Landmark Visitor's Guide


Aberdeen and the
Grampian Region

The Coast below Aberdeen




Aberdeen to Braemar

Aberdeen to Keith

The coast road from Aberdeen

Additional Information

Landmark Visitor's Guide

The Moray Coast

Fochabers is the next town 8 miles (13km) northwest on the River Spey and a final staging post on the Speyside Way walking route.

Fochabers Folk Museum has a large collection of horse-drawn vehicles and a reconstructed village shop along with a multitude of early domestic items.

Most travellers stop at the Baxter's Visitor Centre on the north edge of town, impossible to miss and a masterpiece of modern marketing for the humble can of soup. The history of the family, who still own and run the company, is appealing with George Baxter, a gardener at Gordon Castle in the 1870s opening a grocer's shop in Fochabers that sold his wife's home-made preserves. From this modest start a world-wide business in quality, canned products has grown and kept pace with modern demands.

There is an introductory video before a tour of the factory, a Victorian kitchen, ye olde shoppe and a gift shop to purchase the stock.

A short detour north to the coast on the B9104 brings you to the sleepy hamlet of Spey Bay. Although, at first glance, there appears little to do, there is an 18 hole golf course, driving range, petanque court, tennis courts and fishing at the mouth of the famous Spey River, all surrounding the Spey Bay Hotel and Caravan Site, a self-contained little hide-away.


Elgin is 9 miles (14km) west of Fochabers and the main centre for this region of Moray.

On the banks of the River Lossie, it is a lively little town set in good order with some interesting ancient buildings, plenty of shopping and several places worth seeing. In July it holds its Highland Games and, in September, a famous Fiddlers Rally. Elgin Museum in the High Street is particularly well laid out and has recently won the Museum of the Year award.

Nearby, Elgin Cathedral was founded in 1224, creating a religious centre almost as important as St Andrews and Dunfermline. This building, like all Scottish cathedrals, bore the wrath of King Edward I and later, in 1650, the wanton vandalism of Cromwell's troops. Restoration began in 1825 and still continues today. A solitary Pictish stone slab stands in the middle of the ruin.

A Cashmere Visitor Centre exists at Newmill near the cathedral where Johnston's of Elgin have set up facilities to allow a tour of the mill as well as an audio visual presentation and coffee shop. Moray Motor Museum is in Bridge Street with a collection of ancient but gleaming means of transport including a 1914 Renault and a 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom.


Directly north of Elgin, towards the coast, is Lossiemouth, a popular holiday resort with extensive sandy beaches either side of the town. Sea angling is popular and it has one of the best 18-hole golf courses in an area renowned for good links courses. Golfers have reported bouncing balls off Royal Air Force fighters as they land at the nearby airfield but this might be an over-exaggeration of their driving prowess.

Lossiemouth is the birthplace of Ramsay MacDonald, the UK's first Labour Prime Minister, born here in 1866. Lossiemouth Fishery and Community Museum is found in Pitgaveny Street with scale models of fishing vessels and a reconstruction of Ramsay MacDonald's study with some of the original furnishings.

South-west of Elgin on minor roads near the Black Burn is Pluscarden Abbey, a priory founded by King Alexander II in 1230 for a French order of monks. It was given to a Benedictine community in 1948 when restoration began. Pluscarden was elevated to the status of Abbey in 1974.


Forres is a well ordered little town well known for its topiary-adorned gardens in Grant Park. It has been an established settlement for at least 2,000 years as it appears on maps of that time.

Forres was once popular as a spa town but that has been replaced with its reputation for beautiful gardens. Overlooking the town is Nelson's Tower, erected in 1806 and recently refurbished, celebrating Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. The Falconer Museum in Tolbooth Street was founded in 1870 to display the town's history with changing temporary exhibitions throughout the year and a dedication to one of Scotland's best loved folk singers, the late Roy Williamson of the Corries.

