Walking past beach huts on Findhorn Beach
After the trail rejoins the coast, it runs parallel to the fenced boundary of Kinloss Barracks for a couple of kilometres, on a narrow heather-lined track along the back of the beach. Here you’ll start to spot WWII era pillboxes and tank traps half-submerged in the sand, the first of many which line vast stretches of the Moray Coast.
At the western edge of Roseisle Forest, the trail turns right and heads inland slightly. It curves around to the left on a wide track, crossing Bessie Burn after a couple of kilometres, then leading you to a large car park and recreational area in the middle of the forest. Here you’ll find plenty of picnic benches with BBQ areas, toilets (open 1 April – 31 October), and a water tap (this is not drinking water and should be treated before drinking). There is even an outdoor shower if you fancy freshening up! Snacks and drinks are available from a sausage and burger van (dependent on the season). Various marked trails lead through the forest and up the tall sand dunes here. Climb up for a view over the beach.
The trail heading into Roseisle Forest, with one of the WWII era pillboxes seen down on the beach
The trail heading into Roseisle Forest, with one
of the WWII era pillboxes seen down on the beach
From the recreational area the route carries on east through the forest. The narrower trail closer to the beach is more attractive than the wide, straight track a little further inland. It’s worth taking a short detour to the left, crossing over the wooden bridge at Millie Burn to check out the ruins of a salmon bothy and admire the interesting patterns in the sand where the burn flows into the sea. From here you could choose to continue along the beach to Burghead, although the pine forest section is attractive and this is your last opportunity to enjoy such scenery on the Moray Coast Trail.
A view of the beach and Moray Firth from the dunes at the edge of Roseisle Forest
A view of the beach and Moray Firth from
the dunes at the edge of Roseisle Forest
About 2.5 km of wiggling forest track beyond the recreation area, you’ll emerge at the Burghead Caravan Park on the western side of this historic village. The trail leads past the numerous static caravans and into Burghead itself. The signposted route cuts through the houses on a straight road towards the large maltings building, visible far and wide in this area. If you wish to visit the Burghead Museum and the headland, the site of a former Pictish Fort dating from 400 AD, just follow the coastline towards the harbour.
MORAY COAST TRAIL SECTION 2: BURGHEAD TO LOSSIEMOUTH
MCT ROUTE SECTION 2:
BURGHEAD TO LOSSIEMOUTH
9.5 miles / 15.2 km | + 410 ft / + 125 m | + 427 ft / – 130 m | 4 – 6 hours
9.5 miles / 15.2 km
+ 410 ft / + 125 m
+ 427 ft / – 130 m
4 – 6 hours
One of the standout sections of the Moray Coast Trail, there are a number of lovely beaches, fascinating rock formations, and picturesque sights between Burghead and Lossiemouth. Quite near the start of this section, the route passes through the scenic former fishing village of Hopeman, after which there are no more settlements on the trail until Lossiemouth. If possible, time your walk to coincide with low tide at Clashach Cove for the most dramatic views.
Burghead to Hopeman | 2.3 miles / 3.7 km
Burghead to Hopeman
2.3 miles / 3.7 km
From The Maltings building in Burghead the coastal route runs along a former railway line to Hopeman, passing under a few stone arched bridges. Thickets of gorse bush line the trail, their yellow flowers providing a vibrant splash of colour when in bloom. There are some fantastic rock formations and small caves along this stretch, and it’s worth detouring off the wide flat path to explore the beaches at Cummingston, about halfway between Burghead and Hopeman. A narrow sandy trail will even take you all the way to Hopeman West Beach from here, if you prefer.
As you reach the edge of Hopeman the signposted route leads up to Duff Street, but it’s better to take the trail across the small bridge to the left for the most scenic route. This leads down to the West Beach Caravan Park and the Bootleggers Bar and Grill, an ideal spot for some al fresco refreshments on a sunny day. You can access West Beach itself via a trail to the left, leading towards two benches.
