Witness the spectacular burning of the Clavie in Moray

One of the most fantastic traditions in the Moray area is the burning of the Clavie in Burghead.  The ancient Scottish custom takes place every year in the small fishing village, and brings in people from all over the world.

Credited Scots Radio!

Every year, on the evening of the 11th of January (unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case it would be the 10th of January) people gather in the North East to witness the spectacular event.  The 11th of January was New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as we say in Scotland, by the Julian calendar.

In the 1750s, the Julian calendar was reformed in Britain and the Gregorian calendar was introduced.  During this time of change, people rioted over their loss of 11 days – but the Brochers of Burghead decided that they would take this opportunity to celebrate New Year twice!

The Clavie is made up of wooden casks that have been split in two, then lit like a bonfire.  One of the casks is joined together by a huge nail and filled with tar and is then set alight.

Burghead has a rich history including the burning of the Clavie at the ancient fire festival | Credit: Anne Burgess

After it is set on fire, the Clavie is then paraded round the village in all its fiery glory by members of the Clavie Crew.  Only people who are natives of Burghead qualify to be part of this crew.

As they make their way through the town, members of the Clavie Crew hand out pieces of the Clavie to householders to ensure they have good luck for the following year.

The Clavie, along with its eager followers, makes its way up to the top of Doorie Hill, where it is wedged into the remains of an ancient fort, and a bonfire is formed from split casks.  Finally, when the blazing tar-barrel falls in pieces, everyone scrambles excitedly in hopes of getting a lighted piece with which to kindle their New Year’s fire.

The Clavie is carried through the town and up Doorie Hill by the Clavie Crew | Credit: Anne Burgess

The charcoal of the Clavie is also collected and put to good use – it is put in pieces up cottage chimneys to keep spirits and witches from forcing their way down and into people’s homes.

The burning of the Clavie dates back to the even further than the 1750s, but it is uncertain exactly when the tradition started.

If you want to start 2020 with a bang and bring yourself good fortune, book now to stay at Carden Cottages next year.  Our beautiful cottages are only an 11 minute drive from the beautiful village of Burghead.

If you want to get even closer to the action, then Burghead itself offers a wide range of B&B, Self Catering and Hotel accommodation.

Where to see the Moray Firth Dolphins

 

Moray Firth is home to around 130 Bottlenose Dolphins | Credit: Ellis Lawrence

The dolphins in the Moray Firth are one of the most popular visitor attractions in the area.  There are many different ways and places that you can try to catch a glimpse of the beautiful creatures.

Dolphins are one of my favourite animals.  They are intelligent, beautiful and can even be a wee bit cheeky!  The unique opportunity that visiting Moray offers to see the dolphins in their natural habitat is a compelling reason to holiday in the area.

There are thought to be around 130 Bottlenose dolphins living in the Moray Firth, and they are the most northerly residing dolphins in the world.

Due to the fact that they live in a colder climate than their relations, these dolphins are a lot bigger and fatter, as they have a larger percentage of blubber in their bodies to protect them from the cold water.

The cold Moray Firth water means that the Bottlenose Dolphins need extra blubber to keep themselves warm | Credit: Anne Burgess

One of the main dolphin spotting hotspots is at Burghead, just an 11 minute drive from Carden Cottages.  From Burghead you access some brilliant spots for checking out the Firth’s wildlife.  The best viewing spot is the cliffs where the visitor centre is.

From the cliffs you can see for miles, gaining fantastic views of the sea for around 40 miles on a clear day.  Taking a pair of binoculars with you is highly recommended.

Seeing a dolphin can be a rare treat, however if you follow Moray Dolphins’ guide you are far more likely to spot one of the magnificent creatures!

If you are unlucky and you miss a chance to view the dolphins there are plenty of other wildlife you will definitely be able to spot.  There are some great birds to be spotted, including sandmartins, comorants, shags, fulmar and herring gulls.

You can also often see seals in the harbour – and if you are really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a whale in the sea!

Burghead visitor centre also offers an insight into the rich history of the area, including the Clavie ancient fire festival.  It also provides toilets, which is always a bonus as you could be waiting a while for the dolphins to make an appearance.

