5 Days in Moray Travel Itinerary

Written by Chris Thornton | 1st of June 2024
Moray Travel Itinerary

Moray Speyside is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, often unjustly overlooked by tourist campaigns; it's a good choice for tourists looking for something other than Edinburgh or the now very busy NC500 route. Moray has much to offer in terms of tourism, fantastic coastal towns, landscapes, wildlife, castles, and many whisky distilleries.

As a Moravian of 36 years, I am ideally placed to write a travel itinerary about my home county. I will write this guide as if it were for myself, so my tastes might not apply to everyone, but hopefully, it will give you some ideas for your trip to Moray.

Where is Moray?

Moray can be found in the northeast of Scotland, halfway between the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen. Elgin is the largest settlement in Moray and is located centrally, making it the best place to stay and branch out from.

How to get to Moray?

Here are some basic directions for getting to Elgin in Moray:

From Aberdeen:

Leave Aberdeen via the A96, travelling northwest. Aberdeen has excellent transport links, with the bus station and railway station right next to each other in the centre of Aberdeen, so choose whatever transport method suits you best. The train is the fastest.

From Inverness:

Inverness and Elgin are connected via road, bus and railway, so it's straightforward to reach the capital of Moray. If travelling by car, leave Inverness via the A96 travelling east.

Coming from Inverness or Aberdeen via car or bus, you will travel the A96 and won't deviate from that road until you arrive in Elgin.

From Perth:

If you're coming via the scenic route directly through central Scotland:

  1. Follow the A9 from Perth travelling north.

  2. After Aviemore, follow the A95 northeast to Aberlour, then Craigellachie.

  3. From Craigellachie, follow the A941 north to Rothes.

  4. Stay on the A941, travelling north to Elgin.

If you are unfamiliar with driving in Scotland, why not check out my guide? Remember to drive on the left!

Day 1 - Aberdeen to Elgin (1 hour, 37 minutes / 65.9 miles)

This guide will assume that you are beginning your Moray tour from the city of Aberdeen. It's the biggest airport in the north and would likely be the one you will use if flying to northeast Scotland. Inverness has an airport, but it is smaller, and flights are less frequent.

If, like me, you want to make the most of your time, we will visit some places in Keith before heading on.

Directions to Keith.

Keith

The first significant settlement you will reach when you enter Moray is Keith. My first local tip for Keith is they have one of the best sandwich shops in Moray named "The Deli Shop". If you're looking to grab some food on the go, I would consider a visit here. I love their sweet chilli chicken sandwich filler on a BIG roll, but they also do great pies, sausage rolls and homebakes. Parking is available on Weavers Lane to the rear of the shop.

The Deli Shop Keith
The Deli Shop in Keith is the best place to get your lunch!

Strathisla Distillery

Strathisla Distillery, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, is well worth checking out! The main frontage is excellent for a photo opportunity, and if you wish to go further, there are great tours, including sampling some whisky. Depending on the chosen tour, costs are between £30 and £50 per adult. If you are following the Malt Whisky Trail, Strathisla Whisky Distillery should be your first stop.

Strathisla Distillery Website
Strathisla Distillery on Google Maps
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Strathisla Distillery
Strathisla Distillery is the best place to start on the whisky trail!

Other things to do around Keith:

If you have time, here are a few other places to visit near Keith.

  • Speyside Falconry - A small family-owned falconry centre, it's only possible to visit by pre-booking. Their experiences include owls and hawks and last about 3 hours.

  • Keith Old Bridge - found near the cemetery in central Keith; this old bridge was built in 1609 and is the oldest surviving dated bridge in Moray. Spanning the River Isla, it's a nice place for a quick walk and photo.

Fochabers

From Keith, let's continue along the A96 and head to the village of Fochabers. It's a lovely wee town with much to offer in terms of small shops, hotels, a caravan site and an award-winning fish and chips shop. It's a very picturesque wee village built right on the banks of the River Spey (the fastest-flowing river in Scotland).

Directions to Fochabers.

