Autumn travel: Stay and make the most of Moray
Findhorn Bay is a local nature reserve and is the largest of the north-east’s three estuaries. Throughout the season, more than 400 Redshank birds flock to the Moray Firth, and more than 1,000 Dunlin sandpipers can be seen.
Roe deer regularly visit the bay and visitors should keep an eye out for otters and grey seals. Moving inland, there are plenty of walking, cycling and horse trekking trails where wildlife can also be observed.
The Moray Way is a 100-mile loop combining the Dava Way, Moray Coast Trail and the Speyside Way.
The walk can be completed in three to nine days, and the diverse scenery along the way ensures the challenge is a worthwhile effort.
Culbin Forest, meanwhile, is a diverse coastal woodland with sand dunes, pines and birches.
Its Hill 99 trail is a moderate two-hour route with a viewing tower overlooking the Moray Firth.
Anyone interested in the town’s rich history should head to the Findhorn Heritage Centre and Icehouse, at North Shore.
The attraction tells the story of the area’s earliest residents and the lost Port of Findhorn, which was rediscovered in 2002 after 300 years.
The historic rose-tinted Brodie Castle, near Forres, has been the seat of the Brodie clan since the 12th Century.
Visitors can take guided tours and admire the collection of artworks from the 17th-Century Dutch Golden Age and Scottish Colourists.
For locally-made gifts and clothing, Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere Visitor Centre at Newmill, Elgin, has more than 200 years’ experience of crafting luxury garments and accessories.
There is an on-site restaurant which serves award-winning salmon, homemade soups and sandwiches.
Also in the Speyside town is Gordon and MacPhail South Street whisky shop, which offers more than 800 whiskies and five tasting experiences for up to 12 people – which would make a great gift for lovers of Scotland’s national drink.
Knockomie Inn, in Forres, is the ideal base for exploring Moray, and in autumn the hotel provides an inviting cosy atmosphere in which to enjoy a drink by its open fire.
The distinctive Arts and Craftsstyle building on the southern edge of the town offers 15 master, grand master and four poster bedrooms – each distinct from the other.
Gavin Ellis has owned the inn with his wife, Penny, for more than 34 years.
He says: “Findhorn is a small village on the Moray coast, 15 minutes from the hotel, and I think walking along the beach at this time of the year is glorious.
“As is a walk in the Culbin Forest. It is a very sheltered place to walk, and the Forestry Commision has done a fantastic job creating signposted routes there.”
This season, visitors to Knockomie Inn can enjoy a two-night Autumn Gold short break from £140 per room.
The offer runs until the end of next month, and is available from Tuesdays to Saturdays. It includes a bottle of prosecco in the room as well as a fortifying full Scottish breakfast to set up its guests for another day of exploring.
For more details, visit www.knockomie.co.uk