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Things To Do in Moray: A Guide To Scotland’s Best Kept Secret

Things To Do in Moray: A Guide To Scotland’s Best Kept Secret

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Moray is one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets. Known for its stunning beaches dotted across the northern coastline, and home to a number of whisky distilleries, Moray is the perfect destination for the traveller yearning to get off the beaten path.

This summer we spent a wonderful five days exploring the region. Although this wasn’t our first rendezvous to Moray, it was certainly our most memorable as Alex (six months old at the time) and Angus (our dog) joined us on our adventure.

In this guide, I’m highlighting the best things to do in Moray and helpful advice for planning a trip here.

Planning A Trip To Moray

Portknockie

There are a few things you should know when you’re planning a trip to Moray.

One of the main things to take into account is that you’ll need to plan your activities in advance. Moray isn’t a touristy area compared to other regions in Scotland, and so many of its attractions and restaurants work on reduced hours or are only open certain days of the week- especially north of Elgin.

My biggest tip is to look up opening hours and days for any restaurants or attractions you want to visit, or you may miss out!

Getting to the Moray Coast & Getting Around

By Car

The best way to explore Moray is definitely by car. There are many hidden gems dotted about, and because Moray is a fairly big region in Scotland, it is far more practical to get around by car. This is how we chose to explore the region, and we achieved a lot in our short time there.

For car hire, I recommend Celtic Legend.

The main street in Cullen

Public Transport

You can utilise public transport to get around, however, I highly recommend checking out bus schedules in advance and planning your route well because Moray isn’t typically a touristy area, and you may find buses only run on certain days, or certain times of the day!

Stagecoach North Scotland is the main bus company that services Moray.

Here’s a quick summary of how you can reach Moray by public transport:

  • Aberdeen to Cullen – Stagecoach North Scotland bus 35 (2 hr 45 min average)
  • Aberdeen to Elgin – Scotrail train (1 hr 30 min) OR Stagecoach North Scotland bus 10 (2 hr 40 min average) or M96 (2 hours)
  • Aberdeen to Dufftown – Scotrail train to Elgin and then catch Stagecoach North Scotland bus 36 to Dufftown (2 hr 30 min average)
  • Inverness to Cullen – Scotrail train to Elgin, walk 13 min to bus stop, and then catch Stagecoach North Scotland bus 35 to Cullen (2 hr 15 min average)
  • Inverness to Elgin – Scotrail train (1 hour)
  • Inverness to Lossiemouth – Scotrail train then Stagecoach North Scotland bus 33A (or 33C) to Lossiemouth (1 hr 40 min average)
  • Inverness to Dufftown – Scotrail train to Elgin, and then ride the Stagecoach North Scotland bus 36 to Dufftown (1 hr 45 min average)
  • Edinburgh to Elgin – Scotrail train to Inverness then jump on the train to Elgin (4.5 hours)
  • Edinburgh to Cullen – Scotrail train to Aberdeen, and then follow my Aberdeen to Cullen instructions above (5 hr 15 min average)

Please note the above is a guide and bus and train services change seasonally. I recommend using Google Maps or Traveline Scotland to plot your route via public transport.

Scotland Travel Tip

If you’re spending time in Aberdeenshire before or after your trip to Moray, make sure you read my post about things to do in Aberdeenshire.

Accommodation in Moray

The view from our self-catering Airbnb

The best place to base yourself in Moray (in my opinion) is Cullen. Cullen has the best of everything; it’s a charming coastal town with a lovely beach, excellent cafes and restaurants and some great accommodation options.

If you have a car (which I recommend if you’re exploring Moray) you have the flexibility to stay anywhere, but I would still recommend sticking to the Moray Coast. We stayed at an Airbnb near Buckie, which was directly across the road from the beach and quite central to the other coastal villages on the Moray Coast. There are plenty of lovely options for self-catering cottages along the Moray Coast that have sea views on Airbnb.

Our Airbnb was an old fishing cottage

If you are wanting to visit some of the Speyside Distilleries, Dufftown is a good base and has full facilities, restaurants and a range of accommodation.

Recommended accommodation

Things to do in Moray

There are plenty of things to do in Moray- here are 12 of my favourite things to experience.

Bow Fiddle Rock 

things to do in moray bow fiddle rock

Made popular by Instagrammers, Bow Fiddle Rock is a striking natural rock formation that resembles a fiddle- hence the name!

A short walk (a couple of minutes) takes you from the car park to a stunning view of this unusual stack. If it’s a nice day, I suggest spending some time here to enjoy the views and breathe in the salty sea air. The area is very atmospheric, and a nice place to relax with a cup of tea from a flask or a wee picnic. You’ll spot seabirds darting between the rocks, and wildflowers in the summer.

There are also some other impressive sea stacks you can see in the immediate area.

