Many people ask us after our travels round the world why we decided to head home. If they saw the wee corner of Scotland we call home, they’d realise why. The only reason we enjoy travelling so much is that returning home is equally as special.
This is because we grew up with the best of both worlds – Darren grew up in Keith surrounded by rolling hills and slap bang in the centre of The Malt Whisky Trail. I, on the other hand grew up on the coast – with Cullen Beach on my doorstep where dolphins are part of the daily norm and ice cream is 2/3 of your diet.
Here in Moray we can enjoy the Northern lights, some of the best food (and drink!) in Scotland and adventure on our doorstep – all before bedtime. When the devastating events of 2020 “forced” many of us to holiday at home, we could have rolled our eyes and sighed. Surely home is boring? Surely we’ve seen it all?
How wrong were we!
Instead, we found so many things to do in Moray that not only had we never done before this year, but we didn’t even know existed! From cliff jumping to camping, hiking corbetts to coastal trails – Moray ticks all the boxes for thrill seekers like us.
WHERE IS MORAY?
Despite what Amazon delivery likes to tell us, Moray is not in the Highlands. It is 2,238 km² that stretches from around Forres to Cullen, then in land to Keith, Dufftown and Tomintoul, before flirting with the boundary of Cairngorms National Park and back up to the Coast. Moray borders Aberdeenshire and The Highlands, with its coastline on the Moray Firth (famed for bottlenose dolphins!)
WHY VISIT MORAY?
To be honest, sharing our home does feel a little like spilling a secret. On the one hand, we want to shout about Moray from the rooftops as we understand tourists today crave hidden gems, authentic experiences and heading off the beaten track.
Yet, we also revel in the fact we’re often the only people on our beaches, our only traffic jams are caused by sheep and pace of life is gentle. We’ve witnessed the struggles of over tourism for our peers on Skye or the motorhome mayhem of the NC500 and recognise there is a fine balance which needs to be promoted.
We welcome you with open arms and want everyone to enjoy the unmissable things to do in Moray like we do, but please be a responsible tourist and treat our remote communities as if they were your doorstep too.
UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO IN MORAY
While we understand rolling hills, remote seaside villages and miles of untouched coastline can sound oh so romantic and relaxing, if you know where to look, Moray offers more than meets the eye. Instead our adrenaline seeking ways have hunted down some of the most epic things to do in Moray for thrill seekers. This round up will get hearts racing and not just from the beautiful views!
White Water Rafting & Cliff Jumping
This gem of a place, just 15 minutes from Forres ticks the box for two of our favourite things: glamping and watersports. We’re not just talking chilled wee downstream paddles either, Ace Adventures run year round white water rafting with a sprinkling of cliff jumping for an added adrenaline boost.
Not only does the course along River Findhorn offer some of the best scenery in the area, but it is the only rafting trip in the UK with rapids above Grade 3 that runs all year round! We visited in early September, then couldn’t resist returning later in the year for epic Autumnal scenes. Our cheeks were sore from laughing as we battled the rapids, dared the cliff jumps and even “surfed” the Findhorn in our raft.
The team provide you with detailed safety instructions as well as all the gear to keep you warm and safe – just bring a towel, swimmers and a sense of adventure. They even take professional photos as you go, so you can leave the camera at home and laugh at the soggy snaps when you’ve completed the course.
If you fancy just testing the waters first, there is also canoeing, kayaking and canyoning or for family filled thrills there is also a gentler rafting tour available. If you prefer dry land, there is paintballing and Frisbee golf – all set in the stunning surroundings of Logie Estate.
Glamping at Ace Adventures
Now are you ready for the best part? Anyone that knows us will be aware that we LOVE quirky accommodation and any excuse to wake up somewhere different. Although we’ve been camping in Australia and even toured New Zealand in a campervan, we love nothing more than glamping on home turf. Which is where Ace Adventures come up glamping trumps.
After a day of white water rafting, instead of the long drive home you can snuggle up with a wee wine at your own private fire pit in one of their bell tents or shepherds’ huts. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, pack your own camping essentials and stay on one of their tent pitches. Don’t forget our camping food checklist so you can cook up a storm in their outdoor kitchen!
I know for us millennials, a night without Wi-Fi is an adventure in itself, but the accommodation here is the perfect balance between wild camping and glamping – there is an outdoor kitchen and hot showers but also large pitches so you’ve complete privacy to switch off from the world and enjoy a night under the stars. Book your stay here.
MORAY COASTAL TRAIL
If you’re looking for things to do in Moray and prefer to admire the water from afar, grab your hiking boots for the beautiful Moray Coastal Trail. Although 50 miles long, stretching from Forres to Cullen the joy of Moray Coastal trail is that you can hop on and off and various points – ideal for those seeking a leisurely stroll, or those after a more challenging trek
While choosing a favourite spot would be like choosing a favourite child, we do have a few areas we particularly love along the Moray Coastal Trail:
The Sandstone Caves of Cove Bay, Hopeman
Also known as primrose Bay, Cove Bay is located around 3.5 miles from the equally spectacular Duffus Castle. Park at Hopeman East Beach and enjoy the well sign posted, Moray Coastal trail to reach Cove Bay. In rain or shine this walk is guaranteed to impress, with parts reminding us of the Bondi To Coogee coastal trail (although very different temperatures!)
