• MORAY COAST TRAIL

  • MORAY COAST TRAIL

MORAY COAST TRAIL

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE

In this guide to walking the Moray Coast Trail we provide detailed trail notes for each section of the route, along with practical info about accommodation, campsites, food options, and public transport. Use our map to navigate on the trail and quickly pinpoint key sights and facilities like shops and toilets along the way. Take a virtual walk along the route with us in our accompanying film, and stick around for our chat about the trail in the second half.  

Showcasing some of the northeast of Scotland’s very best beaches, cliffs, and historic fishing villages, the Moray Coast Trail is a fantastic walking route. And as one of the driest and sunniest places in the country, the area has the best possible climate in which to enjoy its scenic coastline.

Along the way, the beauty of countless sandy beaches is matched by the drama of incredible rock formations. These natural attractions are perfectly complemented by historical interest, with extensive WWII defences lining the coast and heritage harbours in almost every town and village. For wildlife lovers, there’s the chance to spot seals and bottlenose dolphins, and the cliffs, coves and beaches are home to abundant and varied birdlife.

Given the low elevation, relatively easy terrain, and regular settlements, the Moray Coast Trail is a moderate multi-day hike accessible to people with wide ranges of fitness and ability, providing the opportunity to explore a side of Scotland like no other.

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MORAY COAST TRAIL QUICK FACTS

      • Distance | 46.5 miles (75 km)
        Duration | Approx. 4 days
        Start/End | Forres / Cullen
        Total Ascent | Approx. 1440 ft / 439 metres
        Total Descent | Approx. 1444 ft / 440 metres
        Hiking Season | Possible all year
        Accommodation | B&Bs/Hotels, Campsites, Wild Camping
        Food & Supplies | Regular Cafes/Restaurants/Shops
        Public Transport Access | Train/Bus to start/end points and many places along the route
        Highlights | Sandy beaches & dunes, interesting rock formations, historic fishing villages, coastal scenery & wildlife

MORAY COAST TRAIL QUICK FACTS

Distance
46.5 miles (75) km

Duration
Approx. 4 days

Start/End
Forres/Cullen

Total Ascent
Approx. 1440 ft / 439 metres

Total Descent
Approx. 1444 ft / 440 metres

Hiking Season
Possible all year

Accommodation
B&Bs/Hotels, Campsites,
Wild Camping

Food & Supplies
Regular Cafes/Restaurants/Shops

Public Transport Access
Train/Bus to start/end points,
and many places along the route

Highlights
Sandy beaches & dunes
Interesting rock formations
Historic fishing villages
Coastal scenery & wildlife

 


WATCH OUR FILM

Watch the behind the scenes version of our Moray Coast Trail hike on Instagram stories

Watch the behind the scenes
version of our Moray Coast
Trail walk on Instagram stories 

MORAY COAST TRAIL MAP

We have created a detailed Moray Coast Trail Map, outlining the walking route from Forres to Cullen, and on to Sandend. For each section of the trail we’ve marked key sights and facilities such as toilets, shops, and our recommended cafes and restaurants. We’ve also marked the location of suggested wild camp spots, scouted out by us while walking the trail. There is a photo and some extra info about each of these wild camp spots. Accommodation and paid campsites as referenced in this guide are also marked on the map, as are key transport links for either end of the route.

MORAY COAST TRAIL OVERVIEW

The Moray Coast Trail is a long-distance walking route covering the length of the Moray (pronounced ‘Murray’) coast, from Forres in the west to Cullen in the east. Its start and end points are easily accessible by public transport, with train and bus links from regional hubs such as Elgin, Inverness, and Aberdeen. The trail takes in extended stretches of scenic coastline with sandy beaches and dramatic rock formations, and passes through numerous historic fishing villages and towns along the way. Although the distance is not to be sniffed at, the walk is largely straightforward, following footpaths, pavement, tracks, and beach.


Breaking the walk up over four days is a comfortable pace for most, taking advantage of hotel or bed & breakfast accommodation in towns and villages along the trail. Camping is also possible, either at designated campsites or by wild camping in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

There are regular cafes, restaurants, and shops accessible in settlements along the trail, allowing you to buy food and supplies on each section of the route.