Christie's Garden Centre

Christie's Garden Centre is a big draw to the village, which offers a restaurant, aviary and child's play area. A short distance into town is a great museum packed with interesting items.

Speyfest

Fochabers is home to one of Moray's best Scottish traditional music festivals. If you're visiting in July, attending Speyfest will open your eyes to some of the finest musicians in Scotland.

Speyfest Fiddler
You hear some of the best fiddlers in Scotland at Speyfest.

Other things to do around Fochabers:

  • Winding Walks - A lovely forest walk up to a lookout hut overlooking Fochabers.

  • Gordon Castle - The castle isn't directly accessible, but there are lovely gardens and a fabulous cafe.

  • Loch Na Bo - This circular walk around a small loch is the perfect way to see some of the nature Moray offers. From red squirrels to swans, this walk is utterly charming.

  • Threaplands Garden Centre has fantastic food for a great breakfast or lunch. Keep an eye open for it some distance after Mosstodloch and on the left before Lhanbryde.

Leaving Fochabers, let's continue west on the A96 towards Elgin.

Directions to Elgin.

Loch na Bo
Loch na Bo.

Elgin

Arriving in Elgin, this is the largest town in Moray and the ideal tourist base.

Elgin has all the mod cons you would expect from larger settlements, including large supermarkets, hotels, and food options. If you need fuel for your car, the cheapest place will likely be Asda or Tesco petrol stations. Dr Gray's Hospital is the largest hospital in Moray and where you should go for a non-life-threatening injury (Always call 999 in an emergency).

Elgin
Elgin, as seen from Lady Hill.

Accommodation-wise, you're spoilt for choice in Elgin, with the cheapest option being the new Travelodge, with costs as low as £48 per night; it also has a Starbucks on its doorstep! The Mansefield Hotel would be one of the more expensive options at £130 per night.

If you like history, then Elgin Cathedral is for you. It lies just east of Cooper Park and has been in a ruinous state since the Scottish Reformation in 1560. Elgin Cathedral is also famous for being burned by the Wolf of Badenoch in 1390. Entry is £9.50 for adults and £5.50 for children, a little bit expensive but worth it, as it's a fantastic ruin and interior sections contain many exhibits of interest.

Elgin Cathedral
The ruin of Elgin Cathedral.

Other things to do around Elgin:

  • Moray Motor Museum.

  • Elgin Museum.

  • Johnstons of Elgin - learn about the history of weaving in Elgin, purchase some of the finest fabrics in Scotland and enjoy their cafe.

  • Climb Lady Hill and visit the remains of Elgin Castle.

  • Millbuies Country Park is a great place to visit south of Elgin on the A941. Although the main attraction is fishing in this man-made loch, walking around its forested embankments is fantastic and easy for most fitness levels.

Millbuies Country Park
Millbuies is a great place to walk just south of Elgin.

Day 2 (Aberlour - 38 minutes / 26 miles)

Let's explore south Moray and head to Aberlour, following the B9015 south to Rothes, where you will join the A941.

Directions to Aberlour.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge

As you approach Craigellachie and cross the River Spey on the road bridge, there is a lovely cast iron bridge on your right, also spanning the river. A right turn is a short distance ahead, leading to a small car park and picnic area. The bridge is a very short walk from here and a great photo opportunity from the shores of the Spey. This bridge was built in 1812 by the famous civil engineer Thomas Telford.

Directions to Craigellachie Bridge.

Craigellachie Bridge
Craigellachie Bridge is ideal for a short walk or picnic.

Glen Grant Distillery

Glen Grant Distillery has a great visitor centre in Rothes AND a charming walk around the distillery gardens, with walkways following the Back Burn stream, contributing to the River Spey. This is a great stop if you are interested in Scottish whisky distilling or just fancy a nice nature walk.

Glen Grant Tours (£10.00 per person for a one-hour tour and whisky tasting). The gardens are free to visit, or £5 if you fancy a sample of whisky too.

Directions to Glen Grant Distillery.

Glen Grant Distillery
Glen Grant Distillery.
 
Glen Grant Gardens
Part of the Glen Grant Gardens gorge walk.

