Best Things to Do in Moray Speyside

Best Things to Do in Moray Speyside

Covering the northeastern realms of Scotland, Moray Speyside is a beautiful region hugged by the Cairngorm Mountains and the Moray Firth. Painted with breathtaking scenery, this fairytale land is known as ‘Whisky Country’ and is famed for its unspoilt landscapes that encompass more than half of Scotland's whisky distilleries. Boasting an enchanting wealth of things to do, from whisky tours and cashmere shopping to walking trails and ski slopes, it promises the most magical adventures for romantic staycations and luxury retreats.  

Discover a land of extraordinary wilderness and hidden gems within Moray Speyside and seek moments entwined with wonder.

Tour Whisky Distilleries

Views over Craigellachie and Dewars Distillery at golden hour

Taking pride of place at the northeastern tip of Scotland, Moray Speyside is traced by the flow of the River Spey and is nestled between towering peaks and open sea. Famed for its fertile glens and the quality of its water, it is home to the largest number of whisky distilleries in the UK, with more than fifty unique producers peppered throughout the region. Crafted from the land and woven into the region’s heritage, its whisky is inherently intertwined with its identity and industry. As the locals say, “today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky”.

Imbued with fruity, peaty notes, Speyside’s whisky is full of distinctive character and is a must-try for whisky lovers. Amongst the most famous is the award-winning Macallan Distillery in Easter Elchies. First opened in 1824, it offers tailored experiences arranged by prior appointment and is home to a booking-only brasserie, bar and boutique. A real highlight, the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail is also a firm favourite and features famous distilleries, such as Glenlivet, Strathisla and Glenfiddich.

Step Back in Time

The ruins of Balvenie Castle in Moray Speyside

Adding an ever-more ethereal quality to the land, Moray Speyside is decorated with atmospheric castles and forts. Often built in strategic locations and once occupied by ancient clan leaders, these historic dwellings date all the way back to the thirteenth century and embody fascinating tales. Amongst the best-preserved are the fifteenth-century Ballindalloch Castle and the sixteenth-century Brodie Castle near Forres, both of which are open to visitors on select days during the year.

Auchindoun Castle and Balvenie Castle in Dufftown and Duffus Castle near Elgin promise further trips through time, while the thirteenth-century Pluscarden Abbey in Elgin and the striking remains of the twelfth-century Kinloss Abbey offer an insight into the area’s spiritual past. To uncover the site of Scotland’s largest Medieval bishop’s home, visit Spynie Palace near Elgin. Or, to see some of the most beautiful walled gardens in the UK, book a guided tour of Gordon Castle in Fochabers and discover the estate’s eight acres of award-winning kitchen gardens.

Go Skiing

The snow covered slopes of Lecht 2090

The mystical realm of Moray Speyside extends from the craggy, eastern range of the Cairngorms, along the River Spey and low, peaty heartlands, all the way to the Moray Coast. A land of natural contrasts and rich beauty, it is one of year-round appeal that becomes even more magical in winter when thick layers of snow descend upon the highlands. To seek alpine pursuits, head over to The Lecht 2090 between Tomintoul and Strathdon. A ski and activity centre based 2,090 feet above sea level in the Eastern Cairngorms, it is the smallest of Scotland’s five ski centres yet offers an unmissable opportunity to take to the slopes and drink in the scenery. With something for everyone, it has a range of slopes to suit all abilities, including green, blue, red and black runs. To simply enjoy the surroundings and watch the sports unfold without taking part, you can also make use of the passenger chairlifts.

Play Golf

The suntrap terrace and golf course of Elgin Golf Club

With its incredible natural backdrops, low rainfall, beaming sunshine and refreshing coastal air, Moray Speyside is one of the best places for golfing trips in the UK. Home to more than a dozen courses, it offers world-class conditions for unforgettable rounds throughout the year. From the coastal links courses of Moray and Cullen, to the inland parkland courses of Forres and Rothes, to the renowned Elgin course close to Moray’s ‘capital’, it promises unparalleled locations for polished putts. Discover why Scotland is famed as the “Home of Golf” and pick your favourite, ready to experience days of recreation in the most jaw-dropping scenery imaginable.

Seek Cashmere and Wool

Neatly piled cashmere scarfs

Scotland’s history is interlaced with wool. An epicentre for trade, the country was one of the largest exporters of wool in the Medieval times and has long been recognised for the unparalleled quality of its textiles. Transforming sheep and goats’ coats into luxurious tartans, tweeds, fleece, cashmere and more, Moray Speyside’s wool mills embody weaving traditions passed on through generations and are a must-visit. For your chance to peruse authentic goods, learn about the region’s wool industry, and purchase sought-after treasures, visit beloved wool manufacturers such as Knockando Woolmill in Aberlour and Johnstons of Elgin, both of which have been creating woollen and cashmere products since the eighteenth century.