WHEN TO WALK THE MORAY COAST TRAIL

It’s possible to walk the Moray Coast Trail at any time of year. However, if walking in low season (roughly November to March inclusive) you can expect certain facilities such as public toilets and cafes to be closed. You should also consider the number of daylight hours when deciding the time of year to walk, with very long days in summer (up to 18 hours), and very short days in winter (down to less than 7 hours). Thankfully, midges are almost non-existent on the east coast, so even in summer there is no need to be concerned about the bothersome biting beasties.

SEE MORE FROM SCOTLAND

A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town
A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MORAY COAST TRAIL

In our opinion, the best sections of the Moray Coast Trail are between Findhorn and Lossiemouth, and between Portessie and Cullen. If you are short on time or only want to walk part of the route for any reason, we would suggest focusing on these sections. Particular highlights include Findhorn Bay and Beach, Roseisle Forest, the trail between Hopeman and Covesea, Lossiemouth East Beach, and the trail between Portessie and Cullen, plus an extension from Cullen to Sandend.

The trail runs past the spectacular Clashach Cove between Hopeman and Lossiemouth



The trail runs past the spectacular Clashach Cove,
between the towns of Hopeman and Lossiemouth



SUGGESTED ROUTE ALTERATIONS AND EXTENSIONS

For all walkers, we’d suggest skipping the first 10 km between Forres and Findhorn as this is a pretty uninspiring walk entirely on backcountry roads and pavements. Start your walk at Findhorn instead, perhaps also staying a night or two before your journey commences to fully enjoy this tranquil coastal village.

We’d also highly recommend continuing your walk for another 6.5 km, from Cullen to Sandend via gorgeous Sunnyside Beach and the dramatic ruins of Findlater Castle.

Sunnyside Beach is one of many reasons to extend your walk beyond Cullen



Sunnyside Beach is one of many reasons
to extend your walk beyond Cullen



SUGGESTED MORAY COAST TRAIL ITINERARY

We think 4 days is the ideal amount of time to walk the Moray Coast Trail, opting to break the journey at towns and villages with accommodation along the way. If you plan on camping, you’ll need to adjust the itinerary to coincide with suitable wild camping spots along the route, or campsites that accept tents. You can find specific locations of our recommended wild camping spots marked on our e-map.

As mentioned above, we highly recommend starting your walk at Findhorn instead of Forres, and as such our suggested Moray Coast Trail itinerary starts at Findhorn. If you prefer to start at Forres, you will walk an additional 9.5 km on Day 1.

The table below outlines a few options, depending on where you choose to stay. The times are approximate walking times (without breaks) and are given as a range that should include most people (except the very fast and very slow).

Day 1 (Option 1)Findhorn to Burghead8.6 miles / 13.8 km3 – 5 hours
Day 1 (Option 2)Findhorn to Hopeman10.9 miles / 17.5 km4 – 6 hours
Day 2 (Option 1)Burghead to Lossiemouth9.5 miles / 15.2 km4 – 6 hours
Day 2 (Option 2)Hopeman to Lossiemouth7.2 miles / 11.5 km3 – 4 hours
Day 3Lossiemouth to Buckie15 miles / 24.6 km6 – 8 hours
Day 4 (Option 1)Buckie to Cullen7.5 miles / 12 km3 – 4 hours
Day 4 (Option 2)Buckie to Sandend11.5 miles / 18.8 km5 – 7 hours
Day 1 (Option 1)Findhorn to Burghead8.6 miles / 13.8 km3 – 5 hours
Day 1 (Option 2)Findhorn to Hopeman10.9 miles / 17.5 km4 – 6 hours
Day 2 (Option 1)Burghead to Lossiemouth9.5 miles / 15.2 km4 – 6 hours
Day 2 (Option 2)Hopeman to Lossiemouth7.2 miles / 11.5 km3 – 4 hours
Day 3Lossiemouth to Buckie15 miles / 24.6 km6 – 8 hours
Day 4 (Option 1)Buckie to Cullen7.5 miles / 12 km3 – 4 hours
Day 4 (Option 2)Buckie to Sandend11.5 miles / 18.8 km5 – 7 hours

MORAY COAST TRAIL ROUTE SECTIONS

Below is a breakdown of each Moray Coast Trail route section. Each stage includes the distance, elevation gain and loss, and an estimated range for walking time without breaks. The figures are based on our own recorded track, but as this coastal route can often vary depending on the tide and choice of path, all figures are approximate.

