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Get Away: The Spirit of Scotland

3 MIN READ

Sonja Jones

Scotland has again been voted the ‘most beautiful country in the world’ by Rough Guide readers.

Scotland has held on to the top spot for a couple of years now, so what is it that draws people to this small, and often damp, country? If not the weather, is it the scenery, the history or the whisky the hero? Or perhaps the people themselves, and their never-ending desire for a blether?

Rough Guides suggests the reasons are “wild beaches, deep lochs and craggy castles…thousands of years of history…delicious whisky…and excellent golfing, hiking and biking trails.” 

Moray, in the North East of Scotland, may be a small region roughly in the shape of a pizza slice, but here you can find all this and more.

© Speyside Cooperage

When compared with other regions Speyside malts are said to be sweeter, lighter and more honeyed.

The local tipple © Unsplash

When compared with other regions Speyside malts are said to be sweeter, lighter and more honeyed.

Moray is Malt Whisky Country – famously known the world over as Speyside. When compared with other regions Speyside malts are said to be sweeter, lighter and more honeyed.

For true whisky aficionados a whisky festival may be just the ticket. The Spirit of Speyside takes place every May and with it come lots of unique events and whisky-related experiences.

Why not board a vintage train in Dufftown and trundle into the heart of whisky country with a tour at Strathisla distillery and have a dram or two. For the budding whisky blenders meet the Chivas Brothers blending team and test your nose to create your own blend. Get a head start by watching this video from Master Blender, Colin Scott.

Action and Adventure

If you prefer an active whisky adventure you could try visiting distilleries by canoe or even compete in the dramathon…yes that’s a marathon between distilleries. You don’t have to drink whisky en route – you can collect your miniatures at the finish line! Other distances are available: half dram (21km) and wee dram (10k) as well as a relay.

If hiking is more your thing explore long distance routes such as the Speyside Way from the coast towards the Cairngorms National Park or the trek along the beautiful Moray coast. You can pick up sections of each route if you prefer an amble over a hike.

Excellent mountain biking trails begin in Fochabers and also on the Glenlivet estate. You can hire bikes at both locations. If you prefer an easy day out then explore Culbin Forest a diverse and ever-changing coastal forest with a fascinating network of tracks to explore on foot or by bike.

If none of that is enough to get your adrenalin pumping there’s always white water rafting, river tubing and canyoning.

Wild Landscapes and Wildlife

Across Moray beautiful beaches and lush landscapes are home to many species. For a glimpse of marine wildlife take a boat trip out on to the Moray Firth to spot the most northernly colony of bottlenose dolphins in the world.

Along the shoreline at Culbin Forest is a mecca for birdwatchers and an RSPB reserve. This mix of saltmarsh, mudflats, sand and shingle is a vital feeding ground for wading birds. And if the sun is shining look out for seals basking in the sun on the shore. Stay well back though and respect their space.

And the most famous local beast of all is, of course, the elusive Loch Ness Monster, to spot her you’ll have to drive eastwards for about an hour or so, but the spectacular views of the 23-mile long loch will be worth it. Take a boat tour from Inverness to get a sense of the huge loch and jump off at the majestic Urquhart Castle.

History, Traditions and Music

You can’t go far without stumbling upon the ancient past and crumbling castles. For maximum atmosphere explore the ruins of Duffus or Balvenie castles or get a peep into the lives of the gentry at Brodie  or the modern sporting estate of Gordon Castle.

Along the coast you’ll also find the crumbling remains of a more modern relic. In the summer of 1940 the threat of invasion from German-occupied Norway was serious so concrete anti-tank blocks and pillboxes where constructed along the coast. Many have now been eroded and some have slumped into the sea but they can still still be found at Findhorn, Roseisle and Lossiemouth.

Throughout the summer months Highland Games are held across Scotland, and Moray is no exception. Explore the unique blend of Highland dancing, piping and sporting events such as tossing the caber and tug o’ war. Each town has its own flavor of games but if you are after a glimpse of the Royal Family you’ll have to head to the Braemar Gathering in Royal Deeside.

© Sonja Jones

Explore the unique blend of Highland dancing, piping and sporting events such as tossing the caber and tug o’ war.

© Sonja Jones

Explore the unique blend of Highland dancing, piping and sporting events such as tossing the caber and tug o’ war.

How does an evening of whisky, music and dancing sound? This is a ceilidh in the local lingo. Check out notice boards or ask the locals if there is one in the offing. Ceilidhs are held every Thursday in the summer months in Dufftown.

This fertile corner of Scotland is not to be missed. Enjoy the heady mix of active adventures, local wildlife, history, and, of course, the local tipple.

Sláinte!