Roseisle Beach & Forest

Written by Chris Thornton | 25th of March 2024
Roseisle Beach / Roseisle Country Park

Roseisle Beach must be one of the finest outdoor locations in Moray. It has an expansive pine forest and an 8-mile-long sandy beach bordered by sand dunes. This serene setting is not only picturesque but also historical, marked by a line of concrete blocks and pillboxes from WWII.

I had been to Roseisle Beach as a child but haven't been back in at least 30 years despite living about half an hour away! It was a lovely Sunday in March, ideal for exploring this beautiful forest and beach with my young family.

Our visit to Roseisle Beach

We arrived from the Elgin direction, leaving the A96 and passing the enormous Roseisle Distillery, Scotland's second-largest whisky distillery. Making our way down the long, straight country roads, we were met by a ticket machine to enter the site, which seemed to be out of order. Don't panic here and scramble for loose change - purchasing a parking ticket on the RingGo app is possible, so just drive in and then buy online. We did find this app difficult to use, so it's worth trying to figure it out before you go.

Costs were:

  • £2 for up to 1 hour

  • £2.50 for up to 3 hours

  • £4 for all-day

  • £12 for a minibus or coach all-day

Roseisle Beach ticket machine.
The ticket machine, but feel free to drive by and use the app to order your ticket instead.

Roseisle Beach Car Park

I was amazed at the scope of this site - I had expected maybe a small car park, a small wooded area and a path to the beach, but the site is pretty large with many car park spaces, a play park, a toilet block and food vendor and many access points to the beach.

We decided to have a picnic first; many tables were available throughout the forest near the car park. The tables had metal plates, too, so disposable BBQs could be used safely. It was a lovely experience sitting amongst the tall pines with the spring sun shining through.

Cars parked amongst the trees at Roseisle Country Park. College of Roseisle.
Roseisle Beach Car Park.
 
Picnic at Roseisle Beach.
Having our picnic before going to the beach.

Heading to the beach

Following the well-marked paths, we headed to the beach. The trees soon gave way to an absolutely breathtaking view of Roseisle Beach to the north and west. Looking to the north, Burghead was shining in the sun, and looking west, I saw the bulk of the beach and the unmissable WW2 beach defences.

The path to Roseisle Beach.
One of the paths to the beach.
 
Walking to Roseisle Beach.
This raised area gives a great view out to sea.
 
Picnic table at Roseisle Beach.
I wish we spotted this picnic table first!
 
Roseisle Beach with Burghead and tank traps. White sandy beach.
Burghead can be seen at the end of the bay.

Wartime Defences

These relics, intended initially to thwart enemy landings, now add a unique touch to the landscape, a reminder of history that blends seamlessly with the natural beauty. Given the extensive flat sands and shallow beach, it would have made the perfect landing site for an invasion of northeast Scotland. Thankfully, that day never came!

Many complain about the tank traps being left here since the war, but they have had a secondary use as windbreaks to protect the sand dunes.

We made our way along the beach; the girls loved climbing on the blocks and posing for photos. For the section of the beach we explored, there were two intact pill boxes which we went inside. These would have once been manned with machine guns to protect the shoreline.

Tank traps at Roseisle Beach. Golden sand.
Looking west.
 
Lauren Thornton on a concrete block at Roseisle Beach.
Lauren sitting on one of the tank blocks! I didn't have wipes to clean her face!
 
Lauren and Olivia at Roseisle Beach.
Lauren and Olivia stopped for a photo.

Looking out to sea, I scanned the horizon for dolphinssealsorcas/killer whales, which were spotted within the last week. I wasn't lucky enough to spot any on this visit, but I did get a spectacular view across to Sutherland and Caithness. Morven, a mountain I can see from my home, somehow looked closer from Roseisle Beach.

Roseisle Paddleboarders, with Morven hill in the background.
Paddleboarders at Roseisle. Morven dominates the horizon.

After exploring the pillboxes, I had a wee fly of my new drone, and then we walked back to the car park.

Pillbox at Roseisle Beach.
One of the pillboxes.
 
Angled window of a Pillbox on Roseisle Beach.
Looking out from one of the lop-sided pill boxes.
 
Pillbox at Roseisle from the second world war.
Another view of the pillbox.
 
Roseisle coastal defences.
The girls were fascinated by these coastal defences.
 
Roseisle pillbox interior from World War II.
Interior of a pillbox.

Facilities and Recreation

The site is conveniently equipped with amenities and includes many parking areas, restrooms, a barbecue spot, a playground, and extensive paths and trails for exploration. The majestic Moray Coast Trail weaves through the forest, offering hikers and cyclists miles of scenic routes. Venture deeper into the woods to uncover hidden treasures like old abandoned war structures, a forgotten railway line, and a rich tapestry of wildlife. Horse riding is available (plan for low tide). Roseisle is a place where nature's beauty and history converge, offering visitors a unique, immersive experience.

