Moray Speyside offers glorious family holiday with not a dram in sight
“MENTION Moray Speyside to most people and they think of one thing – whisky ,” smiles Will Hall of Wild Things, as he peels seaweed from a rock and pops it on our beach campfire. “But these days there is so much more for active families to enjoy in this clean, green, spectacular corner of Scotland.”
I love my Speyside malts, but within minutes of arriving in Moray Speyside I am a convert to family holidays here.
Our bolthole, an eco chalet at Findhorn Bay Holiday Park, is powered by wind turbines, and my teen daughter Tara and her 11-year-old sister Emma are fascinated that our poo won’t be flushed away, but recycled in their “Living Machine”.
The wooden chalet is spacious and comfy, with a large living area, a solid oak table and a balcony peering out over the wading birds of Findhorn Bay.
After proper Neapolitan pizza with hand-kneaded dough from La Boheme just across from the chalet, we set off wandering through the picturesque wee village of Findhorn in search of the Moray Firth. We find it and a row of pastel-hued beach huts that look more English Riviera than Moray Speyside.
The sands are glorious, stretching for miles. We ease along as our shadows lengthen and meet some new friends – inquisitive seals popping their heads up just metres away. We even catch sight of the dorsal fin of one of the local dolphin pod, the most northerly and largest bottlenose dolphins in the world.
The next day we meet Will bright and early to get closer to nature. He explains that they use tourism as a force for good, reinvesting proceeds from tours in award-winning environmental educational charity Wild Things.
We wander along a new section of a walking and cycle route connecting Burghead and Hopeman – green initiatives abound in Moray Speyside – and eke down a narrow cliff to a rocky beach dominated by a hulking rock stack. Will helps us forage for whelks and seaweed and to light a fire using local thistle wool and flint and steel. The kids are fascinated and my inner Bear Grylls is stirring.
The adrenalin kicks up a notch in the afternoon when Callum Lewis of ACE Adventures has us suited and booted with smiles on our faces, all set to tackle the rapids of the River Findhorn whitewater rafting. Soon we are off easing through the hulking trees before the real action starts.
We soar through the Dragon’s Tooth and battle around Carnage Corner, only stopping for cliff-jumping into the chill, peaty water.
It’s a thrilling experience and a world-class one according to Callum: “I’ve rafted in Canada, Japan and New Zealand, and the diverse watersports experiences here in such a compact area are hard to beat.”
The kids are rosy-cheeked and starving, so we stop at the Mosset Tavern in Forres, where a warm welcome awaits with local prawns and scampi. A ghost tour afterwards led by Lynda Dean – a self-styled Whyte Witch – tempts just along the A96 in Elgin. The kids go goggle-eyed at tales of ghostly happenings, while daddy is glued to a vivid account of the Red Coats marching through en route to Culloden.
On our last day we stroll from our chalet into the Findhorn Foundation and the Findhorn Ecovillage, which have always fascinated me.
We receive a warm welcome at the Phoenix Cafe and while away a few hours here wandering around, checking out the weird and wacky sustainable homes and the rich gardens and forest. It offers a snippet of other ways of living, fleshing out some of the environmental issues that my girls hear so much about at school.
Last but certainly not least is a visit to Brodie Castle. Brodie had already come to us in the form of Brodie Countryfare, who we’d secured a hamper from to enjoy at our eco chalet. The foodie treats swept from Scottish cheeses to Scotch eggs, on to chutneys and Windswept Brewery ales from neighbouring Lossiemouth. All of it was fresh, of sound provenance and utterly delicious.
I’d never visited Brodie Castle and still haven’t. Instead, we immerse ourselves in the Playful Garden with its wealth of senses-tingling touchy-feely fun, from giant xylophones to islands you have to hop over to. We sweep around the adventure playground, savour giant cakes in the cafe and stroll through the woodland trail around a large bird-dappled pond. It’s a fittingly bucolic end to an active family break in Moray Speyside that brings us closer to nature. And closer to each other, with not a dram in sight. Slainte!
For more information see www.morayspeyside.com.
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