Visit Burghead and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Burghead, Moray. This little town, on the promontory that marks the extreme western tip of the northernmost “bulge” on the southern shores of the Moray Firth, was laid Out in the first years of the 19th century. It has many claims to attention. It is the home of the Outward Bound Moray Sea School, where boys from all over Britain and from abroad discover the thrills of adventurous team-work. It is also the site of the fire festival known as the Burning of the Clavie, which is held annually on the 11th of January at this, the place of so many remarkable discoveries. Pictish sculptured stones bearing incised bulls, a mysterious “Roman” well, and an elaborate ancient fort on the headland that is sometimes identified as the Ptoroton of the Romans and sometimes as the Torfness of the Vikings.
The two things that must be seen at Burghead are the view from the cliff-top, with its great grassy plateau within the foundations of the ancient fort, and the characterful waterfront of the harbour. The view from the headland is of the great curving sweep of Burghead Bay, which extends South West to Findhorn and the Culbin Sands, now very largely a Forestry Commission plantation, while on the northern horizon are the mountains of Sutherland and the Ord of Caithness.
At the landward end of the cliff-top plateau is the smoke-blackened Dourie Pillar, a 19th century freestone erection on which the Clavie is enthroned during the Aul Eel ceremony, which itself appears to have been carried on for at least 300 years. The Clavie is made from half a tar-barrel fixed to a stout shaft 5 ft long by a hand-wrought nail hammered in with a stone. At six o'clock precisely on the evening of the 11th of January, it is lit at the Manse Wall of the old United Presbyterian church with a peat from a household fire by the Clavie King. Then follows the march around the burgh to the Dourie Hill — from which, after blazing with glorious vigour, it is felled, to cascade in fiery wreckage down the grassy slope. The embers, treasured as keepsakes and sent to “exiled” Burgheadians all over the world, are known as “witches”.
Off a quiet street on the headland, and under a hill-slope, is the remarkable well that was rediscovered in 1809. A stair excavated in the solid rock leads down to a chamber 11 ft high, with a well or cistern, almost square and 4 ft deep, cut into the floor. Round the cistern runs a stone ledge 4 ft wide with a raised seat or “altar” at one corner. The entire cavity is cut out of solid rock. It has been suggested that the present roof, a lofty “Roman” arch built by William Young of Inverugie in 1810, replaces a medieval vaulted ceiling carved from the rock.
The fort on the headland is not now so complete as it was down to the end of the 18th century. The northern part of Burghead promontory was then divided into two unequal terraces with a total area of more than four acres. Both were surrounded by ramparts of stone and earthwork varying from 7 to 20 ft high. The ramparts on the inner side, known as the Broch Briggs, were demolished in 1805 when the joint proprietors of Burghead swept away the old fishing village on the site and were building the modern town.
Nearby towns: Elgin, Forres, Lossiemouth
Nearby villages: Alves, Cummingston, Duffus, Dyke, Findhorn, Fogwatt, Hopeman, Kinloss, Lhanbryde, Longmorn, Rafford
Have you decided to visit Burghead or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Burghead bed and breakfast (a Burghead B&B or Burghead b and b)
- a Burghead guesthouse
- a Burghead hotel (or motel)
- a Burghead self-catering establishment, or
- other Burghead accommodation