290. Kingston on Spey to Burghead

March 2016

I awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and this time I was determined not to miss the bus, helped by the fact that at least I knew where the bus station was this time! I had the “all you can eat” breakfast buffet at the hotel I was staying at (The Premier Inn in Elgin). Then I headed again for the short drive into Elgin centre because there was no bus between Kingston on Spey and Burghead but both places had buses to and from Elgin so it made sense to go via Elgin.

I parked in the same place as before and my determination not to miss the bus meant I’d now arrived quite early. This gave me time for a quick look at Elgin Cathedral.

Elgin Cathedral

It was built in 1224 but fell into ruins in 1560. I was too early to go in however so I had to make do with what I could see from the outside, though in any case it looked that there were some repairs going on anyway.

This time with enough time I now headed for the bus station, located behind the shopping centre and took the bus back to Kingston on Spey, the same bus I meant to catch the previous day but missed! This time I was the only passenger for the entire journey (this bus route ceased to operate by the end of the month).

I alighted at the same point where I joined the bus the previous day and took the path back to the beach where I had sat waiting for the bus the previous evening.

The beach at Kingston on Spey

The tide was a little lower now which was good because my planned route was along the beach rather than follow the coast path which ran on a track 100 metres or so inland. The tide being out meant there was a thin strip of sand at the shoreline which was much easier to walk along than the shingle.

The beach at Kingston on Spey

The beach at Kingston on Spey

The beach at Kingston on Spey

Sadly the sand didn’t last long, perhaps the tide was coming on or perhaps there just wasn’t any sand further west, so I headed up onto the pebbles further back, which was hard-going. This had clearly been a heavily fortified coast in the past because a line of tank traps from World War II was still present at the back of the beach.

The beach at Kingston on Spey

Soon this too became hard work so I returned to the official coast path which had now moved closer to the coast and followed a shingle track just behind the shingle of the beach, so it was easy going now.

The coast between Lossiemouth and Kingston on Spey

This was a lovely stretch of the walk because soon the beach was backed with lovely pine forest and had quite a remote feel to it.

The coast between Lossiemouth and Kingston on Spey

In fact the beach stretched for a long way – around 6 miles and with only limit places to access the beach it was very quiet, I saw around half a dozen people in that time!

After a while I found there was sand again at the shore line so I returned there, it being more pleasant to walk on that than the shingle track at the back of the beach.

The coast between Lossiemouth and Kingston on Spey

The coast between Lossiemouth and Kingston on Spey

Much like the previous evening, I could see the hills on the far side, the Scottish Highlands looming ahead, still with some snow on the top.

The coast between Lossiemouth and Kingston on Spey

The beach at Lossiemouth

As I neared the town of Lossiemouth the beach became much wider, now a beautiful unspoilt sandy beach with no pebbles at all and soon backed by sand.

The beach at Lossiemouth

The beach at Lossiemouth

It was only as I neared the town I began to see people again. Given the name of the town it’s perhaps no surprise that the river Lossie flows out to the sea here just before the town.

Lossiemouth

Fortunately the coast path crosses via a bridge marked on the map on the beach. I was relieved when the bridge came into view and yes it did indeed exist.

I soon reached the bridge and made my way across it, it was clearly heavily used, as it provides the access to the beach and the walkway of the bridge was mostly covered in a few cm of sand.

Bridge over the river Lossie, Lossiemouth

The view of the town from the bridge was lovely and the sunshine was really quite warm for March.

The River Lossie, Lossiemouth

The River Lossie, Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth is a beautiful town and I was pleased to also spot along the sea front a shop. It was time for lunch (I’d given up trying to find anything in Elgin open before 9am). So having bought lunch I sat on a seat overlooking the beach for lunch.

The River Lossie, Lossiemouth

The River Lossie, Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth

Once I’d finished lunch it was time to continue so I followed the pavement beside the road around to the small harbour. This was one was busier than others I have seen in this area, though it was mostly leisure craft.

Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth

Rounding the corner I now had a view west. Lossiemouth had so far lacked one feature every town in Scotland has, but now I had located it. Yes, the golf course! On the west side of the town there is another shingle and sand beached backed by Moray Golf Course.

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

Ahead too I could also see the lighthouse marked on the map behind the beach near the air base of RAF Lossiemouth (Covesea Lighthouse).

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

Whilst the official coast path ran in the dunes somewhere the tide was far enough out I preferred to follow the beach instead as there was plenty of firm sand.

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

I made rapid progress and was soon approaching the lighthouse at the RAF base, whilst i could also see the snowy mountains of the highlands out to sea, across the Moray Firth.

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

The only irritation I had was that I had been followed by someone with a dog that was constantly barking and they seemed to be going about the same pace so this part of the walk had been accompanied by barking rather than the sound of waves, so it was a relief when they finally turned back.

Stotfield Links, Lossiemouth

As I approached the lighthouse the coast changed with the dunes giving way to rocks.

Covesea

Covesea Links

The lighthouse (Covesea Lighthouse) seemed to be on top of the first part of this rock. I didn’t go up onto the cliff top to take a closer look but continued along the beach.

As I passed it, it looked like a cave had been cut into the rocks but the sand has since blocked up the entrance to the cave. Rounding the corner the beach widened again and soon became backed by dunes again, so I could continue on the beach.