Rothes Castle

Rothes also has a castle you can visit; it's not that spectacular (basically a single wall section), but it's a nice stop on a road trip with great views over Rothes and the surrounding countryside.

Directions to Rothes Castle.

Rothes Castle
Rothes Castle.

Aberlour

If you want to grab some lunch for a picnic, check out the Spey Larder on High Street. Basics to delicacies can be found here. A mix of old-fashioned grocery and modern deli shops, products on offer include cured meats, artisan cheeses, Scottish craft foods, decent wines, and a wide selection of fine Scottish Whisky. Sandwiches are made fresh to order and are much better quality than the food you will find in the nearby supermarket. They are more expensive, but if you're on holiday, push the boat out a little!

Linn Falls

One of my favourite places in Aberlour is Linn Falls, a picturesque waterfall in the forest to the south. There is a perfect parking spot overlooking Aberlour Football Club, as shown in the picture below. The start of the Linn Falls walk is a short distance back into town; you want to be on the north side (left) of the Burn of Aberlour that runs parallel to the nearby Aberlour Distillery.

The Linn Falls walk is only about 15-20 minutes long but a really lovely route taking in views of the distillery, to begin with, and then pleasant forested sections alongside the babbling burn. The waterfall isn't as large and impressive as some in other places in Scotland, but it's lovely and the perfect spot to gobble your sandwiches from Spey Larder.

Directions to Linn Falls.

Linn Falls
A walk to Linn Falls is a lovely activity from Aberlour.

Aberlour Highland Games

Aberlour also has a fantastic highland games each August, perfect if you are in the area at this time. There is no fee to enter, so you can get a taste of a real highland games and leave whenever you like.

Aberlour Distillery

One of the biggest draws to the town is Aberlour Distillery, which offers an hour-long tour costing £20 per adult, including whiskey tasting and a look at the whisky-making process.

Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery.

If you want to stay in Aberlour, the Mash Tun (£119 per night ) and Dowans Hotel and Restaurant (£210 per night) are highly recommended.

Other things to do around Aberlour:

If you wish to explore a bit further south/east of Aberlour, a few fantastic places are:

  • Auchindoun Castle - A slightly lesser-known castle near Dufftown, access to the castle isn't great, but it's rewarded with a fantastic castle ruin from the 1400s with panoramic countryside views.

  • Balvenie Castle - This 13th-century castle ruin lies just north of Dufftown. Once home to the Earl of Buchan, it's a large, impressive ruin maintained by Historic Environment Scotland. The field next to the castle is also home to some lovely Highland cows.

  • Glenfiddich Distillery - Glenfiddich has one of the best distillery tours available in Moray and is one of the best distilleries to visit on your trip. The tour costs £20 per adult and is open from 9.30 to 15.30. If you only decide to do one whiskey tour on your visit, Glenfiddich should be high on the list.

Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun is a great castle to visit near Aberlour; access via car isn't good, though.

Day 3 (Elgin to Spey Bay, Portgordon, Findochty, Portknockie, Cullen - 21 minutes / 12.5 miles)

Let's explore the east side of Moray today. Follow the A96 eastwards back to Fochabers, and then follow the A98 towards Buckie.

Spey Bay

Spey Bay is an area of outstanding natural beauty and home to many forms of wildlife where the Spey meets the sea. A car park is available at the WDC Dolphin Centre, which has some brilliant exhibits, toilets and a cafe.

A nearby inland walking trail will take you to Spey Viaduct, an old Victorian viaduct built in 1883. It's possible to see otters here and Ospreys looking to catch juicy salmon for supper! This is a great walk and a fantastic way to cross the river and walk onwards to Garmouth.

Directions to Spey Bay.

Spey Bay
Spey Bay. This is where the River Spey meets the North Sea.

Portgordon Seals

Leave Spey Bay on the B9104 and look for the left turn to Portgordon, marked 3 miles. You will see the crossroads; continue straight ahead and head for Portgordon, a small fishing village.

Portgordon is a friendly little village, but we're going to look at the seals that have made their home on the beach on the east side. Parking is available near the harbour or on the main street if you can find space. On foot, follow the road out of Portgordon until you see the beach on the left. You will see a well-trodden path that will take you near the seals.