Be sure to explore the cute coastal village of Portknockie, where Bow Fiddle Rock is located.

Cullen

things to do in moray cullen beach
The bonnie coastal village of Cullen

Cullen is one of my favourite villages along the Moray Coast. Filled with antique stores (I counted at least five!), a glorious beach, and history of kings- this village really is a must-see. It’s also a brilliant place to base yourself to explore Moray.

Start your day at Cullen with a slice and a coffee at Coffee At The Kings, who, without a doubt, make the best turmeric latte in Scotland. The owner’s partner also makes adorable wee clay bothies- a neat souvenir to take home. Then go for a stroll along Cullen Beach to The Three Kings, unusual rock formations that appear to pierce through the heart of the beach.

One of the Three Kings

Going antique shopping in the village is a must– I ended up returning home with several near-new Beatrix Potter books for Alex, a vintage suitcase, and an original watercolour painting of Cragievar Castle that was over 100 years old, but in pristine condition!

I recommend lunch or dinner at The Seafield Arms Hotel. We had two outstanding meals here, and they have a dog-friendly seating area. This award-winning hotel is also the perfect accommodation for your Moray escape!

Left: Lunch at The Seafield Arms; Right: Cullen Skink at the Royal Oak Hotel

Another must-do is having Cullen Skink in its home town. Cullen Skink is a traditional Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions.

We had a wonderful dinner at the Royal Oak Hotel which included a delicious starter of Cullen Skink.

Lossiemouth 

Lossiemouth East Beach

Lossiemouth is a delightful village on the Moray Coast that is well worth a visit. One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit Lossie is the bright bonnie sands of East Beach.

Settle yourself in the sand dunes and look out for bottlenose dolphins! The sea is extremely rough here so do not attempt to swim. Simply enjoy the sand in your toes and take some time out to just be.

Lossiemouth East Beach

Restaurants and gin and whisky bars line the marina, making Lossie a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner (or even a chippy on the beach). My personal favourite is The Salt Cellar– an Italian restaurant that is in- you guessed it- an old salt cellar.

Pizza at The Salt Cellar

Left: The Salt Cellar; Right: Ice cream at the marina

The marina esplanade is also home to three ice cream shops, serving locally made ice cream. Miele’s of Lossie is currently the highest rated on Trip Advisor, however, why not try out all three and decide for yourself?

Shopping is a bit limited in Lossie, however, one shop I absolutely loved was Brown’s Giftware. Selling lovely gifts made by Lossie locals and small businesses around Scotland, you can pick up some unique gifts here- including AVVA Scottish Gin and handmade candles by Covesea Candles!

Windswept Brewing Co

The brewery tour at Windswept Brewing

Everyone knows Moray is home to a large number of whisky distilleries, but did you know the region is home to some fantastic breweries?

Windswept Brewing Co is one of these breweries and is located in Lossiemouth.

I sent the Haggis and Grandad Haggis on a tour of the brewery, which included a tasting session of their award-winning beer. They were certainly jolly when I picked them up after the tour!

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich Distillery

My favourite whisky distillery tour has got to be the Glenfiddich Distillery– I find the story of how the distillery was built fascinating! 

I won’t spoil the story for you- because you’ll learn about this on one of their distillery tours. A fun fact I will share with you, though, is that the owner of the distillery purchased the entire land surrounding the Robbie Dhu Spring, so he had complete access to every drop of water that helps to create this famous dram.

Explore the distillery on one of their tours

Balvenie Castle

Located on the same road as Glenfiddich Distillery, you’ll find the glorious ruin of Balvenie Castle.

If the name Balvenie rings a bell, it’s because there is also a Balvenie whisky, which takes its name from the castle. The same company that own Glenfiddich Distillery also own Balvenie Distillery, another fantastic dram.

Balvenie Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland. It was initially a stronghold for the Comyn earls of Buchan, who ruled over this part of north-east Scotland. However, Robert the Bruce took Balvenie Castle from the Comyns in 1308, and afterwards, it disappeared from history until the 1400s.

It was then handed to Sir James Douglas, but after the Black Douglases’ downfall in 1455, James II granted the castle to his half-brother, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. He and his wife, Margaret (a Douglas), paid rent of a single red rose for the castle!

The castle is currently closed to the public, however, you can still see the castle from the roadside. It’s worth wandering up the road from the distillery to catch a glimpse.

Findlater Castle

Findlater Castle

Left: Findlater Doocot; Right: Findlater Castle

Findlater Castle is a ruinous castle embedded in a 50-foot cliff between the villages of Cullen and Sandend.

The original castle was built sometime in the 13th century and is the old seat of the Earls of Findlater and Seafield. Expecting an invasion from King Hakon IV of Norway, the castle was strengthened in the 1260s by King Alexander III. Despite King Hakon’s army losing the Battle of Largs, Findlater Castle was occupied by the Norse for a period of time.