The toilet block and food vendor at Roseisle Beach.
The food vendor and toilet block.
 
Pine trees at Roseisle Beach. Lovely woodland.
Part of the lovely forest at Roseisle Country Park.

Forest Walks

The area is encircled by a lush forestry plantation managed by the Forestry Commission, ensuring a pristine natural environment. Three walking trails / waymarked paths are available:

Ice House Trail

The Ice House Trail offers a quick escape into nature, leading you from the forest's edge to a grassy overlook by the Bessie Burn, where expansive sea views await. Along this short trek, look out for the old ice house, once used to store locally caught salmon.

The path has its challenges, including moderate inclines and sections that can be muddy or uneven, especially after rain. It's a mix of sandy and earthy terrain, with exposed tree roots in places.

While navigating this trail, you'll trace the steps of history toward the ice house relic and across a landscape that was once a smugglers' haunt. The trail is moderately challenging but offers a rewarding view and a peek into the area's past.

Trail Details:

  • Distance: 1 ¼ miles (2.0 km)

  • Estimated Time: ¾ hour

  • Difficulty: Moderate

River water flooding into the sea at Roseisle Beach. Soft sand.
Some local streams lead into the sea here.

Millie Bothy

Explore a charming coastal pine forest on this trail, which takes you past historical sites like an old fishermen's bothy and the picturesque Millie Burn. The path is mostly loose sand or earth, varying from gently to moderately steep, with sections that include steep slopes and a long flight of log steps. It can become wet and muddy if it has recently rained.

The trail offers a journey through the forest's lifecycle, from the young saplings to the towering mature pines. You'll pass the ruins of the Millie Bothy, once a refuge for salmon fishermen, and end at the Millie Burn's entry into the sea, where stunning views of the Moray Firth await.

Trail Details:

  • Distance: 1 ½ miles (2.4 km)

  • Time Required: About 1¼ hours

  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Bench with panoramic view of Roseisle Beach.
A nice seating area gives a panoramic view of the entire beach.

Wildlife Walk Trail

This trail is a captivating journey through forests and along the shoreline, offering a rare opportunity to observe wildlife like seals, red squirrels, and various birds in their natural habitats. Spanning 2 ½ miles, it's a path of discovery over narrow, sometimes uneven ground that can be slick after rain. The trail is mostly gentle but includes a few steep climbs and a narrow bridge crossing.

Trail Details:

  • Length: 2 ½ miles (4.2 km)

  • Time: Approximately 1¾ hours

  • Difficulty: Strenuous

More of the tank traps and pillboxes at Roseisle Beach.
More pillboxes and tank traps.

FAQs on Roseisle Beach

How to get to Roseisle Beach?

Roseisle can be accessed from the directions of Forres, Kinloss, Lossiemouth, and Elgin. It's also possible to walk from Burghead or Findhorn to the beach.

From Elgin:

  1. Head west out of Elgin on the A96.

  2. Turn right along the B9013.

  3. Turn left, following the sign marked "Forest Walks Beach".

  4. Pass Roseisle Distillery on your left, then look for the right turn to the long straight to the beach car park.

Roseisle Beach on Google Maps.
What3words: ///frail.angers.relay

Drone photo of Roseisle Beach.
A drone photo looking north.

Are there toilets at Roseisle Beach?

Yes, a toilet block is available, but it is only open between April and October. Toilets are also available at Findhorn Beach and within Burghead, near the harbour.

What are the defences on the beach in Roseisle?

The long, shallow beach at Roseisle Beach was considered an ideal landing site for an invasion force in World War 2. The blocks were placed along the entire length of the beach to hinder vehicles coming ashore, however the invasion never came.

Are the pillboxes safe to enter?

They seemed pretty safe, but use your judgment on your visit. I think the council would have sealed them if they were no longer safe.

Lauren in a pillbox window at Roseisle.
Lauren posing at a pillbox window.

How long is Roseisle Beach?

Roseisle Beach is about 8 miles long, stretching from Burghead to Findhorn.

What else can be seen near Roseisle Beach?

Here are a few suggestions:

Forest and beach!
The mix of forest and beach is really unique at Roseisle.

Key information on Roseisle Beach

  • Roseisle Beach can be found halfway between Findhorn and Burghead on the Moray Coast.

  • The site is also called Roseisle Country Park due to its large, beautiful forest with walking trails.

  • The beach is known for its extensive line of coastal defences, set up during World War 2.

  • Facilities include a car park, picnic area, toilets and a food vendor.

  • Parking can be paid online via the RingGo app.

  • It is a great place to visit if you like forests and beaches.

Roseisle Beach.
One final drone photo.

Conclusion

With its scenic beauty, rich history, and comprehensive amenities, Roseisle Beach is a must-visit on the Moray Coast. We loved our quick visit, walking through the lovely forest and then out to the epic beach.

If you're interested in more local beaches, please check out my guide to Moray Beaches.

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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