When I stayed in Forres at the beginning of the year, I quickly realised just how many fascinating historical sites there are in the Moray area. Pictish stones, castles galore, Jacobite connections, quirky museums, Macbeth country, heritage whisky distilleries and a ruined yet still very impressive cathedral are just some of the diverse historical gems that drew me back a few months later. There are just so many historical attractions to visit in Moray that one visit just isn't enough, and as I have now found out, two visits aren't enough either as I still haven't made it to lots of historical places in the area, including Cawdor Castle which doesn't reopen until May and is still top of my list for next time.
However, I did manage to cover a lot of ground during both my stays and wanted to share with you 12 of the historical sites that I discovered in Moray which I think are worth a visit.
1. Elgin Catherdral
Scotland has more than its fair share of ruins, some hardly worth a mention and others, like Elgin Cathedral, which are well worth exploring. As ruins go, this medieval cathedral has lots to offer. What remains of the structure is impressive enough but for me the highlight is the large display of carved stones. I haven't come across a collection as magnificent as this anywhere else in Scotland and I was particularly spellbound with the lifelike detail of the faces.
Another unique display in Elgin Cathedral which I love is the effigy of Bishop Archibald, brought back to its former colourful glory with clever lighting effects.
As with all good Historic Scotland ruins there is a tower to climb which offers a rooftop perspective of the cathedral and open views across Elgin and beyond.
If you didn't know the history of Burghead before you arrived, you could mistakenly assume it is nothing more than a sleepy coastal village but you couldn't be more wrong. This is a village bursting with significant history and most of it is well hidden unless you know where to look. This unassuming place once held a strategic position of power, being surrounded by the sea on three sides made it an ideal location for what is reputed to have once been the largest Iron Age fort in Britain. Subsequently it was a site of significant power for the Northern Picts and later it was captured by Sigurd the Powerful, the Norse Earl of Orkney.
Burghead Fort is the only Pictish fort where bullstones have been found and you can view two of them in the tiny the heritage centre along with a model of what the fort might have looked like. You can also pick up the key for the mysterious Burghead Well from here (or the Bothy Bistro if the centre is shut). The main purpose of this man-made sunken pool is unknown although objects found within, including carved stones and a metal jug, have led to various theories including it being used as a shrine, a Christian baptistery and even a place for ritual executions. I recommend taking a torch if you want to look inside.
I suggest doing some local history research before visiting Burghead to fully appreciate just how important this area once was and you might even end up becoming as captivated by Burghead as I am!
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