This walk marks something of a landmark as I’ll cross into the Scottish Highlands. I’ll be in the Highlands for very many more walks, in fact until I reach the Firth of Clyde near to Glasgow. It is the remotest and probably the most beautiful of all the coastal regions of the UK and today when I cross from Moray into Nairn is roughly the point when I will cross into the Highlands.
For this walk I was starting from home, which was now many hundred of miles away. Now I was closer to Inverness than Aberdeen this time I had booked an early flight from London Luton airport to Inverness with Easyjet. This meant an early start (4am) in order to get to Luton Airport for the flight. I drove to the airport and parked in the long stay car park and was surprised by just how much traffic there was on the airport approach road, queuing traffic even at this time in the morning (before 6am). Though I had got an email from Easyjet warning of works causing delays but I don’t think I’ve ever been to Luton Airport where there hasn’t been building works on!
Still I made it in time for my 7:40am flight. An early start but it meant I was in Inverness at 09:05am. On my last trip to Scotland I had hired a car but only really needed it for one day (the rest of the time it was a convenience, but not strictly necessary) so on this trip, as I’d be close to Inverness public transport was good enough I didn’t need to hire a car, so I’d be using the bus.
The airport terminal at Inverness is tiny so I was out and waiting for the bus only a few minutes after landing, which went directly to Forres. I reached Forres at around 10:15. So despite starting from home I had plenty of time for a walk too. My return flights came in at under £60 too, so it was a very good price.
On reaching Forres I stopped to buy lunch then re-traced my steps on the same route I followed last time, back to the A96 and then to the Benromach distillery by the level crossing.
Here I forked left on the more minor road to Wateford Farm where there was a permissive cycle path marked leading to a bridge over the river (I’d walked the road loop around via Netherton on my previous walk).
The road soon turns right leading to a dump (sorry, “Recycling Centre”) but just before this I could turn left on a nice path through the woodland. This is in fact part of the National Cycle Way route 1, so I was encouraged this meant I should have no problems using the bridge.
The path was soon alongside the River Findhorn but it mostly seemed to be devoid of water, revealing a large amount of shingle and pebbles. I guess the river can be much bigger after heavy rain.
The bridge over turned out to be quite a large affair. It seemed to be in two halves with the nearer part over the dried up part of the river looking more recent than the second half, which looked like an old railway bridge. The river was flowing pretty fast though even though it was obviously not at it’s fullest.
On the other side was something you don’t see much of in Scotland – a good footpath sign which indicated the route ahead would go to Broom of Moy, Dyke and Kintessack.
Well Broom of Moy was just ahead, so that was no surprise! The path soon came out on the road in the little village of Broom of Moy. Here I followed the road, also cycle network 1 to the junction at the end. Here I turned right, for Moy House and Mains of Moy. Moy House looks like it was once a large and impressive house in extensive grounds. Peering along the “Strictly Private” drive I can see that the house is derelict, missing the roof and the gardens overgrown. I often wonder how this happens. Someone must surely own it – why do they leave it to crumble?
I continue past a few houses that make up the hamlet of Mains of Moy (I think they were in fact built on the grounds of the old manor house). The road soon leaves the hamlet and crosses the Speedie Burn (great name!). And indeed the water is flowing quite speedily!
I was now wondering about my route ahead. On my last walk that ended at Forres I had reached the end of the Moray Coast Trail and so I was now back to finding my own route again.
I hoped to reach the woodland of Lady Culbin (part of the larger Culbin Forest) ahead. But the road I was on seemed to end on the map at Wellside Farm and I was not sure if there would be a way through beyond it into the forest. I decided however that it would at least make sense to try, so I headed that way.
I needn’t have worried as it continued as a track into the edge of the woodland.
I passed some piers at the mouth of the river Findhorn. And then followed a path of sorts alongside the north side of an area marked as Binsness.
I headed towards the boat house marked on the map but on reaching dense woodland I made my way along a sort of path through the woodland and over the grass, where I had to climb fences. Soon I had emerged from the woodland to the banks of the river. I made my way, with difficulty along the shore until there was soon a proper beach and I reached the boat house.
Heading down onto that it was hard going initially but as the tide was going out there was soon some muddy sand to walk on.
On the other side of the estuary I could see Findhorn, where I had been some months previously.
I continued on the beach for a while heading north which was a mixture of sand and shingle and at times quite easy going and at other times quite hard.