Hopeman West Beach, with the harbour and town beyond
Hopeman West Beach, the harbour and town beyond
At the opposite end of the beach, a rough trail leads up to the harbour. Follow the road past the harbour and public toilets to reach Hopeman East Beach, a beautiful stretch of golden sand and rocks.
Golden sand and grassy dunes at Hopeman East Beach
Golden sand at Hopeman East Beach
Beyond the first curved bay you’ll spot a picturesque row of colourful beach huts, each with their own unique livery and character. Unlike the uniform new-build huts at Findhorn, the Hopeman beach huts have been around for decades and have been passed down through the generations.
The characterful beach huts, set back from Hopeman East Beach
The colourful and characterful huts,
set back from Hopeman East Beach
Hopeman to Lossiemouth | 7.2 miles / 11.5 km
Hopeman to Lossiemouth
7.2 miles / 11.5 km
Beyond the beach huts the route continues around the coast on an undulating trail. You’ll pass some sculpted rock formations, then climb a little to reach the top of the cliffs overlooking Clashach Cove, hidden away below the golf club.
To explore the cove up close, take the obvious path leading down to the beach from the main trail. Ideally, time your visit here with low tide to get the most dramatic impression and see more of the beach.
Looking down over Clashach Cove as low tide approaches
Looking down over Clashach Cove
from the trail as low tide approaches
When the tide is out a spectacular stretch of golden sand is revealed, along with a natural rock arch on the western side of the cove. A cave and second rock arch/tunnel are situated on the eastern side of the bay. You can walk through the natural tunnel to a rocky beach on the other side, covered in vibrant pebbles and backed by yet more impressive cliffs, carved into dramatic shapes by centuries of wind and sea erosion. When it’s time to continue, return to the clifftop the same way you came down.
The tunnel leading to the rocky shore on the eastern side of the beach
Rock arch on the western side
The tunnel leading through to the rocky
shore on the eastern side of the beach
Natural rock arch on the western side
From here the trail runs along the top of the cliffs, passing a quarry, Primrose Bay, a white lookout tower, and a picturesque stack with caves sculpted out of the cliffside behind. A cacophony of bird squawks will no doubt accompany your walk along this section. The trail drops back down to a scenic stretch of sandy beach at Covesea, with yet another golf club behind it. Continue along the beach, unless the tide is high in which case it may be necessary to follow a trail slightly above the beach. Ahead lies the striking Covesea Lighthouse, a beautiful white and yellow Stevenson number.
Being on the trail at low tide allows you to walk along the beach below the impressive Covesea Lighthouse
Being on the trail at low tide allows you to walk
along the beach below Covesea Lighthouse
Beyond the lighthouse the beach becomes less attractive, and a bit stinky with washed up seaweed, although most of this would be covered at high tide. When you reach the edge of Lossiemouth, continue on a narrow grassy trail around the coast. You’ll eventually join a road and go past the recycling centre and other industrial buildings, before arriving at the harbour. Lots of cafes, ice cream shops, restaurants, and park benches line the street facing East Beach, a good spot to refresh and refuel.
MORAY COAST TRAIL SECTION 3: LOSSIEMOUTH TO BUCKIE
MCT ROUTE SECTION 3:
LOSSIEMOUTH TO BUCKIE
15.3 miles / 24.6 km | + 318 ft / + 97 m | – 308 ft / – 94 m | 6 – 8 hours
15.3 miles / 24.6 km
+ 318 ft / + 97 m
– 308 ft / – 94 m
6 – 8 hours
The first part of this section is the undoubted highlight of the day, walking the length of spectacular Lossiemouth East Beach. Sand is replaced by stones and an 8 km stretch running parallel to WWII era anti-tank traps is interesting, if a bit of a slog towards the end. An inland section around the River Spey then provides a change of scenery for the day. This is followed by woodland, farmland, and a coastal walk through a succession of villages and residential areas leading to the somewhat functional end point of Buckie.