Explore Elgin

The sun-bathed façade of Elgin Museum in Elgin, Moray Speyside

Just a stone’s throw from the coast, the town of Elgin is the unofficial capital of Moray Speyside. Once a royal burgh and cathedral city, it is the largest town in the region and has roots dating back a thousand years. A beautiful mix of heritage and modernism, many of its buildings span the centuries and display the town’s passage through time. One of the oldest buildings in Moray Speyside, the remains of the early thirteenth-century Elgin Cathedral reside just outside of Elgin’s town centre and can be explored as part of self-guided tours. For more historical insights, Moray Motor Museum and Elgin Museum can also be visited in the town. To refuel, sample the traditional delicacy of Cullen Skink (smoked haddock chowder) in one of Elgin’s local restaurants, followed by a bite of delicious Walkers shortbread which was first made in the Speyside village of Aberlour in 1898 and is bestowed with a Royal Warrant.

Climb Nelson’s Tower

Far-reaching views over verdant landscapes towards the sea from the top of Nelson's Tower

One of the best things to do in Moray Speyside, a walk up to the top of Cluny Hill and Nelson’s Tower rewards with spectacular panoramas. Originally built in 1806 as a memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson, it was completed in 1812 and remains open to the public today. Visit between 2pm and 4pm from April to September to climb the stairs of the seventy-foot tower and absorb the stunning views that reach across the horizon. On clear days, you can see as far as the glittering seas of the Moray Firth and beyond to the rolling hills of Caithness in the north, and the snow-kissed peaks of the Cairngorms in the south.

Hike Long Distance Trails

A view of Covesea Lighthouse at sunset

From its mountainous fringes to its gorse-brushed lowlands to its coastal headlands of Findhorn, Burghead and Portgordon, the bewitching landscapes of Moray Speyside beckon for adventure. To experience the beauty of the region on foot, lace up your walking boots and join some of the long-distance trails that weave their way from ben to beach. Depending on how far you’d like to go, you can immerse yourself in a few hours or a whole day of walking and bask in the captivating surrounds. Of the most well-known routes, the world-famous sixty-five-mile Speyside Way, the fifty-mile Moray Coast Trail and the twenty-four-mile Dava Way each explore the region’s stunning natural highlights and promise plenty to see. Combining sections of each route to form one giant loop, the hundred-mile Moray Way is also a beacon for keen walkers, passing riverscapes, moorland, picturesque villages and famous landmarks including the Covesea Lighthouse.

Watch Wildlife

A beautiful pine marten stood on a branch in the forest

Moray Speyside is home to a diverse range of habitats that shelter an abundance of flora and fauna. Perfect for wildlife enthusiasts, the area’s mountains, heath and coast afford the ideal environments for wildlife watching. Fold up a blanket and head out into the wilderness to find a cosy perch, equipped with a pair of binoculars and a hot flask of something soothing. Inland, elusive pine marten, rock ptarmigan, red squirrels, and deer can be seen, while in the sky, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the golden eagles that grace the airways. On the coast, look out for pods of dolphins in the Moray Firth, as well as seals along the shoreline and osprey in the sky. For insights and inspiration, you can also journey to WDC's Scottish Dolphin Centre at Fochabers for wildlife watching followed by a wholesome repast in the onsite café.

Try a New Adventure

A view of Ben Finnes covered in snow at golden hour

Moray Speyside is a dreamscape for adventurers, from adrenaline seekers to lovers of the great outdoors. For those wishing for immersive experiences in the wilds, its stunning coastline and rugged mountains set the scene for skiing, climbing, mountain biking, coasteering, rafting and sailing. Meanwhile, the rolling hills and lowland heaths present a picturesque backdrop for more relaxed pursuits such as walking, golfing, cycling, cold water swimming and more. For two-wheeled challenges, Glenlivet Estate is particularly enticing with miles of family-friendly and complex trails for beginners and experienced riders. Ideal for solo cyclists and families, the estate’s blue run is especially popular and provides an hour’s worth of flowing level and downhill trails through towering evergreen trees. On the region’s waterways, operators such as Aquaplay hosts kayaking and coasteering tours in the summer, while ACE Adventures offers white water rafting, canyoning and gorge walking.

Gaze at the Stars

The Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky above rows of towering trees

On the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, one of the UK’s Dark Sky Reserves, Moray Speyside is an amazing place to stargaze. Proposing untold wonder, its night skies are some of the clearest in Europe and promise to reveal secrets of the universe as the light of countless stars illuminates the earth below. Throughout the year, famous constellations can be seen decorating the night sky, while from October to March, there is the added chance of seeing the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis too. Cuddle up in the garden of your luxury retreat or step out into the wilderness at one of the three Dark Sky Discovery Sites within the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Dark Sky Park: Blairfindy, Tomintoul and Scalan Dark Sky Discovery Site.

Feeling inspired for a soul-stirring adventure? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Scotland.


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