Depending on the tide level, you will see the seals basking on the beach or hunting fish in the sea. The best time to see them is when the tide is out, so time your visit with low tide to see the colony and any pups on the beach.

Try not to get too close to the seals, as you will scare them, and they will make a run (or flop!) To the safety of the sea. You can get a great view of them from the walking path, but you can get closer still if you wish, but keep a respectful distance as they are wild animals and will scare easily.

If you are a photographer, a 400 mm lens or greater would be perfect for photographing the seals.

Let's walk back to the car and continue along the A990, following it into Buckie, staying on the low road, onto the A942, and passing Buckie Harbour on your left.

Directions to Portgordon Beach.

Portgordon Seals
The seals at Portgordon East Bach.

Findochty

Our next stop is Findochty (pronounced Fin-echt-A). As you enter the town, keep left and follow "School Hill", And then Commercial Street. Look for the left turn shortly after and arrive at Findochty Marina. You should be able to park somewhere around here and walk around the picturesque harbour and the multi-coloured houses in this lovely fishing village.

Great photo opportunities exist here, with boats in the foreground and the town and church on the hill. The Admirals Inn Pub nearby has an excellent reputation for food and drink.

Directions to Findochty.

Findochty
The fishing village of Findochty.

Bow Fiddle Rock

Follow Station Road back out of Findochty and rejoin the A942. We want to stay on this road and head for Portknockie to see the world-famous Bow Fiddle Rock. Stay on the road through Portknockie, but look for a left turn to Seafield Terrace and then to Admiralty Street. At the end of the street, go straight ahead and take the second right, then the minor road with sheds lining the left side. There is a new purpose-built parking area for visiting the rock.

We can walk on foot to see Bow Fiddle Rock, an impressive natural sea arch. There are many viewpoints to view the arch, but it is a must to go down to the shore and get a closer view. It's also the best spot to get a photo. There are also two caves you can explore. So be very careful as there are some sheer drops and dangerous areas.

Let's return to the car and head back to Admiralty Street to reconnect with the A942. Follow it south and rejoin the A98 by taking a left turn. Our next destination is Cullen, the most easterly town in Moray and one of the most beautiful.

Directions to Bow Fiddle Rock.

Bow Fiddle Rock
Bow Fiddle Rock is one of the most photographed attractions in Moray.

Cullen

Cullen is a stunning village with its railway viaduct, expansive golden beach, picturesque sea town and harbour. There are so many great walks, shops, restaurants, hotels and other points of interest around Cullen.

For our accommodation tonight you could stay at the Seafield Arms, a very high-end hotel with prices to match (£160 per night). Another option is the Royal Oak Hotel for around £110 per night. Cullen has many excellent Airbnb properties you can choose from as well.

While in Cullen, you should sample the excellent homemade vanilla ice cream from Cullen Ice Cream Shop; it is the best I've had anywhere in the world - find it on Seafield Street near the square.

There is an excellent walk up Castle Hill (follow Grant St after parking in the town square) and along Cullen's railway viaduct, which is no longer in use. You can continue to the exceptionally lovely beach, perfect for surfing or paddle boarding and discover caves at the far side. The Crannoch Walk is another pleasant route to the east of the town.

Cullen Sea School and Blue Coast Surf & Paddle offer hire options, and the "Coffee at the Kings" silver coffee trailer supplies great expressos and tray bakes. This section of the beach is also home to Cullen Golf Club.

Cullen Sea School
My daughter Olivia learning to paddleboard at Cullen Sea School.

Returning to Cullen, you can explore Sea Town's little cottages and the harbour area.

Food-wise, The Rockpool Cafe is excellent for lunches and is known for its version of Cullen Skink, a famous fish dish invented in Cullen. The Seafield Arms hotel is exceptional for an evening meal (expensive), or a simple takeaway from Linda's fish and chips is excellent, too. I know you don't come to Scotland for Chinese food, but Cullen also has a great takeaway.

Directions to Cullen.