MORAY COAST TRAIL SECTION 1: FORRES TO BURGHEAD

MCT ROUTE SECTION 1:

FORRES TO BURGHEAD

14.2 miles / 22.8 km | + 358 ft / + 109 m | – 358 ft / – 109 m | 5 – 7 hours

14.2 miles / 22.8 km

+ 358 ft / + 109 m

– 358 ft / – 109 m

5 – 7 hours

The first section of the Moray Coast Trail starts off as a bit of a damp squib, with a largely non-coastal walk along backcountry roads and roadside pavements between Forres and Findhorn. The beach and bay at Findhorn are beautiful – one of the scenic highlights of the Moray Coast – and this makes an excellent alternative starting point for your walk. The route runs along behind the sandy beach, with a brief detour through the Findhorn Hinterland, then leads through the extensive Roseisle Forest, planted in the 1930s to stabilise a huge area of drifting dunes. At the eastern edge of the forest lies the quiet fishing village of Burghead, once a Pictish stronghold.


Forres to Findhorn | 5.6 miles / 9 km

Forres to Findhorn

5.6 miles / 9 km

From the train station at Forres, the Moray Coast Trail leads for 5 km along a quiet backcountry road to Kinloss. You’ll pass Benromach Distillery with its distinctive red chimney, farming land, and the odd house here and there. It’s a pleasant enough walk, although not overly interesting. Between Kinloss and Findhorn the route is on pavement, running alongside the main road with the expansive Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve to the left. This is the least enjoyable stretch along this section of the Moray Coast Trail.

When you reach Findhorn, the signposted route cuts through the village to reach the coast on the other side. But, for the best views and more complete Findhorn Beach experience, we’d suggest staying on the coastal path to the marina and the scenic hooked spit of dunes and sand beyond, known as The Ee.

A long, hooked spit of sand dunes known as the Ee, acting as barrier between Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth, with only a narrow channel connecting the two

The Ee, a hooked spit of sand and dunes where Findhorn Bay meets the sea



A long, hooked spit of sand dunes known as the Ee, acting as barrier between Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth, with only a narrow channel connecting the two

The Ee, a hooked spit of sand and dunes
where Findhorn Bay meets the sea



Findhorn to Burghead | 8.6 miles / 13.8 km

Findhorn to Burghead

8.6 miles / 13.8 km

The Moray Coast Trail gets far more interesting and scenic from here on. Findhorn has a gorgeous sandy beach backed by small dunes and a row of colourful beach huts, first built in 2016 and available to buy if you have a spare £25K or so. The route continues along the beach, or on the trail above it, until you reach the car park with a lone wooden picnic shelter next to it. Here the trail heads inland slightly, through the Findhorn hinterland. This 2 km stretch runs across open sandy clearings punctuated by heather-covered mounds, and through occasional small wooded sections.

  • On the first section of the Moray Coast Trail, a row of colourful beach huts sit back from the golden sand of Findhorn Beach where people are walking, resting and playing
  • A hiker walks along the stones towards colourful beach huts on Findhorn Beach, near the start of the Moray Coast Trail

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 Moray Coast Trail heading into Roseisle Forest, with a WWII era pillboxes seen down on the beach below

The trail heading into Roseisle Forest, with one of the WWII era pillboxes seen down on the beach



The Moray Coast Trail heading into Roseisle Forest, with a WWII era pillboxes seen down on the beach below

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 hiker stands in the dunes at the edge of Roseisle Forest looking at the sunny view of the beach and Moray Firth below

A view of the beach and Moray Firth from the dunes at the edge of Roseisle Forest



A hiker stands in the dunes at the edge of Roseisle Forest looking at the sunny view of the beach and Moray Firth below

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.

A few people on the sandy curve of Hopeman West Beach on the Moray Coast Trail, with the harbour and town seen beyond

Hopeman West Beach, with the harbour and town beyond



A few people on the sandy curve of Hopeman West Beach on the Moray Coast Trail, with the harbour and town seen 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, with the Moray Coast Trail running behind it

Golden sand and grassy dunes at Hopeman East Beach



Golden sand and grassy dunes at Hopeman East Beach, with the Moray Coast Trail running behind it

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.

