Coves and Caves

By James Carron

The Moray Coast in the north east of the country mixes long stretches of golden sand with dramatically craggy cliff top scenery. Seabirds flutter overhead as the crashing Moray Firth laps at your feet, the waves dancing under the brightly painted boards of brave surfers.

Every now and then the peace and quiet of the coast is dashed as modern military hardware breezes overhead bound for the inland RAF Lossiemouth base. A walk along the Moray Firth is something of a contrast with the coast's feeling of quiet and remoteness living on despite everything going on around it. This walk can be undertaken at any time of the year on all but the roughest of days.

From the West Beach car park at Lossiemouth, a short concrete pathway leads down on to the long sandy beach stretching off into the distance. When the tide is on its way out, the hard wet sand on the water's edge is ideal for walking on. There is a path through the dunes but this runs close to the golf course and users risk the wrath of stray golf balls. Follow the beach west, crossing a couple of burns, keeping the prominent white lighthouse in view up ahead, its night time signal ensuring passing ships stay off the rocks.

A little way inland is the RAF Lossiemouth air base and planes or helicopters coming in over the sea to land can sometimes be seen. On the beach, a row of tall wooden pillars with lights on top are part of the runway set-up.

The beach skirts round below the lighthouse and in the cliffs beneath its foundations deep caves have been carved by the sea. If the tide is out it is possible to stay on the beach here. However, if the water is high, you may have to climb over the low headland on which the lighthouse and a small wartime look-out post sit. Reminders of less peaceful times are to be found all along the beach with large concrete blocks bedded into the sand. These were put down to stop invading tanks in their tracks. From the lighthouse, continue along the beach.

The next long stretch of golden sand ends at a rocky headland. Above houses cling to the cliff top. Leave the beach and climb up the grassy slope to pick up a path along the next rocky strip of coast. Sandy coves, quarries and caves line the route.

Nearing Hopeman, the path passes by the village golf course to emerge on to the main street that runs down from the A9040 to Hopeman's tiny fishing harbour. Once alive with boats fishing herring, it is now home to just a handful of boats. Wander up the main street and turn right along Duff Street. This stretches out in a straight line and at the end curves left into a cul-de-sac of new homes. Before it does so, a path goes off to the right, alongside the garden of the last house on the right. Follow this out over the open fields that sit above the cliffs.

Nearing Burghead, the track meets a fence running at right angles. Turn left and follow a short strip of track up to the B9012 road on the top edge of the town. Turn right and follow Fraser Road down into the town. Burghead is a fishing port dating from the early 19th century. Grain from the agricultural hinterland was shipped from here and now the town is dominated by the vast United Distillers maltings complex. The harbour is well worth a visit as is the sweeping sandy beach to the south.


Distance 8 miles/13km. ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 28. ;
Start/parking West Beach car park, Lossiemouth (grid ref NJ 226709). Public toilets are open here from April to October. ;
Grading Coastal beach and cliff path suitable for all walkers.