The grand finale is the striking sandstone caves which you can explore inside. The largest will require a head torch as it does get dark towards the back, where as the second smaller cave is actually a tunnel which opens to reveal a beautiful shoreline and more striking rock formations.
The Ghoulish Secret of Sculptor’s Cave
If you’re up for more of a challenge, one of the most exciting things to do in Moray is head to Sculptor’s Cave which is actually only accessible at low tide and cannot be accessed from above. We unfortunately learnt this the hard way, after a good 45 minutes of getting lost in gorse bushes. All part of the adventure huh?
If you’re a history fan, or simply love a spooky story then the fascinating folklore surrounding Scultpor’s Cave is one of the main reasons it’s a highlight for adventure seekers. It is believed the cave was used like a temple nearly 3000 years ago to worship the dead. According to archaeologist Ian Shepherd, people would venture from all over Scotland including the islands and even from Ireland to bring their dead children to Sculptor’s Cave!
Bow Fiddle Rock, Portknockie
This is where I’m probably a little biased as I grew up here, but Bow Fiddle Rock in Portknockie is to me, the jewel in the coastal trail crown. It is a favoured spot with photographers keen to grab that sunrise shot, but also one of the most unmissable things to do in Moray for those after a scenic hike unlike any other.
Whether you grew up in the area, or you’re visiting for the very first time I feel the joy with Bow Fiddle Rock is that you can never get bored of it. Every photo it looks different. Whether it’s 5am or lunch time the views are spectacular, and the wildlife, neighbouring beaches and wild swimming spots nearby make it even more bucket list worthy.
There are many ways to reach Bow Fiddle depending on your fitness and time allowance. You can park at Portknockie play park and walk just 10 minutes along Moray Coastal trail, reach it via Cullen Beach if you head to the very end and up the cliff steps or from neighbouring Findochty head along the old railway line path and through Portknockie.
CULLEN SEA SCHOOL
Just 5 minutes round the corner from Bow Fiddle is the stunning Cullen Beach which to us, rivalled any coastline we found in Oz. The bay here is beautiful thanks to golden sands, the scenic three king rocks and mesmerising waves.
Cullen is also home to one of our new favourite things to do in Moray – Paddle boarding! From the beach car park you can either drive or walk through the Seatown to Cullen Harbour where you’ll find the friendly faces of Cullen Sea School. Here you can enjoy sailing, rowing, kayaking or paddle boarding. They also run fun sessions for under 12s and have first class changing and showering facilities in their beautifully restored building.
As well as watersports, they do an incredible job of keeping the local heritage alive with shore based activities including boat building classes as well as survival skills such as First Aid, knot tying and ship-to-shore radio training.
Although you can pay for a one off experience, (book here) it’s easy to get hooked, which is why a membership is amazing value for money. It’s only £80 for the entire year, which means unlimited kayaking or paddle boarding during sea school opening hours! For kids it’s half price, which is epic value for money even if you’re just visiting Cullen for the school holidays.
A Hike To Remember
Your bucket list of Adventurous things to do in Moray would not be complete without heading up the area’s tallest hill – Ben Rinnes. This scenic summit is in fact a Corbett at 841m high and once at the top you can admire breath-taking views for miles.
Located just outside of Dufftown, follow the road signs off the B9009 to reach the small carpark. It is recommended to arrive early as parking is limited, but we rocked up at 2pm and had no issues. If only the hike was as easy as finding a parking space.
Needless to say, I was not prepared for the climb – despite coping with hiking in Hawaii and even bagging a few Munros, we were “blessed” with a random heatwave of around 25°C during our hike which for a Scottish redhead proved for a very slow and sweaty climb.
Fuelled with Haribo and the insane views to keep me going, it took us around 1.5hours to reach the summit. Do not be fooled half way up (like I was) Ben Rinnes boasts a false summit where you think the end is within reach, before a cheeky half hour hike still to go.
I soon realised the huffing and puffing was worth it as we reached the summit and looked back over Moray in awe. Maybe the heatwave conditions were a blessing as we enjoyed extensive views out to the sea. Darren has also hiked Ben Rinnes in Winter where the views were equally spectacular although crampons are recommended as the path can get incredibly icy.
Once you’ve taken a photo or fifty from the top, head back to the car along the same route. We’d then recommend heading back to Dufftown, as it is central to the Malt Whisky Trail so you can enjoy a well-earned dram from one of the neighbouring distilleries (now that’s my kind of adventure!)
It’s recommended to allow 4-5 hours for the hike up and down as well as plenty photo stops or a windy picnic at the top.
With so many amazing things to do in Moray, we hope you fall in love with our wee corner of the globe. Whether it’s hiking, rafting or glamping there is always an adventure to be found – let us know if there are any highlights or hidden gems we’re missing from this guide and if you’re headed this direction, let us know!