The present castle was probably built at the end of the 14th century by Sir John Sinclair of Findlater.

How to get there: Park at the Findlater Castle Car Park (marked on Google Maps) and follow the 4×4 path for half a mile which takes you past the Findlater Doocot, a shelter made for pigeons. You will reach a viewing platform where you can see the coast on the cliff below.

Please note, there are paths that lead down to the castle, however, due to the erosion of the castle and the cliff exploring the castle itself is extremely dangerous. I do not recommend following the path down to the castle.

Sunnyside Beach

Sunnyside Beach

If you plan on visiting Findlater Castle, make sure you visit one of Moray’s most stunning beaches- Sunnyside Beach.

Located to the west of Findlater Castle, and accessed via the same path, Sunnyside Beach is a real serene gem. Sheltered by tall cliffs, the vast white-golden sand stretches toward beautifully clear waters.

This beach is the perfect place to spend a few hours relaxing.

Brodie Castle

brodie castle things to do in moray
Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Moray. This 16th-century castle was home to the Brodie clan for over 400 years.

The castle is filled to the brim with fine furniture, antiques, art, and over 6,000 books!

The 71-hectare estate is home to landscaped gardens, a pond, a walled garden, an adventure playground, and a woodland walk- making it a great activity for families.

The castle is said to be haunted by Lady Margaret Duff, who was the wife of James Brodie, a previous clan chief in the 18th century. She fell asleep in front of the fireplace, where her clothes caught on fire and she burned to death.

The best time to visit Brodie Castle is in spring when the daffodils are in bloom. Look out for dragonflies, wildfowl and red squirrels around the property.

The castle is open for guided tour only- see the National Trust For Scotland website to book. Tours last 45 minutes and run throughout the day.

Fun fact: Brodie Castle has over 400 varieties of daffodils!

Moray Coastal Trail

The Moray Way

If you have at least 3-4 days, walking the Moray Coast Trail is an excellent way to explore one of the top 20 most beautiful coastlines as named by National Geographic.

The Moray Coast

The route is 72 kilometres long and runs between Forres and Cullen. Expect to discover wide sandy beaches, dramatic rock formations and cute fishing villages. If you’re lucky, you may spot dolphins frolicking in the clear waters!

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral

The town of Elgin is the biggest in Moray, and is home to Elgin Cathedral– which was once considered Scotland’s most beautiful cathedral and known as ‘the lantern of the North.’

Elgin

Left: The Drouthy Cobbler; Right: Thunderton House

Established in the 13th century, Elgin Cathedral was the main church for the Bishops of Moray, one of the most powerful groups of men in Medieval Scotland.

My favourite part of the cathedral was the Western towers. We climbed over 100 steps to reach the top of each tower, each level filled with ornately carved stones that had been rescued from the dilapidated walls. I found these utterly fascinating; each of the carvings was categorised with placards explaining their significance. Walking around this cathedral decades ago must have been like walking through a storybook!

Left: The Chapter House; Right: Stone carvings at Elgin Cathedral

Inside the ruin there is a Pictish slab from the year 700AD, and the ruin is also home to Scotland’s tallest gravestone (5 metres tall!).

The cathedral is a must-see when visiting Moray!

More tips for visiting Moray

  • The website Visit Moray Speyside is helpful for planning your trip to Moray. This is the official tourism website, and so it has all the need-to-know information on accommodation, things to do, and events happening in the region.
  • I enjoyed the travel guide Moray Speyside: A Travel Guide by local Iona Grant.
  • Discover Cullen is another good website for finding things to do in the village.

Are you planning to visit Moray? If you have a question about visiting, leave a comment at the bottom of this article and I’ll do my best to answer it for you!

Happy travels 💜

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Chris johnson

Thursday 28th of March 2024

Thank you so much. Do you have any info on camp sites in moray area and down towards Aberdeen area

Derek Beveridge

Wednesday 19th of July 2023

There's a beautiful village just before Forres called Findhorn, that is worth a visit too. Based one side of an inland tidal bay, Findhorn encapsulates the verdant and lush growing conditions typical of Moray. It's a great place to rest up, and soak in the view.

Yvonne

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

What about the seals at Portgordon?

Yvette Webster

Thursday 20th of July 2023

Unfortnately we didn't have time to visit Portgordon, but this just gives us more incentive for another visit!

Jessica Clerihew

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

Am literally heading there tomorrow from Australia. I have family in Findochty and my grandad was raised in Buckie. My great granny and grandad lived in Banff and thats where my granny and dad are from. I cant wait to show my kids around and to meet their family. Its been 20 years since i was there. I am now nearly 30!

Shay

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

Great information. Thank-you so much. I am a bit challenged geographically. Could you post a map that shows the region of Moray? I can't visualize where the area is located or how large.