Burghead has a rich history including the burning of the Clavie at the ancient fire festival | Credit: Anne Burgess

Another way to see the dolphins is to go out by boat to see them.  You can go out on boats from Lossieouth, Nairn, Inverness, Buckie, Avoch, Cromarty and Portmahomack.  A full list can be found at greaterspeyside.com

Whichever way, and wherever you choose to view the dolphins of the Moray Firth from, Carden Cottages is the ideal place to come back and relax in after a long day of wildlife watching.

 

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.

 

Tranquil Getaway at Roseisle

Roseisle beach, burghead, Moray, Scotland
The beach at Roseisle is the perfect place to relax and unwind

Moray is known for its beautiful coastal villages and incredible walking trails, but one of the most beautiful spots for relaxing has to be Roseisle beach.

Situated between Findhorn and Burghead, the beautiful sandy beach offers brilliant views of the seaside village and town to each side.

Due to its brilliant location, clear waters and clean sandy shores, Roseisle is always busy – but it amazingly never seems to get crowded.  This is probably because of its extensive size, which means you don’t have to walk very far to be in peaceful solitude.

The privacy that the beach offers allows a great opportunity to relax and reflect.  On even the most stressful of days, the sound of the ocean waves can always help wash my worries away.

Something I work very hard at is making sure that I take time out of my busy schedule to look after my mental well-being.  I have found that, apart from the pond beside Carden, nowhere helps me unwind like the beach at Roseisle.

Carden Cottages, Moray, Scotland
The pond by Carden is a great spot to be at peace

Studies have shown that the sounds of nature – including the ocean and birds chirping – can help you recover faster from a stressful event.  Therefore, if you’re looking for a break from the stress and business of everyday life, this is the ideal place for you to visit.

The incredible beach is not all that Roseisle has to offer offer – it also boasts a woodland area that is equally picturesque, and just as relaxing when trying to escape.

The sweet smelling pine trees add to the relaxing atmosphere – making all of your senses completely at peace.

The fantastic woodland at Roseisle is the perfect escape from reality

There really is something for every member of the family in the area – a beach, woods and even a play park.  Every part of the area is just as beautiful during cold days as it is during the summer.

There is also a lot of military history to the beach – with the remnants of anti-tank blocks and pillboxes still standing on the shore.   Therefore, regardless if you are looking for a relaxing atmosphere or an adventure full of hiking ad history, you can find it here.

Our whole family loves Roseisle beach so much that it is where we spend our Boxing Day every year. We usually set up in the afternoon and have drinks and barbecues all day, with a big roaring fire to keep us all warm.  We have even had years where we stayed on the beach having a grand time until one in the morning!

One year there were couples setting off lanterns, making the landscape look like something out of a painting and making our evening even more special.

The area offers lots of public amenities which helps it stand out from other beaches and hiking trails in the area – including public toilets and a vast amount of parking, costing only £2 for the whole day.

This idyllic location, where you can relax and unwind, is only just over 10 minutes away from Carden Cottages by car.

Golfing in Moray

Moray is home to a huge variety of beautiful golf courses to suit every kind of golfer.  From the beautiful Cullen Links Course, to the upmarket Lossiemouth Club, to the popular Hopeman Course – Moray has a course for everyone regardless of budget, skill set or scenery preference!

Cullen Links, Cullen, Moray, Scotland
Cullen Links is set in the picturesque coastal town of Cullen | Credit: Wikimedia

Scenic Views

The stunning Cullen Links Golf Course is one of the most popular in the Moray area – and it is easy to see why.  The quality of the picturesque views surrounding this golf course are enough to make even the worst round of golf you’ve ever played feel like its going smoothly.  There are beautiful views of the ocean, which are like something out of a painting on a nice sunny day.

With 10 par three holes – Cullen is the shortest links course in Scotland.  However, the short course is full of adventure – winding its way up around a cliff-top, before twisting back down towards the shore where you can golf in between old sea stacks.

The Covesea Links is another course in the Moray area with fantastic views of the sea.  The 9-hole course is nestled in a cove right on the coast between Lossiemouth and Hopeman – following the contours of the cove to offer stunning views of the coast.

Hopeman Golf Course, Moray, Scotland
Hopeman Golf Course is home to one of the best 3-par holes in Scotland | Credit: Geograph

Best Par 3 Hole in Scotland

Hopeman Golf Course is by far one of the most popular courses in the Moray area.  In fact, it’s signature hole, The Prieshach, was voted one of the best Par 3 holes in Scotland by Sky Golf.

