Moray’s shoreline from Culbin Forest in the west to Cullen in the east, is one long string of unbroken beaches. There’s a few rocky outcrops punctuating it, but that only adds to the beauty, and markes the end of one beach and the start of another.
All the beaches here are less than 40 minutes’ drive from Springburn Cabins and can be done in a circular route
Culbin Sands was once the largest dune system in the UK, so it’s a good place to start a list about beaches. A large-scale operation to control the dunes in the early 1920s was undertaken by the Foretsry Commission which planted thousands of acres of trees. As a result, what was largely known as Culbin Sands is now Culbin Forest.
However, from the waterline out, you’ll find one of the most stunning beaches, from a geographical, botanical and etheral point of view.
Geographically, Culbin Sands is made up of a beach and a ‘bar’ – a shingle ridge running a whopping 7km parallel to the shore. Both are owned by the RSPB because of the important birdlife it contains, and it’s been designated as a nature reserve and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) .
Historically, hundreds of years before that, a storm is said to have engulfed a village in sand, to the point that all those living there were forced to flee the village and it’s still buried beneath the dunes today.
You can’t get onto the beach without going through the forest, and it’s not a large flat beach like many of the others in Moray. The Culbin Forest has become a wildlife habitat in its own right, and if that’s your interest, then you will be well rewarded. In fact, you may never reach the beach!
Anyone who’s walked through Forestry Commission land will know the pathways are plentiful, and it’s no different here. There are many way-marked paths but equally there are a lot of functional tracks that need some level of navigation to get around.
The forest is very popular with walkers and cyclists in its own right, and while the beach is why it’s all there in the first place, it’s fair to say that most people go to visit the woodlands.
There are several graded walks that take you to various landmarks, such as Hill 99, the Gravel Pit and some which are just circular routes. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do.
Findhorn Bay and Beach
Heading east, the Culbin Sands come to a natural stop where the Findhorn River empties into the sea. The large tidal basin forms the boundary of the Culbin Forest, but the dunes continue on the other side of Findhorn Bay.
Here, they have not been tamed by forestry, and while the dunes are largely shingle and unattractive, the beach and bay are staggering beautiful by comparison.
The bay almost completely empties at low tide, and while it possible to walk on some of the flats, the many tributaries make it difficult. It’s perfectly place for cathing the light and the small boats floating around the village often make it a photographers’ paradise.
Around the corner is the beach proper, and a proper beach it is too. Flat sands stretching out for miles, in a seemingly endless curve that skirts another forest, Rosisle and rounds nicely into Burghead.
Locals make a bee-line for this beach in Spring and Summer, but you’ll never see it crowded.
The beach here is really an extension from Findhorn. There is nothing to mark one changing into the other except the presence of another woodland.
It’s a beautiful, sweeping flat sand with a high ridge bordered by trees. Like Culbin, the forest area has been diversified to attract families and adventurers. There’s a toilet block, barbecues, play equipment, but the beach is so close, you can’t visit one without the other.
It’s Forrestry Commission land, so well catered for in paths and signage, and there’s something history to be found, along the coast, such as the ice house, but the most interest part of Roseisle history is the military defence that streches from Findhorn Bay to Cullen.
Made up of concrete cubes, to prevent tanks taking advantages of a beach landing, they line the shore like a string of pearls. Here at Roseisle, they have been sitting undisturbed for more than 75 years, although they have sunk into the sand a little!.
Again, the beach at Burghead is a continuation of the curve from Findhorn, though Roseisle, but it has it’s own car park and access.
At Hopemen, we are treated to two beaches, east and west, separated by a small harbour. Both are a good size, flat with soft white sand. At both ends, the beaches are bound by rocky outcrops which makes them perfect for rockpools.
The east beach is notable for its colourful sting of beach huts. Fourty-four in total and each one uniquely and colourfully decorated. They’re often handed down from generation to generation and there’s a waiting list with more people on it than there are huts.
Tucked away between a golf course and a lighthouse is Covesea beach. Depending on which way you approach it, it’s a winding drive down a grassy track. The golf course here is one of Moray’s hidden gems, perhaps because it is perched on the edge of the sea, with golden sands below. The sand has more orange in it here, due to the sandstone, and if you do tear yourself away from the golf course, you can walk along the beach in the shadow of the Covsea lighthouse towering above.
Perhaps the most interesting part about this beach are the caves in the cliffs beliw the kighthouse where apparently people lived right up the 1950s.
Lossiemouth east and west
Once again, we have a choice of two beaches, and once again, they are split by a harbour. Lossiemouth’s west beach is accessible from Covesea, or from the car park at Moray Golf Club.
The east beach is absolutely stunning, particularly when viewed from the elevated crag of Prospect Terrace. The river Lossie meanders parallel to the dunes creating a mini-peninsula.
Lossiemouth gets the full force of the north sea and it’s often favoured by surfers due to the high waves that eventually coming crashing in to the shore.
This beach has charcter by the bucketload. The dune ridge is said to be made or railway carriages, put there many decades ago to stop the sandhills from wasting away. However,m if you compare old photos of the beach with new, they crumbling rapidly.
There’s also a fence deep;y embedded into the beach which serves no purpose, but makes a photogenci backdrop against the dunes.
The beach is access by a narrow metal bridge, but unfortunately, it has beem closed until a new one is built. There is a long way round, and if you have time you should take it. I means what’s the hurry?
It’s a beach, but certainly not sandy. The Spey empties here as you would imagine, and it’s a haven for birdlife and the headquarters for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, where they record sightings almost daily of dolphins, whales, birds, etc.
The beach is made of of pebbles. It’s not easy to walk on, but’s it’s remarkable bcause of it’s undulating mnature. The Spey has gouged out many channels
Portgordon, Buckie, Findochy, Portknockie
Four former fishing villages that have small beaches within their harbour walls. You woud’nt make a special trip to these for beach, but the harbours are pleasant places to stop. With the exception of Buckie, fishing boats have largely been replaced by pleasure craft.
The last stop on our coastal trail, and it’s a stunner. A long, wide stretch of golden sand, with a rock formation known as the ‘Three Kings’ protruding from the beach.
Cullen is an attractive, golden sandy beach to the west of the village of the same name. It overlooks Cullen Bay, which gives the waters here some degree of shelter from the strongest currents, making it a good beach for swimming and snorkelling.
The legend goes that the quartzite stacks are the gravestones of Norse Kings who died at the Battle of Bauds in 962.
Cullen beach is a popular beach, and another one close to a golf course.
As with many of the beaches along this coastline, dolphins can be spotted from the shore.