The beach at Covesea

This was a stunning beach and I was captivated by the beautiful snow covered hills and mountains I could again see across the Moray Firth. At the end of the beach I reached some low cliffs.

The beach at Covesea

The coast near Covesea

I headed to the back of the beach and found the official coast path which I now rejoined. The coast path followed a track near the base of the cliffs, with the houses of Covesea village on the cliff top and then made it’s way up to the cliff top.

The coast near Covesea

The cliff tops provided an excellent view of the now rugged coast ahead and again the coast on the other side of the Moray Firth.

The coast near Covesea

Below me was soon a sand and shingle beach backed by cliffs and some grass. It also had a rock stack at the eastern end.

The coast near Covesea

The coast path was excellent (and even had some proper signs telling you the names of the towns each side) and hugged this rugged and spectacular coast for a couple of miles until I reached the  quarry at Clashach. This is still in use so I stuck to the coast path that goes along the landward edge of the quarry.

Clasach Quarry near Hopeman

I was now approaching the village of Hopeman and inland was the village golf club, which has a spectacular location. Below was another pretty beach backed by grass and sandstone cliffs.

The coast east of Hopeman

The coast path now headed down the cliffs to another small pebbly beach I had to cross before resuming on the now low cliffs on the other side.

The coast east of Hopeman

The coast east of Hopeman

I followed the low cliffs around a small headland to descend onto the beach at Hopeman, another beautiful and unspoilt sandy beach.

East Beach, Hopeman

Soon the beach was backed by varied and colourful beach huts, not something I’ve seen much of in Scotland but I thought they were rather pretty.

East Beach, Hopeman

Ahead I now had another sandy beach with the harbour wall of Hopeman visible beyond.

East Beach, Hopeman

Another helpful sign told me that I was now 2 1/4 miles from my destination of Burghead and had come over 5 miles from Lossiemouth.

Hopeman

The beach was quite beautiful backed by low grassy cliffs and dunes with a few daffodils in flower in the grass.

I soon reached the little harbour, largely empty and rounded the corner to the next beach, Hopeman West beach.

The harbour at Hopeman

This one was backed by a large caravan site which was not very pretty.

West Beach, Hopeman

West Beach, Hopeman

I’d left the official coast path again which goes behind the caravan site on a disused railway line so I stuck to the beach and rounding the corner found a rough path along the grass and over the back of the beach.

The coast between Burghead and Hopeman

The coast between Burghead and Hopeman

At one point I had to duck through a little cave that had been cut into the cliffs by the sea.

The coast between Burghead and Hopeman

Soon, when the sort of path I had been following fizzled out I headed slightly back inland to pick up the official coast path and the route of the old railway line.

The coast between Burghead and Hopeman

This partly ran in a cutting so views were a bit limited but I made rapid progress as it is an easy walk along the now tarmac track.

When the old line emerged from the embankment I was able to climb up onto the banks to the right from time to time to take in the view of the coast.

The coast near Burghead

This must have been a spectacular railway line when it was open, but it’s use was comparatively short lived closing to passengers in 1931 and entirely in 1957.

I made rapid progress here and was soon approaching Burghead. I was hoping for somewhere pretty but the village was dominated by a large industrial building.

Burghead

This turned out to be the maltings. In fact the railway line I had been following actually still exists south of here as the line was retained for freight trains taking grain to the maltings though these ceased to operate until 1992 so I believe this part of the line is also disused now.

I rounded the maltings and soon came to the end of the little peninsula on which Burghead is located.

Burghead maltings

The official coast path actually takes a short cut here and misses out the headland at Burghead but I’d be taking no such short cuts and hence had gone right to the end. Here I found the Burghead Visitor Centre located in an old military fort that looked to be partly underground.

Burghead

However it was now closed for the day so I continued round the corner to the houses overlooking the harbour.

This was a substantial harbour which is more industrial than those I had passed so far today.

Burghead

Burghead

Perhaps boats serving the Maltings still use it. I then followed the road alongside the north side of the harbour and continued until it turned inland to the road through the village. Here I followed the road inland to the main road through the village where I hoped to find the bus stop. I soon found it outside the school and waited here for the bus. I had made good time and had about 20 minutes to wait. I didn’t mind, I was grateful for the rest!

I soon saw the bus arrive going into the village so I knew it would soon be coming back for me, as indeed it did, albeit late. However once again I was the only passenger for most of the way back to Elgin so we soon made up time.

This had been a really fantastic walk. The coastline was really beautiful with much of it along beautiful unspoilt and remote beaches, with some nice stretches of cliff walking in between. The towns and villages I had passed through had also been very pleasant but I had particularly enjoyed the fine views over the Moray Firth to the coast of the highlands beyond. It was nice too to have a proper coast path even if I’d not actually followed it for much of the walk!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. It is necessary to change buses in Elgin.

Stagecoach Bluebird route 32 : Burghead – Hopeman – Duffus – Elgin Bus Station. Hourly Monday – Saturday only. No service on Sundays. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between Burghead and Elgin.

Moray Council route 334 : Elgin Bus Station – Lhanbryde – Urquhart – Garmouth – Kingston on Spey. 4 times per day Monday – Friday only, no service at weekends. It takes around 50 minutes to travel between Elgin and Kingston on Spey.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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