Soon I had reached the top of the estuary where it narrowed and I could clearly make out the bright houses of Findhorn on the other side of the bay.
Soon rounding the corner I was on a beautiful and deserted beach, backed by pine trees and dunes. I always think there is something quite special about a beach backed by trees like this.
There was no footprints but mine so I knew no one else had been here today, either.
In places there were the remains of some wooden posts, perhaps old sea defences though to defend what I wasn’t sure.
After a while the dunes got a little taller and made for small cliffs.
I had to keep a close eye on the GPS and on the map here. This is because the beach and dunes here soon become a dead-end, just a narrow sandy spit with marsh on the landward side and the sea to my right. So I aimed to turn off just before this which I did when I saw the end of the trees. I was expecting this part to be hard but found that most of the marsh was just wet, slightly (but not very) boggy ground with what I took to be the stumps of old trees killed when the salt water came in.
I made my way across this initially keeping the trees on my left and then cutting the corner to end up back alongside the woodland of Culbin Forest. Here I found a feint path along the shore just outside the woodland, on the marsh.
It was quite easy to follow as other people had worn the grass short and although there was the odd water channel they were always narrow enough to step over.
To my right I was close by the Moray Firth.
I briefly headed up into the woodland and was surprised to immediately come across this cyclist. I was beginning to think I was the only one in this area, because I hadn’t seen anyone since leaving Forres!
Back on the marsh the sort of path I had been following continued and was quite easy to follow.
At one point I even came across a sign warning that it helps to protect the marsh if you don’t head to the beach and (presumably) keep to the path I was on. All was going well until I reached a larger water channel which seemed to follow a dead-straight line inland through the woodland towards Cran Loch. It was just too wide to step over but heading out a bit towards the shore I found this improvised bridge. It was strong enough to hold my weight, anyway.
Once over the path soon got wider and more walked.
There were footprints and bicycle tyre tracks, so I knew I must be nearing Nairn.
I continued along the now easy path and just before the village of Kingsteps I found a path to the right, just before the area of water which I could follow back down to the beach.
There were people here the first I’d seen since that cyclist in the woodland.
The beach was unexpectedly lovely. No longer marsh, there was good sand and dunes. I could soon see the breakwater of the harbour at Nairn ahead and continued along this lovely beach.
As I approached the town, the sun even started to break through!
As I reached the breakwater I realised this was not the harbour but in fact the mouth of the river River Nairn.
There was a big caravan site here but also a bridge so I could cross this right at the coast into Nairn.
The harbour had a few boats, mostly leisure related by the look of it.
The river too was very pretty and the blue sky was now starting to come through. It was a pretty town.
I ended here at Nairn as there is no other settlement along the coast for quite some time and Nairn has a good bus service.
Nairn has the luxury of a railway station so I thought I would take the train into Inverness (where I was staying) since I had happened to finish the walk not long before the train was due (according to the timetable I had downloaded onto my phone a few days before). So I headed to the railway station only to find a sign informing me that the guards had gone on strike and as a result no trains were operating at all on this line. So no chance of taking the train then. Thankfully, given the railway seemingly didn’t want my money, there is also a bus service to Inverness and I soon found a bus stop. According to the timetable, I only had about 10 minutes to wait for the next bus to Inverness, where I was staying. I was pleased to find it was run with a coach rather than a bus, which made for a more comfortable journey.
From Inverness I stopped for dinner at a pub and then took a local bus (once I found where it went) onwards to my Hotel a bit out of town. Whilst staying in the city centre would be more convenient my experience is that British city centres are very noisy on a Saturday night (as this was) and city centre hotels also tend to attract those coming back late, nosily and drunkenly. So I was staying at the Travelodge Inverness Fairways near the Loch Ness Golf Club which at least proved to be peaceful. It cost me £48.75 per night (for 4 nights). The staff here were good too with a range of takeaway menus you could order from and eat in the room since the hotel had no restaurant.
It had been an enjoyable walk and a good first walk of this trip. I was pleased my hoped for route had proved to be possible and fairly easy and that I had spent so much of the time walking on lovely deserted sandy beaches, often backed by the huge and beautiful Culbin forest.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. You can use either the bus or the train (strikes permitting) to travel between Forres and Nairn.
Stagecoach Bluebird bus 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 Nairn and Forres.
Scotrail 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 around 10 minutes to travel between Nairn and Forres.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.