Burghead Visitor Guide 2021

October 22, 2020
Burghead Visitor Guide 2021

Burghead lies within the north-east of Scotland on the Moray coast, approximately 8 miles north-west of Elgin, mostly built on a peninsula that juts out into the Moray Firth the location enjoys a stunning beach and an impressive rocky shoreline.

The town is host to a popular holiday park consisting of static caravans and the location is jam-packed with history along with stunning forest and coastal walks. There are far-reaching views to be enjoyed on a clear day together with an amazing range of fauna, flora, bird life with opportunity to spot dolphins and seals playfully leaping out the water.

Burghead Town View from the visitor centre

History of Burghead

During the era of the Picts this location was a significant power base where the largest Pictish fort in existence thrived. During the 9th and 10th centuries the power was eventually taken from the Picts by Viking raiders.

When looking across the Moray Firth you wonder of the panic caused when Viking ships were spotted rowing ferociously towards the shore.

Burghead coast with Viking ship

Thirty bullstones have been found in the early 1800’s at the site that hosted the Pictish fort, however, today only six remain, one can be seen in the British Museum in London another in the National museum of Edinburgh, two in the Elgin Museum and another two in the Headland Trust visitor centre in Burghead itself.

The exodus of families caused by the Highland clearances prompted expansion of the town and the harbour was constructed in the early 1800’s. Stone taken from the great ramparts of the fort was used to build the harbour and new dwellings. Burghead then became a busy fishing and trading port.

The centre is a fascinating place to visit detailing the area history from around 400AD to present day. Once a coastguard lookout the building was constructed on the inner rampart of the old fort and provides stunning views on a clear day over the Moray Firth to the county of Caithness.

Burghead Visitor Centre

The Harvest Reaper

The Harvest Reaper is a fishing boat with a remarkable tale and can be found below the viewpoint. Set on the shore front and backed by the old fort embankment it lies in its final destination as a memory to all the brave souls of World War 11.

At 11.20 on the 29th April 1946 a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Firely aircraft (MB734), flying out of the Naval Air Station Rattray got into difficultieds 6 miles NNE oof the coast of Fraserburgh, lost power and ditched near the Harvest Reaper, breaking off her mast. Sadly, despite the best efforts of the ship’s crew, the pilkot of the Firefly perished.

The pilot was Temporary Sub-Lieutentant Kenneth David Williams, aged 20, born Liverpool.

The Harvest Reaper stands as a monument to Burghead’s fishing heritage she was a 45 foot long, Fyfie design fishing boat built of larch and oak at Wilson (Cockie) Noble’s yard in Fraserburgh in 1931. She was powered by a Kelvin Recardo deisel engine. The Harvest Reaper fished from Fraserburgh using small-line, great-line and drift net.

Her skipper and owner was John Dowie Mey untill 1965, when his son Jim Mey took the helm. Later she was sold to new owners in Macduff.

She arrived at her final destination at Burghead in 2015.

Harvest Reaper Burghead

Burghead West Beach

At Burghead beach low tide you can spot large areas of peat that are exposed with the receding tide, within the peat are roots and trunks of trees. The peat is thousands of years old, going back to a time when sea levels were much lower than they are now due to the ice age and the melting of huge glaciers.

During the second World War the beach was a hive of activity with the armed forces training for the Allied landings of Normandy. Pillboxes and concrete tank traps were also built to hinder invasion. These remain today and help preserve the sand dunes.

Burghead Beach when the tide is out

Burghead Harbour

The harbour you now see at Burghead was built in 1818, large sections of the old Pictish fort were used in its construction. It was known in the 19th century as one of the deepest and safest harbours in northern Scotland and if you visit on a stormy day you will notice how well the sea defences work.

Burghead harbour stormy sea

In the 1920’s over 1,000 boats gathered in the area during the herring season, trains would arrive at the harbour to load and uload goods. Although the pasenger sevice on this railway track ended in 1931, remarkably trains ran till as late as 1992 delivering grain the Burghead maltings.

Today Burghead is still a working harbour with an active operational base for a number of inshore vessels that are engaged mainly in the squid and shellfish fishing. Larger ships arrive occasionally to collect stone, wood or grain, and during the summer months the odd yacht or other small craft will arrive to sample the delights of this area of the Moray Firth.

Fishing boat arriving at Burghead harbour

You can drive to the harbour or walk down from the Main Street. There is also a pathway from the viewpoint, however, it is a bit precarious, steep and exposed, not suitable for the infirm or unattended children.

It provides amazing views over the Moray Firth and if the weather conditions are right this spot provides stunning sunsets.

Sunset at Burghead Harhour
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By Allan

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