Lossiemouth to Kingston on Spey | 7 miles / 11.2 km
Lossiemouth to Kingston on Spey
7 miles / 11.2 km
Lossiemouth East Beach is a spectacular stretch of golden sand backed by tall dunes and marram grass, accessed from the town via a newly built footbridge which crosses the River Lossie before it meets the sea.
The Moray Coast Trail route follows the long stretch of sand that is Lossiemouth East Beach
The Moray Coast Trail route follows the long
stretch of sand that is Lossiemouth East Beach
The coast forms a long continuous curve for the next 11 km, all the way to the mouth of the River Spey, although it changes in appearance as you walk. After a couple of kilometres, the dunes end and a forest takes their place. The flattish sandy beach also ends, replaced by steep embankments of stones and large pebbles. These can be tough to walk on, so it’s better to stick to the official track which runs parallel to the treeline and is set back from the shore. Unfortunately, this means the sea is out of sight for much of the remaining distance to Kingston on Spey.
About halfway along this section, shortly before Boar’s Head, you’ll reach a long line of concrete anti-tank defence blocks dating back to WWII, along with pillboxes that are still in pretty good condition. It’s an interesting sight, and the most complete and extensive collection of such structures along the Moray Coast Trail. You can duck inside the pillboxes for a look, and get a different perspective of the coast through the open windows. Many more can be found in varying states of disrepair in the forest behind the beach if you have a particular interest in these and want to explore more.
Eventually, you’ll reach a large car park at the Lein Nature Reserve on the edge of Kingston on Spey.
A WWII era pillbox and a line of tank traps
A WWII era pillbox and a line of tank traps
Kingston on Spey to Buckie | 8.3 miles / 13.4 km
Kingston on Spey to Buckie
8.3 miles / 13.4 km
Leaving the coast behind, the route leads through the small village of Kingston on Spey, on pavement and quiet roads, then turns off onto a narrow track marked ‘Pedestrians Only’. This leads around a hillside, with views over farming fields and out towards the mouth of the River Spey. The trail drops down into Garmouth, where you should turn right and head up past the attractive old houses on Church Street.
At the end of the street you’ll find the Speyside Coffee Roasting Co, a very welcome stop on the Moray Coast Trail. They serve excellent coffee, along with a range of cakes and paninis.
The route continues up Church Road, then heads down some steps to the left to join the national cycle path, a long straight stretch leading over the Spey Viaduct. The bridge, an impressive structure with fantastic views over the River Spey, was built between 1883 – 1886 as part of the now defunct Moray Coast Railway.
Built in the late 19th century, the Spey Viaduct is an impressive structure and real point of interest on the Moray Coast Trail
Built in the late 19th century, the Spey Viaduct
is an impressive structure and real point
of interest on the Moray Coast Trail
Beyond the viaduct, the trail leaves the cycle path and turns off to the left, joining the same marked route as The Speyside Way (the two routes are the same from here to Buckie). Following the riverbank, the trail returns to the coast, emerging at the mouth of the Spey by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Centre, where there is a cafe, picnic benches, bins, and toilets. If you’re lucky you may spot some of the Moray Firth’s resident bottlenose dolphins, so keep a lookout!
Continue east, passing a few houses and turning right when you reach the caravan park. You’ll soon enter a woodland section to the left, where you’ll follow a narrow trail leading through the trees for a little over 2 km. A big storm must have hit here, as many of the trees are toppled over and uprooted.
Turn right when you exit the woods, then take the left fork and turn left again onto a long, straight track between farming fields. This 1.5 km stretch is yet another former railway. At the other end lies the small village of Portgordon. Follow the road around the seafront, looking out for seals basking on the rocks as you go.
The old harbour in Portgordon
The old harbour in Portgordon
The route continues along the coast and soon passes through a succession of small residential areas that make up Buckie, a sizeable town centred around a working harbour and the fishing industry.
