Long-distance walks are a good alternative to hillwalking when the weather isn’t favourable for the latter. That was certainly the case when I decided early on the Monday morning to walk two section of the Moray Coast Trail between Forres and Lossiemouth. A friend of mine kindly provided transport from the western outskirts of Lossiemouth to Sueno’s Stone in the eastern outskirts of Forres. There my fellow-walker, Pole the dog and I started our hike – which technically was a return to my car left far away in Lossiemouth.
From Sueno’s Stone – which is a Pictish carved obelisk – we crossed over the busy A96 via a footbridge and followed a joint cycle/walking path running alongside the road to the village of Kinloss. It turned out to be a very busy and noisy road – not something I would expect from a day-off walk. With every vehicle passing by I craved more and more to part with such an unpleasant addition to the otherwise pleasant walk. It happened at the crossroads in Kinloss where we turned towards the village of Findhorn. The trail ran alongside the road, but the traffic was much lighter and our walk became much quieter and more pleasant. On the other side of the road, behind the fence of the former RAF Base (now Army Barracks) I found a stationary maritime surveillance aircraft Nimrod, retired a few years ago and never replaced since. Just before midday we reached the village of Findhorn, where my attention was drawn to a free-standing board with an inscription that read ‘Local Seafood.’ The place was so friendly that I was allowed to take my dog in – it doesn’t happen too often. I was actually planning to sit outside; it was the very kind staff at the Kimberley Inn telling me to bring my dog with me.
After a very tasty lunch we hit the road going towards the distant village of Burghead. Because of the low tide I decided to walk on the sandy beach rather than the original trail a bit higher up. Initially we came across a number of people walking there, some with their dogs, but the further away from Findhorn we walked the emptier the beach became. The distant outline of Burghead beckoned, but despite relatively good pace it seemed we weren’t making much progress. Mainly because we were walking along a semi-circular eastern coast. Going in straight line would have been shorter, but the water was far too deep…
During that seemingly infinite walk I developed a great desire for coffee, preferably accompanied by tasty ice cream. A quick look on the Internet revealed the existence of a promising local establishment in Burghead where my wish might have come true. We found The Bothy, a very nice coffee shop with an outdoor section at its back. The staff were very friendly, the coffee and ice cream delicious. After such a pleasant refreshment we returned to the trail, went around a malting factory and followed a former railway line turned tarmacked pathway towards the village of Hopeman. The weather was slowly deteriorating and it was completely overcast when we got into the harbour in Hopeman.
The most challenging part of the entire trail was ahead of us. Initially running along the sandy beach, but then winding up the cliff towards the far end of the local golf course. The path was narrow, steep and overgrown at places. From the golf course the path led us to a dirt track, the access road to a local quarry. The trail left that track a couple of hundred yards later, turning right into the top of the cliff, covered with unpassable thorn bushes. A narrow and winding path was the only way forward towards the former watch tower on the clifftop visible from the distance. We soon reached it but didn’t stop there; we were running out of time and we were chased by rain clearly visible behind us.
Some time later we reached the long sandy Covesea Beach stretching towards the lighthouse and beyond. We were near the lighthouse when eventually the rain caught up with us; from there it kept us company all the way to my car. In order to get there, we had to cross the golf course; because of the rain and twilight I didn’t expect to see any players, so I was a bit surprised to come across a determined few. Without interrupting their game, we successfully got back to my car and hit the road heading back home.