, and seem to always find time to humour me with a little chat.

You can visit Chimes from 9am to 5pm everyday.  To find out more about Chimes and they’re catering service – which I have never tried but if it is as good as the cafe I’m sure its fabulous – on Facebook or via their website.

Chimes is less than a 15 minute drive from your stay at Carden Cottages, so you could even take your bacon roll to go and eat it while gazing upon our gorgeous lake that is only a tiny distance away from our cottages.

 

 

Try something new at Café Fika, Forres

One of my favourite places to sit back with a cup of coffee and do some work is Café Fika in Forres.

Café Fika is the perfect place to relax and unwind | Credit: Fika

 

The Swedish style café serves lovely organic and Fairtrade filter coffee, organic teas and organic hot chocolate.  They also offer cakes and biscuits, that change daily, that consist of gluten free and vegan options.  There are also delicious homemade Swedish style cinnamon buns available for a special treat on Fridays.

If you fancy more than a quick cuppa and a cake, they also have vegetarian and vegan soups, homemade sourdough, with vegetarian quiche and salads available on Thursdays and Fridays.

Café Fika offers a great range of vegan and vegetarian food | Credit: Fika

 

This café is a great alternative stop from the usual food and drink served in cafés.  It doesn’t serve your usual lattes, mochas, cappuccinos etc, but what you do get is a tasty filter coffee that is refilled, a range of teas and a lovely organic hot chocolate.

On my most recent visit I had my usual cup of coffee to fuel me for a bit of work and a nice vegan Brownie, because sod the diet!  The Brownie had lovely flakes of coconut in and felt a lot less sweet than a regular Brownie, therefore I didn’t feel so bad about breaking my diet.

The owners of Café Fika are a lovely couple who are always happy to have a nice chat.  You are guaranteed a warm welcome at Fika, as well as a full warm cup of coffee, as the staff will top up your cup for free!

The constant coffee refills and the relaxed atmosphere in the Swedish style café makes it the perfect place to relax unwind, switch off from the outside world or stick your head down and get some work done.  There isn’t too many tables, so it is never overcrowded or overly busy, which helps with trying to relax or trying to concentrate.

Café Fika is uncrowded, making it the perfect place for both working and relaxing | Credit: Fika

Café Fika is also a great place to inspire creativity.  There are regular poetry readings from local poets, a great alternative way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Beautiful artwork by Swedish illustrators line the walls as well, which are great to admire while you enjoy your coffee.

Café Fika is only a 15 minute drive from your stay at Carden Cottages, and there is free parking not far away.