PLAN A TRIP ON THE NORTH COAST 500
MORAY COAST TRAIL SECTION 4: BUCKIE TO CULLEN
MCT ROUTE SECTION 4:
BUCKIE TO CULLEN
7.5 miles / 12 km | + 354 ft / + 108 m | – 351 ft / – 107 m | 3 – 4 hours
7.5 miles / 12 km
+ 354 ft / + 108 m
– 351 ft / – 107 m
3 – 4 hours
The last section of the Moray Coast Trail is a grand finale, passing through scenic fishing villages, past spectacular rock formations, and along golden sand beaches. Cullen itself is one of the most picturesque towns on the Moray Coast, and a great place to spend some time at the end of your walk.
Buckie to Findochty | 3.3 miles / 5.2 km
Buckie to Findochty
3.3 miles / 5.2 km
Leaving the harbour area of Buckie, the route carries on through Ianstown to Portessie, where the scenery starts to get particularly nice again. A sandy, rocky beach curves around the bay, with yet another golf club at the far eastern end.
After Portessie, follow the grassy track around the coast, where a lovely bay backed by cliffs appears around the corner. You can go down to the pebble beach for a look and change of perspective, or just continue along the trail, climbing to the top of the cliffs and skirting around the bay. The trail then leads down some steps and turns to the right, with picturesque Findochty (pronounced Fin-ech-ty) appearing ahead.
The picturesque Findochty coming into view
The picturesque Findochty coming into view
You’ll soon cross a bridge over a narrow rocky inlet, then pass through Findochty Caravan Park. From here, walk around the pretty harbour and past colourful old houses to reach a small sheltered bay with picnic benches. Then continue along Duke Street to yet another lovely beach, where you’ll see dramatic rock formations stretching off down the coast.
The harbour and traditional houses of Findochty
The harbour and traditional houses of Findochty
Findochty to Cullen | 4.2 miles / 6.8 km
Findochty to Cullen
4.2 miles / 6.8 km
Leaving Findochty, climb the cliffside trail to the top, or follow the signposts to take the longer, less steep way around the houses. Up top, a wide and gentle track leads all the way to Portknockie, with lovely views over the coastline opening up here and there. Approaching Portknockie, you get fantastic views of the harbour and outdoor swimming pool from the clifftop trail.
Turn left as you enter the town, following the street above the harbour before turning right onto Patrol Road. Take time to enjoy the dramatic views below, a precursor to the most spectacular chunk of rock along the entire Moray Coast Trail, just a few hundred metres beyond.
Just off the coast on the eastern side of Portknockie, Bow Fiddle Rock is a sight to behold. Named for its likeness to the tip of a fiddle bow, we’d say this natural sea arch looks more like a whale’s tail from certain angles. It’s absolutely worth descending the narrow trail to explore further before moving on. You can appreciate more wonderful views and get a greater sense of Bow Fiddle Rock’s scale from the pebble beach below. You can also venture into the impressive arched cave to the left of the beach for yet another unique vantage point, and to appreciate the impressive acoustics of waves crashing into rock and surround-sound bird calls.
Looking down on Bow Fiddle Rock, the small
rocky beach, and the cave tunnel to the left
The view from the water’s edge
Heading east along the trail, Bow Fiddle
Rock starts to resemble a whale’s tail
Continuing along the clifftop trail, the view of Bow Fiddle Rock is ever-changing with different angles revealing new shapes and likenesses. As you round the headland Cullen comes into view, first the newer hilltop houses, then the cluster of traditional fishermen’s cottages lining the shore. A striking arched viaduct and scenic sweep of golden sand complete the picture-perfect view.
From the clifftops, the route leads down rocky steps to the left, passing another sea tunnel known as the Whale’s Mouth. Jenny’s Well can be found a little further on, up a (sometimes overgrown) trail to the right. The route continues around the coast, passing through a grassy, rocky and fern-covered area, with cliffs rising to the right. There are a couple of small caves here which are popular bouldering spots. You’ll emerge at the rocky western end of Cullen Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand leading you to the endpoint of the Moray Coast Trail. At high tide, you’ll need to stick to the soft sand by the golf course, but at low tide, an impressive expanse of beach is revealed and is a pleasure to walk on.
