Not so long ago, if you had asked me what there is to do in and around Moffat, my meagre offering would only have extended to the Grey Mare's Tail Nature Reserve and the Woollen Mill, although personally I would give the Woollen Mill a miss unless you enjoy outdated tourist outlets which primarily cater for multiple coach parties.
This is shameful on my part as I pride myself on knowing most parts of Scotland reasonably well and I have travelled pretty extensively around most other areas of Dumfries and Galloway, a region that I have a real soft spot for. However, for some reason Moffat had fallen under my radar until recently. This is despite the fact that I visited frequently as a child and have happy memories of walks among the green, rolling hills. Perhaps grown up memories of coach stops at the aforementioned woollen mill are responsible for not leaving me with a burning desire to return to the town!
On a couple of recent return visits to South West Scotland, I was encouraged to factor more of Moffat in to my travel plans and I thank those locals that introduced me to the many gems in and around the town that reaffirmed my childhood love of the place and wiped out any notions of it as a mere tourist coach stop from a bygone era.
Hopefully my guide of recommended things to do in Moffat will in turn encourage you to spend a bit more time in the town which is brimming with history and friendly folk.
A guide to my recommended things to do in and around Moffat
You can find full details of all the places I recommend below and I've added them all to this handy map to help your planning.
Wander Moffat Town Centre
With free parking and a plentiful offering of independent businesses, including shops and cafes, Moffat High Street is a joy to explore. Many of the buildings have retained their historic character which adds to its attractive appeal. Some places of note to look out for as you walk around include Moffat Museum, the famous Moffat Toffee Shop, the Star Hotel (see below for more info), the oldest pharmacy in Scotland and the Moffat Ram, a bronze sculpture which sits on top of a fountain.
The sculpture was commissioned in 1875 to celebrate the town's long association with sheep farming and the wool trade. The sculptor of the ram was William Brodie who is probably best known for another of his statues, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. If you look closely, you will see that the ram has no ears, a mistake that was publicly pointed out at the unveiling ceremony to the rather embarrassed Brodie!
If you've worked up an appetite, I can recommend Brodies on Holm Street for something to eat.
Visit The Famous Star Hotel - the narrowest detached hotel in the world
Officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records - The Famous Star Hotel, which dates back to the late 1700s, is the narrowest hotel in the world. It is a mere 20 ft wide although thanks to its height and length it manages to pack in 8 en-suite bedrooms, 2 bars and a restaurant.
The distinctive tall, narrow building is found on the High Street and visiting it is a unique experience that should be on your Scotland bucket-list.
This post is part of a paid partnership with North East 250 to showcase the diversity along this scenic Scottish road route
Driving the North East 250
The beauty of Scotland, in my humble opinion, is the vast variety of scenery over relatively short distances. Over recent years, a number of bitesize road routes have sprung up around the country to showcase the diversity across various regions. I'll be honest though, I'm not always a fan of following streams of cars, motorbikes and campervans that bimble along the popular Scottish highways like a trail of ants. I've always been one that prefers to take the road less travelled when I have the option.
The North East 250 is a road route that ticks that box because despite traversing through some well trodden landscapes, it frequently navigates quieter roads and offers up many diversions that are well off the tourist trail. I recently spent 3 days exploring this route, often shortened to the NE250, and there was no shortage of variety in scenery or attractions. My itinerary options were countless but I tried to include an assortment of activities as an introduction to the wide array on offer. Of course, you might plan a completely different trip from me and that is the beauty of the North East 250, you can design a road trip that matches your own interests.
You can discover what I chose to include during my 3 day trip below and I've added in some of my other favourite things to do from previous visits to the area at the bottom of this blog in case you need some more inspiration.
What is the North East 250?
As the name might suggest, the North East 250 (or NE250) is a 250 mile circular road trip around the North East of Scotland, taking in the regions of Aberdeenshire and Moray from the city to the mountains and coast. As the route is circular, you could start at any point and travel clockwise or anti-clockwise - it is up to you.