Characterful and colourful beach huts, set back from Hopeman East Beach on the Moray Coast Trail

The characterful beach huts, set back from Hopeman East Beach



Characterful and colourful beach huts, set back from Hopeman East Beach on the Moray Coast Trail

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.

The view over the cliffs and golden red sand of Clashach Cove (Cove Bay) at low tide, on the Moray Coast Trail between Hopeman and Forres

Looking down over Clashach Cove as low tide approaches



The view over the cliffs and golden red sand of Clashach Cove (Cove Bay) at low tide, on the Moray Coast Trail between Hopeman and Forres

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.

The impressive Bow Fiddle Rock near Portknockie on the Moray Coast Trail, seen from the pebble beach at the shore

Looking down from the Moray Coast Trail on Bow Fiddle Rock, the small rocky beach, and the cave tunnel to the left

Viewed from the east, Bow Fiddle Rock, an interseting feature at Portknockie on the Moray Coast Trail, starts to resemble a whale's tail

Looking down from the Moray Coast Trail on Bow Fiddle Rock, the small rocky beach, and the cave tunnel to the left

Looking down on Bow Fiddle Rock, the small
rocky beach, and the cave tunnel to the left


The impressive Bow Fiddle Rock near Portknockie on the Moray Coast Trail, seen from the pebble beach at the shore

The view from the water’s edge


Viewed from the east, Bow Fiddle Rock, an interseting feature at Portknockie on the Moray Coast Trail, starts to resemble a whale's tail

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

RECOMMENDED EXTENSION:

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.

MORAY COAST TRAIL CAMPSITES (FOR TENTS)

There are a number of holiday and caravan parks along the Moray Coast Trail. They are mostly aimed at holidaymakers staying in static caravans, however a few do accept tents. As far as we know, the other holiday parks and campsites at Burghead, Hopeman, Strathlene (Buckie) and Cullen do not accept tents.

WILD CAMPING THE MORAY COAST TRAIL

Wild camping is permitted in Scotland in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and while the Moray Coast Trail goes through a number of residential and farming areas, it is possible to wild camp in spots between the villages and towns.

If you plan on wild camping along the Moray Coast Trail, we recommend researching possible camp spots in advance using maps and satellite view to pinpoint suitable areas. We wild camped for four nights during our own Moray Coast Trail walk and have included these specific locations on our e-map, as well as other good wild camping spots we noted along the trail. You can buy the e-map here.

Wild camping on the Moray Coast Trail



Wild camping on the Moray Coast Trail



If you do decide to wild camp, it is essential that you Leave No Trace. This includes taking all your rubbish with you, burying human waste, and carrying out used toilet paper. You must also minimise the impact of campfires, ideally using a camping stove to cook instead. Plan ahead and pack rubbish bags and an outdoor toilet kit, including a trowel for digging a toilet hole, toilet paper, antibacterial hand gel, and rubbish bags for used toilet paper (nappy sacks or dog poop bags work great). You can dispose of your waste regularly in bins along the route.

SCOTTISH OUTDOOR ACCESS CODE

“Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by:


PLAN A TRIP TO THE ORKNEY ISLANDS

BEST PLACES TO EAT ON THE MORAY COAST TRAIL

There are cafes, restaurants, and takeaways in towns and villages all along the Moray Coast Trail, and it’s possible to buy food every day during your walk. Larger places like Lossiemouth, Buckie, or Cullen have a number of options for eating out, while smaller villages have more limited offerings.

Below are our top recommendations for the best places to eat on The Moray Coast Trail.

MORAY COAST TRAIL FOOD & DRINK

FINDHORN

The Captain’s Table (open daily)

Kimberley Inn (open daily)

BURGHEAD

The Bothy Bistro (open Thurs – Sun, reservations recommended)

HOPEMAN

Bootleggers Bar and Grill (open Thurs – Sun, reservations recommended)

Boatyard Coffee Shack (takeaway, open year-round but hours vary throughout the season)

LOSSIEMOUTH

The Harbour Lights (open daily, reservations recommended)

The Salt Cellar/Bridge 45 (open daily, reservations recommended)

Miele’s of Lossie Gelateria (closed Mondays)