Cullen
Cullen Beach and the town in the background.

Other things to do around East Moray:

  • Strathlene Beach - As you leave Buckie, Strathlene Beach is on the left and has a nice car park with an informational board about the seals of the Moray Firth. This spot is an excellent place for a picnic or a coastal walk.

  • Strathlene Golf Course - Founded in 1877, Strathlene Golf Course offers 18 holes and fantastic hospitality at the clubhouse.

  • Although not strictly in Moray, you can walk along the coast to the east, reaching Sunnyside Beach and Findlater Castle. This stunning ruin is built into the side of the rugged coastline; you can go inside, but at your own risk. It is not maintained and could crumble into the sea at any moment. Nearby, there is a restored dovecot that was originally linked to the castle. If you climb the hill, there is an informational board and overview of the castle, including an artist's impression.

  • Climb the Bin of Cullen - This is one of the best walks in East Moray; ascending to the summit of the Bin of Cullen, it's possible to see every coastal settlement from Lossiemouth to Macduff. A truly amazing vantage point.

Bin of Cullen view
The absolutely breathtaking view from the summit of the Bin of Cullen.

Day 4 (Elgin To Forres 25 minutes / 17 miles)

Heading west along the A96, let's head to Forres, the largest settlement in west Moray. This is a lovely place to visit, and it's easy to see why many ex-service personnel decide to retire here.

Forres

For tourists, there is a lot of history in Forres, for example, an ancient Pictish stone named Sueno's Stone on the east side of the town. On Cluny Hill overlooking Forres is Nelson's Tower, a monument to Lord Admiral Nelson, an important historical naval commander who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Grant Park lies at the foot of Cluny Hill and has a great kid's play park near the police station. Car shows and other events are often held here. Forres has won many awards, such as "Britain in Bloom" for the lovely flower arrangements throughout the town.

McKenzie & Cruickshank Garden Centre is also good for plants, gifts and food.

If you're not sick of distilleries yet, then Benromach Distillery is well worth your time for its unique charm and prioritisation of tradition and quality over mass production. The tour of Benromach is one of the cheaper options as it only costs £10 per person and lasts one hour. I like the story about the "angel's share" in particular.

Nearby, Kinloss was home to an RAF base but is now repurposed as an army base. The ruins of Kinloss Abbey and the fantastic Moravia Aerospace Museum are well worth your time.

Directions to Forres.

Nelson's Tower
Nelson's Tower overlooking Forres.

Other things to do around West Moray:

  • Brodie Castle - another baronial castle with a fantastic tour. The gardens are beautiful, and a special play area for young children is called The Playful Garden.

  • Findhorn Bay & Beach - Findhorn Bay is a lovely place to spot wildlife, particularly birds. The beach is beautiful and great for a walk while dolphin spotting.

  • Randolph's Leap - Walk alongside the Findhorn River in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

  • Pluscarden Abbey - An ancient monastic abbey still inhabited by Benedictine monks. A truly serene place, explore the abbey and grounds and purchase some handmade products from the monk's shop.

Brodie Castle
One of the finest baronial fortresses in Moray - Brodie Castle.

Day 5 (Elgin to Lossiemouth 11 minutes / 5.6 miles)

Travelling north from Elgin will come to Lossiemouth, one of Moray's most beautiful villages; you could easily spend two days in Lossiemouth alone, walking the vast golden beaches or exploring the ruinous Duffus Castle or Spynie Palace. For aerospace enthusiasts, watch planes taking off from RAF Lossiemouth, such as Typhoon FGR Mk4s And Poseidon MRA1s. Visit in July for an epic airshow.

Lossiemouth has recently had a new bridge built from the main promenade near Miele's ice cream shop over to the stunning east beach, perfect for surfing or just sitting in the grassy dunes to take in the scenery.

Directions to Lossiemouth.

Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth and the remnants of the old bridge.
 
Lossiemouth's new bridge.
The new bridge to Lossiemouth East Beach.