Although the 12th hole is the signature hole, there are several others that stand out as particularly brilliant – with the greens at this course being just as good as the far pricier courses in the area.  It is no wonder that the course is so popular.

Moray Golf Clubhouse, Lossiemouth, Scotland
Moray Golf Club is popular with visitors | Credit: Richard Hoare

High End Courses

Moray Golf Course is one of the more high end clubs in the area.  The clubhouse has some real old world charm, and offers some delicious food and drink – the most important part for me!

The course is of a very high standard – with the fairways and greens kept in excellent condition.  It is a great challenge, especially when the wind is blowing, but you can treat yourself to an excellent meal afterwards.

Golfing for Better Mental Health

Not only does golfing help improve your physical health, there are strong arguments to suggest it works wonders for your mental health too.  Research has shown that the sport can help you improve your confidence, self-esteem and anxiety levels.

Next week, on Friday 17th May, Living Golf will be hosting its Changing Lives in Moray event at Covesea Golf Links.  The purpose of the event is to promote the sport as a way of improving mental health.

The event is open to everyone, regardless of ability (so even I might be able to give it a go!)  Teams of four can play 9 holes at a cost of £5 per player.  For more information, or if you have transport problems, you can contact Living Golf on 07570 139657 or letsplay@livinggolf.com

Moray Golf Courses

Click on the links below to find out more about the individual Golf Clubs in Moray.

 

For more information about golfing in the Moray area, check out our other article on the sport.

Carden Cottages offers a central location to call home while you are visiting all of the fantastic surrounding golf courses.  Join our mailing list to find out about some fantastic last minute deals.

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.

Spirit of Speyside returns for 20th anniversary

The largest whisky festival of its kind in the world, Spirit of Speyside, is set to return for another successful run next week.

Spirit of speyside scottish whisky
Scotland is home to some amazing whisky distilleries – the Spirit of Speyside festival offers an opportunity like no other to check them out | Credit: Wikimedia

Starting on Wednesday the 1st of May and ending on Monday 6th May, the festival boasts a programme of over 500 whisky-inspired events.

The whisky festival allows you to tour old and new distilleries, village halls, local whisky bars, historic castles, old steadings, much loved local shops as well as the great outdoors!  What better way to explore the Speyside area than with a nip or two of some of Scotland’s most popular whiskies?

There are events all over the Moray area to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival, from Aviemore in the South, following the river Spey to central Speyside and the historic towns in the coastal North.

Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown Speyside Spirit of Speyside
Speyside boasts excellent distilleries, including the brilliant Glenfiddich distillery | Credit: Wikimedia

Scotland has a long history with uisge beatha (the water of life), with the fiery drink, with the first recorded account of whisky going back to Friar John Cor in around 1495.  However, most believe that the manufacturing of whisky in Scotland stems back much further than that.

Spirit of Speyside is run by a board of directors from different industries including whisky, culture and heritage, tourism and hospitality.  They work on a voluntary basis along with the festival manager, finance manager and event development graduate.

There are a number of distilleries that open their doors for the festival, with the events programme changing every year.  This year distilleries hosting events include Craigellachie, Ballindalloch, Glenlivet and GlenAllachie, to name just a few.

The festival also delivers an opening dinner, opening and closing ceilidhs, the Whisky Awards and the Whisky School.  However, the majority of events are delivered by partners and members, making every event unique.

Spirit of Speyside Glen Moray whisky
Glen Moray landed lots of prizes at the 2018 Whisky Awards | Credit: Shirokazan

You can book tickets now for the many events by visiting the Spirit of Speyside website.  Events include distillery tours, whisky tastings, walks, afternoon teas and much more.  The prices for these events range from free, to £30 – £60, to £500.  There are activities to suit every budget.

Although the festival is spectacular, visitors can expect a friendly welcome at Speyside all year round.

Make Moray your destination for your next whisky tasting experience by booking your stay at Carden Cottages now.  You can also subscribe to our mailing list for updates on last minute bargains.

Amazing views from Nelson’s Tower

One of the best tourist attractions in Forres has reopened for the Summer.  Nelson’s Tower has now opened for the season – and is a great place to visit for both tourists and locals.

