The capital of Moray, Elgin is an interesting historic town with an excellent range of services and shops and good base for exploring the Moray coast.
In the ‘rain shadow’ of the Grampians and in the centre of a fertile coastal strip favoured by climate and soil, early Elgin was protected by two formerly unbridged rivers – the Findhorn and Spey. Its cathedral, founded in 1224, had its own walled town, the Chanonry.
Its later story is characterised by waves of rebuilding – especially by the prosperous local folk, eager to keep up to date. Eventually, most, but not all, of the old arcaded street fronts disappeared, together with parish church and tolbooth, to be replaced by some neo-classic buildings, notably St Giles right in the centre of the old market place.
Today, ring road and modern shopping developments cannot quite obscure the old layout of lanes and wynds leading away from the High Street. And enough fragments of the cathedral remain to allow a glimpse into the old life of this fine town.
Accommodation in Elgin:
There is a good choice of hotel accommodation in Elgin, some right in the centre of town and near the River Lossie. Guest houses and B&Bs are also easy to find here, the options also include guest houses (and hotels) with sea views at Lossiemouth. Self catering properties include a good selection of farm cottages and chalets in the Moray countryside. Caravan and camping parks are located both on riverside and coastal locations in the area around Elgin and Lossiemouth.
Elgin’s picturesquely ruined cathedral is well worth visiting, there is an excellent view from the top of the tower. Another prominent attraction is the Moray Motor Museum. The town also has a separate and independent museum, noted for its collection of local fossils sometimes referred to as the ‘Moray dinosaurs’. Glen Moray Distillery offers tours and tastings. Both Johnstons of Elgin with its Cashmere Visitor Centre and Baxters with its own visitor centre , at Fochabers, to the east, attract plenty of interest from shoppers.
Golf is popular all along the sunny Moray Firth coast and Elgin makes a good base. There is a choice of riding stables. Anglers have plenty of options on nearby rivers, including the Lossie, as well as the better-known Spey and Findhorn. To the west of the town, Quarrelwood is an area of mature mixed woodland with a variety of paths and trails for walkers and birdwatchers and fine views over the Laich (the low grounds) of Moray. Finally, with nearby RAF Lossiemouth as the busiest fast jet base in the UK, plane spotters also have lots of activity to watch.
This sometimes overlooked mediaeval monument was the residence of the Bishops of Moray from the 14th century. The most notable feature is Davy’s Tower, the massive tower built by Bishop David Stewart from 1461 for protection from the Gordon Earl of Huntly. Close by is Spynie Loch (with birdwatching hide), all that remains of a much larger area under water that once lay between Elgin and Lossiemouth.
The former seaport for Elgin, Lossiemouth is today a pleasant, breezy little place with excellent golf and beaches. The old fishertown shelters behind the last bend of the Lossie (excellent birdwatching here), while Branderburgh is the name given to the streets laid out on above cliff on the other riverbank. Stotfield is another former fishing community a little way west. Today, with its cultural life centred on the Warehouse Theatre, and an active marina in the old harbour, Lossiemouth generates its own Riviera ambience!
Burghead, near Elgin, celebrates the New Year with the ‘Burning of the Clavie’ a local fire festival held annually on 11 January (New Year in the Julian calendar). Elgin hosts events in connection with the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in April. The Festival of Sacred Dance Music and Song runs for a week in June at the Findhorn Foundation. Speyfest is an annual traditional music festival in Fochabers, on the last weekend in July.