GARMOUTH

Speyside Coffee Roasting Co (open year-round but hours vary throughout the season)

BUCKIE

Pozzi (open daily)

Le Cafe Coull (open daily)

Sandisons Cafe Bar (open Thurs – Sun)

FINDOCHTY

The Admirals Inn (open daily)

PORTKNOCKIE

Portknockie Fish & Chip Shop (open Thurs – Sun 4.30 – 7.30pm, advisable to call ahead from 10am and order for pick up +44 1542 841888)

CULLEN

The Rockpool Cafe (open Tues – Sun, reservations recommended)

Coffee at the Kings (takeaway, open daily)


MORAY COAST TRAIL FOOD & DRINK

FINDHORN

The Captain’s Table (open daily)

Kimberley Inn (open daily)

BURGHEAD

The Bothy Bistro (open Thurs – Sun, reservations recommended)

HOPEMAN

Bootleggers Bar and Grill (open Thurs – Sun, reservations recommended)

Boatyard Coffee Shack (takeaway, open year-round but hours vary throughout the season)

LOSSIEMOUTH

The Harbour Lights (open daily, reservations recommended)

The Salt Cellar/Bridge 45 (open daily, reservations recommended)

Miele’s of Lossie Gelateria (closed Mondays)

GARMOUTH

Speyside Coffee Roasting Co (open year-round but hours vary throughout the season)

BUCKIE

Pozzi (open daily)

Le Cafe Coull (open daily)

Sandisons Cafe Bar (open Thurs – Sun)

FINDOCHTY

The Admirals Inn (open daily)

PORTKNOCKIE

Portknockie Fish & Chip Shop (open Thurs – Sun 4.30 – 7.30pm, advisable to call ahead from 10am and order for pick up +44 1542 841888)

CULLEN

The Rockpool Cafe (open Tues – Sun, reservations recommended)

Coffee at the Kings (takeaway, open daily)


MORAY COAST TRAIL PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The start and end points of the Moray Coast Trail are accessible by public transport, as are all of the towns and villages along the route. Most walkers will first need to get to the regional hub of Inverness by train or bus, before travelling on to Forres or Findhorn. If you are coming from Aberdeen, there is a direct train and bus service to Forres.

TRANSPORT TO INVERNESS

Inverness is connected by train and bus to major towns and cities across Scotland (and elsewhere the UK) including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

For train tickets search and book via Scotrail. You can get discounted rates with a railcard, which has an upfront annual cost but should save you money in the long run even if you are booking just a couple of tickets.

For bus tickets from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Pitlochry, or Aviemore search and book via Megabus. Citylink operates buses on these routes too but booking via Megabus is usually considerably cheaper. If you are coming from the west of Scotland, for example Fort William, Ullapool, or the Isle of Skye, search and book bus tickets via Citylink.

TRANSPORT TO FORRES

You can get to Forres from Inverness by direct train (30 min) or bus no 10 (1h10m). There is also a direct train from Aberdeen to Forres (1h40m+) or  direct bus no 10 (3h10m+). Search and book rail tickets via Scotrail, and bus tickets via Stagecoach.

TRANSPORT TO FINDHORN

You can get to Findhorn by Stagecoach bus no 31 from Forres (20m). There is no train station at Findhorn.

TRANSPORT TO CULLEN/SANDEND

Leaving Cullen at the end of your Moray Coast Trail walk you can take Stagecoach bus no 35 to Elgin (1h15m) or Aberdeen (2h45m). From Elgin you can continue by direct train (45m) or bus no 10 (1h30m) to Inverness. If you continue walking to Sandend, take the same bus service to Elgin or Aberdeen from the bus stop on the main road (approx 800 metres walk from Sandend village).

TRANSPORT ALONG THE MORAY COAST TRAIL

If you want to get to any of the villages or towns along the Moray Coast Trail between Forres and Cullen, bus (or taxi) is your only option. There are no trains operating here. You can check routes and bus numbers via the Plan Your Journey section on the Stagecoach website. You can find info on various Moray taxi services here.

VISIT THE OUTER HEBRIDES

MORAY COAST TRAIL

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the Moray Coast Trail and found it useful. If you have any questions, or tips to share with fellow walkers, drop them in the comments below.

ORGANISE YOUR TRIP


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