Walking towards Cullen, across the wide expanse of exposed sand at low tide
Walking towards Cullen, across the wide
expanse of exposed sand at low tide
At the eastern end of the beach two impressive stacks rise from the sand. They are known as The Three Kings (where the third is we’re not sure?). Carrying on over the Burn of Cullen, you can stroll by the scenic row of shorefront houses to the harbour. From here, you can continue walking to Sandend via the route outlined in the ‘recommended extension’ section below. Otherwise, end your walk at The Square and main street in town (with its various shops and cafes) by switching back up Seafield Street and walking under the viaduct.
RECOMMENDED EXTENSION: CULLEN TO SANDEND
CULLEN TO SANDEND
4 miles / 6.6 km | + 289 ft / + 88 m | – 292 ft / – 89 m | 2 – 3 Hours
4 miles / 6.6 km
+ 289 ft / + 88 m
– 292 ft / – 89 m
2 – 3 hours
While the Moray Coast Trail officially ends at Cullen, it’s well worth continuing your coastal walk to Sandend, in neighbouring Aberdeenshire. On this short but highly rewarding section you can explore more scenic coastline, a beautiful hidden beach, a dramatically positioned castle, and wind up at a picturesque old fishing village.
From Cullen Harbour a wide path leads around the bottom of the cliffs, passing a pet cemetery and rounding a small headland to reach a rocky bay, the site of a former salmon bothy. From this point on the wide track becomes a narrow footpath, the trail becoming more interesting to walk on with great scenery along the way.
At the next headland the path climbs a little to a small finger of rock jutting into the sea. From here it descends sharply before climbing a rocky staircase to a wonderful viewpoint overlooking the next bay. An impressive wall of rock protrudes into the sea at the western end. The trail descends to the bay, crosses it, then rounds a bend to yet another bay dotted with huge rocks and covered with bracken. An info sign here tells the story of Charlie, who lived in a makeshift cave home on this beach for a decade or so in the 1920-30s.
Rough steps lead up to a wonderful viewpoint on the rocky coastline between Cullen and Sandend
Rough steps lead up to a wonderful viewpoint on
the rocky coastline between Cullen and Sandend
After rounding the eastern end of this bay, Sunnyside Beach is revealed. It is a dramatic scene, with bracken-covered cliffs rising steeply behind a beautiful long golden sand beach backed by marram grass.
At the far end of the beach, a trail climbs to the top of the cliffs and takes you around to a fantastic viewpoint looking back over the beach. Shortly after, you’ll reach another dramatic viewpoint overlooking Findlater Castle. The ruins cling to a rocky promontory, with a sheer drop of 50 feet to the rocks and sea below. A steep trail leads down to the castle if you want to have a closer look.
People explore the ruins of Findlater Castle
People explore the ruins of Findlater Castle
From the Findlater Castle viewpoint a path leads inland to a car park, from where a minor road leads to the village of Sandend. A more scenic route to the village follows the coastline, although the trail is a bit overgrown in parts. At one section in particular, where the trail disappears into overgrown gorse bushes, it is easiest to walk along the perimeter of a farmer’s field. This is straightforward enough post-harvest, but may be trickier when the crop is in full swing.
As you reach a 90 degree turn in the trail, Sandend Beach comes into sight, followed shortly by a picturesque view of the old fishermen’s cottages tucked into the hillside at the western end of the beach.
The picturesque village of Sandend, seen from the trail
The picturesque village of Sandend
A path leads along the hillside above the houses then down to the historic village and beach. It’s well worth turning left at the road to wander through the houses to the pretty little harbour, before beginning your onward journey.
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MORAY COAST TRAIL ACCOMMODATION
Accommodation on the Moray Coast Trail can be found in almost every village or town along the route. In some smaller villages however, accommodation is only available in the form of holiday lets and Airbnb’s, and there is usually a minimum stay of 2 – 7 nights. As this is not convenient for people wishing to walk from point to point and stay in a different place each night, we have only included accommodation options for hotels and B&Bs, which are easily available to book online and offer 1 night stays.