On the north-eastern side of town stands Stone, a 23ft (7m) glass encased Pictish stone, age unknown though probably not less than 1,000 years old. It is thought to commemorate a victory over Norse invaders. In Victoria Road is the Witches Stone, also dating from Pictish times and marking the resting-place of one of three barrels in which three witches were rolled down the Cluny Hill.

Heading towards the coast on the B9011 is the sailing village of Findhorn set along the mouth of the river of the same name. This area is probably best known for the Findhorn Foundation, renowned in the 1970's for producing gigantic vegetables. It is still an international spiritual community, founded in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy MacLean. Their vision of a better society, which commenced in a caravan site and has expanded into a 'New Age' and much respected centre for personal advancement, attracts aspirants from around the globe. Most areas in the complex are open to visitors and there are presentations on the work and aims of the community as well as a fascinating bookshop.

Brodie Castle is 3 miles (5km) west of Forres, the home of the Brodie family since 1160 and now controlled by the National Trust for Scotland. It contains a fine collection of furniture and paintings with its gardens noted for their daffodil displays in spring. There is an excellent gift shop and restaurant by the side of the A96 leading to woodland walks and the castle.

Aberdeen to MacDuff

If you are touring from Aberdeen, an alternative route to the one just described is to take the A947, running from Aberdeen to MacDuff and along the Moray coast. Oldmeldrum is 18 miles (29km) out of Aberdeen and 3 miles further east is Pitmedden Garden and Museum of Farm Life. Alternatively you can follow the B999 which branches off the A92 north of Bridge of Don.

The gardens were commenced in 1675 by Alexander Seton; formerly Lord Pitmedden before his title was removed for his opposition to King James VII's Catholicism. The geometric, boxhedge enclosed, split-level gardens each have an elaborate and colourful design copied from gardens in Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace in the 1640s.

The National Trust for Scotland took over and restored the gardens to their original state in 1952. Forty thousand plants are needed every year to form the design traced out by 3 miles (5km) of boxwood hedge. At the entrance is the Museum of Farming Life with the tools once used by the estate workers.

A mile or so north and west of Pitmedden, following a simple track, is Tolquhon Castle, a medieval remnant now ruined but once the pride of the Forbes family. There is an art gallery and gift shop along the track.

Haddo House is 4 miles (6km) north on the B999, was commenced in 1732 by William Adam, father of the famous Adam brothers, the preferred architect of the period. Many an important visitor has arrived at the foot of the sweeping steps of Haddo House and royal visitors today such as Prince Edward still use it for overnight stays.

The avenue leading from the house to the deer park was planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's visit and it is a Scott's Mile long which is 200 yards longer than the English mile although, before you adjust your calculations, this no longer applied. There is a tea-room with home-made baking.

The chapel, built in 1881, was a later edition and houses a particularly fine pipe organ built by Father Henry Willis, one of the most famous organ builders of his day and worth closer inspection. There is a new theatre added to the side of the house for productions of operas and concerts.

Six miles (l0km) north of Haddo near the A947 is Fyvie Castle, one of the most spectacular castles in Scotland. The castle dates from the thirteenth century and has been owned by various families through its existence.

The five soaring towers represent each of the ruling dynasties of Fyvie lairds. Its imposing ochre facade has been described as 'the crowning glory of Scottish Baronial architecture', much spruced up by Alexander Forbes-Leith who made his fortune in the American steel industry of the late nineteenth century and bought the estate in 1889.

The interior was largely his responsibility also, adorning it with treasures from around the world. There are twelve works by Sir Henry Raeburn, a Gainsborough portrait and other works by Romney, Opie and Pompeo Batoni including his portrait of Colonel William Gordon.

The elegant dining room is often used for highbrow entertainment such as classical music recitals. By way of contrast on such occasions, pipers sometimes play outside. A few miles further north is the town of Turriff once a Pictish capital with the annual Turriff Show held in August.

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

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