I started at the Spittal of Glenshee and travelled clockwise - this is a good starting option for those travelling from Glasgow or Edinburgh and serves up a dramatic start to your adventure as the road rises up through a mountain pass that takes in the Devil's Elbow Viewpoint before reaching the Glenshee Ski Centre on the highest A road in the UK.
Dubbed 'The Ultimate Road Trip to the Heart of Scotland', the route takes in the mountains and forests of the Cairngorms National Park, the grand castles of Royal Deeside, the iconic whisky distilleries of Speyside, charming coastal villages, nature reserves brimming with wildlife and the granite city of Aberdeen.
North East 250 Route Map
You can follow the route that I took below, I've also marked the points of interest mentioned in this blog post. My North East 250 map is interactive so you can delve deeper if you wish.
A 3 day itinerary for the North East 250
This post is part of a paid partnership with Visit Angus
The Angus Tour
For those that don't know, the region of Angus is nestled on the east coast of Scotland just north of Dundee and south of Aberdeenshire. It extends from the scenic Angus glens in the west to sweeping beaches and rugged cliffs along its eastern fringes. The lush verdant landscape in-between is punctuated with grand castles and quaint towns.
Boasting such diversity over a relatively small area means most visitors will find a variety of activities to suit their interests without having to travel too far. To help narrow down and plan an itinerary tailored to your own preferences, Visit Angus have developed the Angus Tour which allows you to pick and choose from their suggested itineraries or design your own adventure.
What to do and where to eat on an adventure along the Angus coast
When I got the chance to plan my own Angus Tour, the stunning coastline was firmly on my radar, along with immersing myself in nature, exploring some lesser known history, discovering some hidden gems and eating all the local food - basically, all my favourite things to do!
I opted to spend my time between the main coastal towns of Montrose, Arbroath and Carnoustie. They are all fairly close to one another so it was easy to dip my toes in each town and stop by some other worthwhile gems along the way. I spent 2 days in Angus and rather than rushing around packing loads in to each day, I explored at a more leisurely pace, spending more time at fewer attractions, and to be honest, this is my preferred way to travel if I get the chance.
However, if you want to maximise your time, there are plenty more things to do in each of these Angus towns so I have listed everything that I got up to below, with a few more ideas thrown in for those of you looking to fill your itinerary with even more options.
What I got up to around Montrose
FOLLOWED ONE OF THE WALKING TRAILS AROUND MONTROSE BASIN
The town of Montrose is bordered by the North Sea on one side and a large tidal basin on the other. Designated as a nature reserve, Montrose Basin is home to a variety of wildlife all year round and attracts over 100,000 migratory birds during the winter.
I've visited a couple of times now and it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the town. A good starting point is The Scottish Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre with a café and panoramic views of the estuary. Staff are on hand to point out wildlife of note and provide access to telescopes and binoculars. This is also the place to pick up a leaflet detailing the numerous walking trails.
On this visit I opted to follow the Lurgie's Walk, starting at the Old Montrose Pier it is an easy walk of 2km each way. Although I could see the outline of the town across the water, all I could hear was bird song and the occasional splash of jumping fish. I was instantly transported to a world of bees and butterflies flitting around vivid purple thistles, and swans gliding across the glassy water. It felt a bit like I had stepped in to a fairy tale! Oh, and the best bit, I had it all to myself.
As this trip was largely about soaking up the scenery and nature of the Angus coast, I don't think I could have found a better place to while away an hour or two. I literally felt my stresses melt away as the sun warmed up my bones as I sat on a makeshift bench watching the insects and birds go about their business.
If you're visiting Montrose, take some time out to stop by the Basin and immerse yourself in nature, I can guarantee you will feel all the better for it!
VISITED LUNAN BAY AND THE RED CASTLE
For me, Lunan Bay is the most beautiful stretch of beach in Angus and I'm not alone in thinking that, every year it attracts a growing number of visitors. Miles of golden sand backed by towering grassy dunes and bookmarked by cliffs is overlooked by the ruins Red Castle creating a scene of beauty and drama.