Other things to do around Lossiemouth:

Covesea Lighthouse - Lossiemouth West Beach has a picturesque lighthouse open for tours or even to stay the night if you book in advance. Climbing to the top of the lighthouse gives impressive views of Lossiemouth and the RAF airbase directly next to it.

Sculptor's Cave - A mysterious cave exists some distance west of Covesea Lighthouse. Many archaeological digs have been undertaken here, yielding human remains and artefacts from as far back as the Bronze Age. Pictish art can be seen at the cave entrance. The cave is only accessible at low tide, so it is definitely one for the more adventurous visitor.

Covesea Lighthouse
Covesea Lighthouse is found at Lossiemouth West Beach.

FAQs on the Moray Travel Itinerary

Why visit Moray?

Moray has so much to offer tourists: lovely beachescastlesfishing villages, whisky distilleries and some of the best restaurants in Scotland. Moray is also much quieter than Edinburgh or the North Coast 500, making it easier to make bookings for accommodation and tourist attractions.

Local produce isn't limited to whisky; Moray has some of the finest seafood, meat products and local specialities like shortbread and Cullen Skink.

Duffus Castle
Duffus Castle - my favourite castle ruin in Scotland.

Should I stay in Elgin or stay in different areas in Moray?

Either option is acceptable. Elgin has a lot to offer in terms of shops, so it's easy to stock up for your next adventure... but the towns around Moray offer many lovely places to stay. Just do what is best for you!

How many whisky distilleries are there in Speyside?

There are more than 50 whisky distilleries in Speyside, many placed along the banks of the River Spey for access to its waters for producing Scotland's famous Scotch Whisky. Speyside Whisky is renowned for its lighter and sweeter flavours with caramel and fruity notes.

Can I get a tour of multiple distilleries?

I highly recommend the tour with Speyside Executive Hire, a family-run company in Aberlour. Get the inside whisky industry scoop with Mark Fraser and his daughter Hayley.

What is the Malt Whisky Trail?

The Malt Whisky Trail is a unique tourism attraction for whisky enthusiasts and those interested in learning more about Scotland's rich whisky heritage. Located in the Speyside region, which is often considered the heart of Scotch whisky production, the trail allows visitors to explore a selection of distilleries, each offering its own history, charm, and unique approach to whisky-making. The trail is considered the ultimate Scotch whisky experience.

Craigellachie Hotel offers a choice of eight hundred whiskies for you to sample!

Where is Speyside?

Speyside is the name given to the area surrounding the River Spey. Most of Speyside is within Moray, but parts reach the Highlands and Aberdeenshire.

Which distilleries are in Speyside?

There are too many to list in this article, but the most famous Speyside distilleries are:

  • Glenfiddich

  • Strathisla

  • Macallan

  • Glenallachie

  • Benromach

  • Cardhu

  • Glen Grant

  • Glenlivet

  • Glen Moray

  • Dallas Dhu

What is the largest city in Speyside?

There are no cities in Moray or Speyside. The nearest cities are Aberdeen and Inverness. Elgin is the largest town in Moray, with the biggest shops, facilities and hospital.

Key information on the Moray Travel Itinerary

  • Moray Speyside is between the Highlands and Aberdeenshire in the northeast of Scotland.

  • Inverness and Aberdeen are the nearest cities.

  • Elgin is the largest town in Moray.

  • Areas of Moray are split into areas: west, south and east.

  • Elgin is the best place to stay when visiting all areas in Moray.

  • It's worth visiting at least one distillery on your trip.

Conclusion

I hope this travel itinerary for Moray Speyside has been helpful to you, it's a bit longer than I had expected, but it's packed with value, and there should be something for all interests. There is much more to see here, but cramming it all into five days is practically impossible!

This would be a great start to your holiday in Scotland; why not head on to Inverness and then north to the NC500 next? Or cut across the Scottish Highlands and visit the Isle of Skye? Head south to Aviemore and explore the Cairngorms National Park or east to Aberdeenshire. There are so many places you could see next!

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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Comments:


Bob
4th of October 2023 @ 17:23:02

Thank you, not a 'native' but I do live near Oldmeldrum and find various ideas of places to visit interesting for 'a day out'.