This was the last day of a 5 day trip to Scotland, so I had to catch a flight home later in the evening and hence made an early start. I was staying in Elgin, so checked out of my hotel (Premier Inn Elgin) and took the short drive into the centre of the town.
From here I took the number 32 bus at 08:23 to Burghead. This ran on time, since there were only 3 passengers! As we approached Burghead I caught a glimpse over the bay to the mountains of the Highlands beyond, but noticed there was both clouds hanging over the tops of some of the mountains and a bit of a sea mist out in the bay, although there was also plenty of blue sky around.
I got off opposite the road where I got the bus the previous evening and walked along the harbour side, trying to get down to the beach. Oddly there was a high wall on the right so the first point I could get access to the beach was at a caravan park. This is because the official Moray Coastal Trail meanders about in the woods behind the beach and since the tide was out I preferred to walk on the beach, and a fabulous beach it was too.
So I headed down onto the beach and began walking south.
Soon there were few people about and the beach was both wonderful peaceful and unspoilt, being a lovely sandy beach backed by dunes and pine woodland. As I had found further east, this had been a heavily defended coast during World War II since all the way along the beach there were the remains of concrete “tank traps” and pill boxes, in various states of repair.
Some still at the top of the dunes, others at the back of the beach and others now in the water line. It was clearly a big concern that invasion was likely to happen in this remote location where it might not be seen.
I also noticed later there is a bothy marked in the woodland which must be a lovely place to stay in the summer, but it was cold last night, so I’m glad I had a warm hotel room!
In a couple of miles the Bessie Burn flows out onto the beach but there was no need to head inland to cross it because the water spread out and so was very shallow once it flowed over the beach.
There is still quite a military presence today in fact, since at regular intervals the piece was disturbed by various jets taking off from the RAF Kinloss airfield which is at the back of the dunes.
Burghead was not barely visible in the distance behind me.
After a couple of miles I reached the end of the woodland, but the dunes continued behind the beach, but I could now see the fences and other structures of the airfield in the distance. The beach continued to be lovely, now with some pebbles at the back.
I continued along the beach and there were soon dunes behind the beach, forming cliffs. It was a lovely walk and the line of old tank track blocks continued.
As I neared Findhorn I started to see people again, as there are a couple of car parks here.
Whilst it is not initially obvious from the coast, Findhorn is at the mouth of an estuary, because I could see the pine forest at Lady Cubin, but it was only that I got closer that you could see the river mouth separating me from that woodland.
As I neared the end of the beach there begin to be groynes built, presumably to protect Findhorn from erosion. The beach was now becoming a mixture of sand, pebbles and dunes.
I walked to the end of the sand and what I saw was beautiful. The incredibly calm waters of the Findhorn Bay had made it almost mirror like, with the trees on the other side of the bay reflected in the water and the hills in the distance.
There were also boats moored up here reflected in the water.
Although not sunny, there was a lovely light, which just added to the atmosphere.
I stopped to take in the view, it was so beautiful.
Sadly I was also nearing the end of the Moray Coastal Trail (and indeed Moray itself) that I have been following and the last part, which took me down to Forres was all on roads from now on, so my walk on the lovely beach was at an end. Rounding the corner into Findhorn Bay I followed the shoreline, which was a little muddy in places, past the boat yard and a cafe.
I then picked up the minor road (initially one way) along the edge of Findhorn Bay. There was now a fairly tedious walk along the B9011 for several miles.
Thankfully there was a pavement and this continued even as the town ended. After a while it became a combined footpath and cycle path, slightly back from the road in places making it more pleasant. In a little over a mile I came to a picnic area beside the road. I stopped here, sat on an old log to have lunch overlooking the salt marsh and Findhorn Bay. There were some people right out at the edge of the marsh by the water. I was not sure what they were doing, fishing I suppose.
The parking area here was a little odd, initially tarmac and concrete, it soon continued into the gorse and was very overgrown. It did not look like any cars had been down this way for some time so I hoped I was not following a dead-end. Fortunately at the end of the car park there was a gap to allow me back out onto the road.
On my left now is Kinloss Airport and signs warned plane spotters to use the picnic spot car park, but there were no planes to spot at the time I passed. I continued on the footpath come cycle path approaching Kinloss. As I neared the town there were some cyclists in high visiblity jackets coming up behind me. As they got closer I realised they were a school party, perhaps doing their cycling proficiency. The teacher was very good and told them to take care going past me. They cycled path mostly in single file (though a few that tried to go past two abreast got told off). Then they all stopped ahead, so I went past them again. I expect it was nice for them to get out of the classroom for a while.
I soon reached Kinloss village, which was not especially pretty, a lot of fairly grey buildings and even the church seemed to be pebble-dashed, making it a dully grey.
I soon reached the end of the B9011 at a traffic light controlled junction. Here I turned left on the slightly busier B9089. Fortunately, I could soon turn off this as the Moray Coastal Trail turned right onto the minor road through Whiteinch. Here there were sometimes woodland areas on the right and I went into one of these for a snack sat on a log. Only a handful of cars passed me all along this road, it was very quiet which was a welcome relief from the main roads. There were also distant views in places back over Findhorn Bay.
Soon I had another minor river to my right, Burn of Mosset. The river soon turned away from the road again though and I continued to Mill of Grange, where there was a road over it.