Nelson's Tower Cluny Hill Forres Moray Scotland
Nelson’s Tower stands proudly on Cluny Hill in Forres | Credit: Valenta

Nelson’s Tower stands proudly on Cluny Hill, looking over Forres.  The foundation stone was laid there by James Brodie in 1806, in memory of Admiral Lord Nelson.

The tower was created to commemorate the Lord Admiral’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar, and took another six years before it was open to the public.

On the day of the grand opening, cannons fired a twenty-one gun salute.  It was said that these canons were with the first fleet at the bombardment of Alexandria.  These canons can still be seen at the entrance to the tower to this day.

Canons Nelson's Tower Forres Moray Scotland
The canons at the entrance of Nelson’s Tower | Credit: Forres Heritage Trust

Once inside, a steep spiral staircase of 97 steps leads you to the it’s highest point.  There are two stops on the way up, where you can view associated historic information on your trek to the top.

My favourite part of the tower is the amazing views from the top.  From the peak you can see a complete 360 of the surrounding area – the view of the Moray Firth is particularly breathtaking.

Nelson's Tower view Forres Heritage Trust
Nelson’s Tower offers fantastic views of Forres and the surrounding areas | Credit: Forres Heritage Trust

Nelson Tower really does have a lot to offer.  For keen walkers there is the surrounding Grant Park and the walk up Cluny Hill.  People who love nature can embrace the beautiful views and surroundings.  And for the history buffs there is plenty information about the background of the tower.

The tower is currently looked after by lovely volunteers from the Forres Heritage Trust, who are all very passionate and knowledgeable about the local area.  They are very helpful and keen to answer any questions you have.

It is open from 2pm to 4pm every day, from the beginning of April to the end of September, and entry is by donation.

Nelson’s Tower is only a 15 minute drive from Carden Cottages.  It is also near other great historic sites such as Sueno’s Stone, and is near some lovely cafes such as Timeout or The Peppermill.

Spynie Palace is a must visit in Moray

One of my favourite castles in Moray reopens this month.  Spynie Palace has a rich history, beautiful scenery, and is well worth a visit if you are in the Moray area!

Spynie Palace Moray
The magnificent ruins of Spynie Palace | Credit: Mike Searle

Spynie Palace is actually the largest surviving medieval bishop’s house in Scotland.  It was the residence of the bishops of Moray for five centuries, with royalty travelling the area sometimes using it as a guesthouse.  James I, James II and James IV were among those who stayed at Spynie during their travels.

The palace originally sat at the edge of Spynie Loch, surrounded by a thriving settlement.  Today only ruins remain where the palace once stood – the loch tiny in comparison to its former self.

Due to its rich history, there are many stunning historic features of Spynie Castle to appreciate on your visit.  Some details are smaller than others – for example you can see the gun holes that the final Catholic Bishop of Spynie Palace, Patrick Hepburn, had put in place just before the Protestant Reformation of 1560.

The three bishops who played a part in the building of the tower house have their coats of arms displayed at Spynie Palace

My favourite part however, is David’s Tower.  The tower is the largest tower house by volume to survive in Scotland.  The top of the tower offers fantastic views of the spectacular countryside that the palace is located in, as well as the rest of the palace.

You can also find all three of the Bishop’s coat of arms who were parties to the creation of the tower house carved intricately into the ruins.

Due to its peaceful location, birds and other wildlife can also be spotted in the area.  Loch Spynie is actually a great location for bird watching – from mute swans, to ducks, to woodpeckers, many different birds have been spotted in the area.

swans Loch Spynie Moray
Swans, among many other birds, can be spotted at Loch Spynie | Credit: Des Colhoun

The palace is also a 10 minute drive to one of my other favourite tourist spots, Elgin Cathedral, which has a rich history, and I would recommend going there when you are in the area.

Tickets come at affordable prices, including: £6 per adult, £4.80 for people 60 and above, £3.60 for children, free for children under five and £1.00 for YoungScot Card Holders.

Despite the fact that Spynie Palace has shrunk from an incredible castle to ruins, it still has a remarkable grandeur about it.  I would definitely recommend a visit when you are staying with us at Carden Cottages – it’s less than a 20 minute drive!

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.