Over the years I've walked along Lunan Bay on several occasions, usually finished off with some tea and cake in the café. This time I wandered from the beach viewpoint, along the road and up to the castle for breath-taking views and while this is still an undeniably pretty place, I was disappointed to come across the scorch marked remnants of a campfire and discarded toilet paper among the dunes, but I shouldn't have been surprised, like many parts of the country, a rise in popularity has created extra pressure on a fragile landscape and attracted some unfortunate anti-social behaviour
This post is part of a paid partnership with Scotland's Best B&Bs to showcase what makes their members so special
A short break in Portsoy, Scotland, with 3 suggested itineraries
Where to stay in Portsoy
Brandon Lodge Bed & Breakfast
I spent 2 nights at Brandon Lodge Bed and Breakfast, located in a quiet rural setting, just 3 miles from the historic harbour town of Portsoy in Aberdeenshire. Check out my recommended itineraries below to discover some of the best things to do in and around Portsoy.
Once comprising three linked stone cottages, Brandon Lodge has been converted into a beautiful and spacious home that reflects its heritage and coastal location. Surrounded by tranquil countryside, extensive views, bird song and curious deer that wander up the driveway - it is the perfect place for a relaxed getaway.
Despite feeling a world away from the stresses and noises of modern life, it is only a short detour from the main road and only a few miles from the picturesque harbour town of Portsoy, one of my favourite villages on the east coast. I could quite happily spend hours at the 17th century harbour watching the tide ebb and flow, an experience enhanced by some local ice-cream or a fish supper!
I need to give a special big shout out to owner, Lorna, for going above and beyond to meet my gluten free diet, not only did she put some gluten free biscuit bars on my hospitality tray to enjoy with my tea, and sourced items for my breakfast, she also baked some gluten free pancakes to welcome me on my arrival. Not only is this the first time a host has went to that extra effort for me, it turned out it was the first time she had ever made them which I would never have guessed as they were totally deeeeelicious - there was not a crumb left!
Lorna has created beautiful guest accommodation filled with gorgeous artwork and decorated in cool coastal colours - I LOVED the design of my room which was modern and light with shades of the ocean. I was also delighted to find the en-suite stocked with my favourite toiletries from The Scottish Fine Soap Company - Sea Kelp scented - the ideal products to complete a sea-themed stay.
Big fluffy towels and a plump mattress added a touch of luxurious comfort and I had no problem falling straight to sleep in my serene Aberdeenshire retreat.
Although the rooms don't have a TV, there is one in the guest sitting room where you can catch up on your favourite programmes or chill out in front of the fire with a book. There are only 2 guest rooms at Brandon Lodge so there is plenty of space for everyone.
I always let hosts know in advance that I’m gluten free as this lets them prepare some breakfast options which meant Lorna was able to offer me berries and yoghurt followed by a good choice of cooked items and toast.
I could tell you about how good my breakfast was – and it was! - however, the thing I appreciated the most was Lorna quickly getting to work in the kitchen to make sure I was well fed when I had to leave earlier than anticipated in the morning due to a family emergency. She also offered to cancel a dinner booking I had made at a local hotel that evening so I had less to worry about. Her genuine efforts to find ways to reduce my stress and keep me on an even keel when I was in a total tizz helped more than I can express in this blog post.
I've said it before but I feel the need to mention it again, my experience of the bed and breakfast accommodation on this trip was seriously impressive, every host went the extra mile to provide a high standard of personal service which is one of the reasons they are all handpicked members of Scotland's Best B&Bs. But it went beyond that, every host showed genuine warmth and I left every property feeling like I had made a new friend.
If you're planning a trip to Portsoy, I can absolutely recommend a stay with Lorna at Brandon Lodge.
Follow my Scotland travel adventures on social media
If you have found my blog useful and would like to support me in creating future Scottish travel content, you can by me a coffee on my Ko-fi page. All 'coffee' donations are hugely appreciated