Here the Moray Coastal Trail continued on this road into Forres. I had planned to finish my walk for the day in Forres, so I could catch the train back to Elgin where I had parked the car. From there I was to drive to Aberdeen Airport for my flight home, but since I knew what time train I needed to catch I could also see I would be early. I therefore decided to take a little diversion off the Moray Coastal Trail, and I ended up being glad that I did so.
This is because if I stuck to the Moray Coast Trail directly into Forres I would be missing out a little peninsula to the north of the town, although it seemed to consist of just three farms and was totally flat, so it didn’t look very interesting. But I won’t cheat and take short cuts! So I turned right and followed this road to Netherton. I continued past the large farm here soon passing Netherton Cottages, then turning left to Seafiled Cottage. It reminded me of Lincolnshire.
I rounded the corner and turned left heading to Seafield and the only car I had so far seen passed me, heading into the drive of one of the cottages here. I continued past these few isolated cottages. Around 300 metres beyond this where there were some trees on the right I came across an unexpected surprise. A car park! Not marked on the map but I hoped that would mean the track I could see on the map would be easy to walk. So I followed it down and soon came across a track leading down to the edge of the river Findhorn, which flowed out into Findhorn Bay. It was a very fast flowing river and I like the gentle sound of the water rushing over the pebbles at the bottom of the water.
I could see ahead the path came close to the road so figured if it turned out to be a dead-end I could hopefully get back to the road. But it continued as an excellent almost car wide path, sandy in places. There was even a bird-hide at one point. It was clearly a well used path, perhaps by fisherman or dog walkers. As the path and river turned to head south east the south bank of the river became a large pebble beach.
By this point the sun had come out and it was wonderful to sit down here for a few minutes, watching and listening to the rushing water over the pebbles. It made a good end to the walk.
I could follow this excellent path for around a mile until it came out to the back of an industrial building (rather a come-down after the lovely river path), which Google identifies as “Moray Waste Busters”. Here I could walk around the side of this and re-join the road. I wondered why the road was quite busy but I think there is also a tip here, or that is what the waste busters are about. I continued on the now slightly busier road soon passing some attractive buildings on the left. These turned out to be for the Benromach Distillery. I believe there were tours available too, but by now I didn’t have time to stop or I would miss my train.
At the end of the road I turned right to cross the railway line at a level crossing and then continue to reach the busy A96. I crossed this and found myself back next to the Burn of Mosset. There was a rather nice little park here with the river alongside burbling over a weir.
I continued through this to pass the large church and then reach the main street of Forres.
I liked Forres, it seemed a vibrant town with a pretty main street backed by grand stone buildings.
I followed the main street down the hill. I did however make the mistake of following the road signs to reach the railway station taking me on a longer route via Nairn Road and the A96 which was not too pleasant. (I realised later you can get to it on foot via Tytler Street, though the station I walked to has since closed, in 2017, replaced with a new one nearer the town). Still I had arrived 10 minutes before my train was due. I was surprised to find a sort of 1930s style building which was still staffed, despite the fact there is less than an hourly service. So I bought my ticket from the window, I suspected the man serving might be glad of something to do! My train arrived on time and soon took me back to Elgin. It was nice to be able to take a train back at the end of the walk, having travelled by bus mostly on this trip.
From Elgin Station I returned to my car and then started the drive back to Aberdeen Airport, via the A96. It was quite a scenic drive with one section almost a pass over the hills, with snow gates that could be put across to close the road in winter. It certainly indicates I am getting to the more remote parts of Scotland now. I passed through Keith, Huntley and Inverurie. Just after this the road improved to a dual carriageway. I then took the turn for the airport and got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, it took me 15 minutes to do about 300 metres! This was because of temporary 3-way traffic lights at the junction for the airport, which had caused a long queue. I stopped to re-fill the car with petrol, then returned it to the car hire company.
I checked in at the airport for my flight and then waited in the departure lounge. Whilst we got on the plane on time and pulled away from the terminal we then got to the end of the taxi way and waited for about 10 minutes. It was then the captain announced the staff at the terminal had had trouble with the computer to provide the final passenger list, needed due to regulations before we could depart. They would not accept it from the British Airways staff at Heathrow so we had to wait for them to reboot the computer to generate the required list before we were given permission to actually depart. After that it was a fairly quiet flight and I had a whole row to myself, which was nice.
I arrived back at Heathrow Airport but had trouble locating the desk for National Express (I need to buy a ticket for the coach) but was directed that it was right at the far end of the terminal. I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus which then got me back to my local station around 20 minutes later, as Terminal 5 was the last stop. All in all it had been an enjoyable trip up to Scotland.
This walk was quite varied. The first part along the beach from Burghead to FIndhorn was lovely, and with stunning views over Findhorn Bay and the mouth of the river, which were stunning. After that it was all road walking to Forres which was a shame albeit at least the roads were beside or close to the coast so the views were nice even if the walking wasn’t. What looked like it might be a dull road walk on the loop at the end in Forres turned out to be quite pleasant once i reached the banks of the River Findhorn, which was beautiful.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Take a bus or train from Forres to Elgin and then the bus from Elgin to Burghead. Here are details of the services:-
Stagecoach Bluebird route 10 : Elgin – Alves – Forres – Brodie – Auldearn – Nairn – Ardersier – Inverness. Every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sunday. It takes around 25 minutes to travel between Elgin and Forres.
Scotail Aberdeen – Inverness line : Aberdeen – Dyce – Inverurie – Insch – Huntly – Keith – Elgin – Forres – Nairn – Inverness. 11 trains per day Monday – Saturday and 5 on Sundays. It takes 12 minutes to travel between Elgin and Forres.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link