If you’re staycationing this year, then Moray may be just what you’re looking for. Temperature wise, it’s not exactly Mauritius, but it does have its own microclimate, which means that it’s often warmer and sunnier than the rest of the country. As it’s just sixty miles from Aberdeen, the kids don’t have time to get fractious in the back of the car and there’s lots to do and see.
What to do
Moray is great for antique hunting, with sizeable selections at Auldearn near Nairn and in Cullen. It’s also home to some of Scotland’s best distilleries and many have visitors’ centres and tasting tours. There’s even a Malt Whisky Trail.
If you’d prefer to stay sober, then there are some great walks and hiking routes throughout the region. The disused railway line from Hopeman to Burghead makes for a pleasant afternoon stroll, while the Cairngorms offer a heaven for Munro baggers, walkers, climbers and mountain bikers.
If you prefer four wheels to two and don’t mind unknotting your hair afterwards, try hiring a Caterham from Highland Caterham Hire. Alternatively, the Moray Motor Museum may provide a more sedate automotive treat.
Moray also has its fair share of destination shopping, including Deskford Galleries and Gardens near Cullen, Logie Steading and Brodie Countryfare. You’ll find Walker’s Shortbread in Aberlour, a pretty village that’s home to a Victorian orphanage, some superb fly fishing, the UK’s oldest working woollen mill and a distillery.
The coast is dotted with excellent beaches. Try Nairn, Lossiemouth or the spiritual mecca of Findhorn for a bit of beachcombing or dolphin spotting. You can also visit the WDC Dolphin Centre to find out more about whale and dolphin conservation.
Elgin offers the chance to potter round the ruins of the cathedral and pop into cashmere specialists Johnston’s of Elgin factory shop or visit Gordon
& MacPhail’s Whisky Shop.
If you fancy an action-oriented day trip, then Aviemore is close by. There’s a large activity centre and companies offering everything from off-road experiences to canyoning, kart racing, a steam train and river rafting. The Highland Wildlife Park is around 8 miles south of the village or you could arrange a visit to see the reindeer at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre.
Where to stay
This year, it may be a case of taking whatever you can find that offers availability. If you’re looking for a high-end stay, Nairn’s Boath House offers luxury accommodation, excellent dining and a great spa. There are a host of glamping options and rental cottages that will suit families.
Where to eat
You can’t really have a seaside holiday without eating fish and chips out of the paper while you watch the waves and duck the seagulls, so head to Portknockie Fish and Chip Shop, which locals reckon to be the best.
If you take a trip on the Keith to Dufftown Railway’s heritage trains or you’re exploring the local distilleries, then the converted railway carriages of the Sidings Café at Dufftown Station make a great lunch or afternoon tea stop. Dufftown is also home to The Seven Stills, which has a great reputation for gourmet pub food. Think a French-tinged approach using the best local seasonal ingredients.
Cullen’s Rockpool Café offers a legendary Cullen Skink and superb fish dishes and substantial salads. Good cakes too, but there’s the option of heading over to the Ice Cream Shop which offers amazing ice cream treats and a huge selection of old-fashioned confectionary.
If you prefer something healthier, then head to Manna in Elgin. You’ll find it tucked away on Batchen Street, but worth seeking out for delicious juices and healthy choices including veggie and vegan meals.