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Distilleries and military bases on Moray coast cycle route

By Peter Evans

Moray has a long association with the military, with bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth, and the link has been vitally important to the local economy.

That came under threat in 2010 when both bases faced the axe in an MoD purge. But after a public outcry and well-organised campaign, Lossiemouth was saved as an air base, while the Royal Engineers moved into Kinloss.

This road route passes both bases, a number of distilleries and a Benedictine monastery for good measure.

It begins in Forres at the Nelson Tower car park with a ride west along the main street, making a right turn into Gordon Street. Turn left over a bridge across the burn then right on a narrow link to the A96, crossing it and the footbridge over the railway line. A short way further on the sign for Sustrans Cycle Route 1, to Kinloss and Elgin, appears.

If you wanted to be caught drunk in charge of a bicycle (not recommended by the way) you could easily do so in Moray, and the next stage of my ride took me past the first of many distilleries, Benromach, then along a quiet rural road.

It rounds the head of Findhorn Bay – a local nature reserve – to reach a junction, where I turned left on the B9089, passing the army base at Kinloss.

Further on, outdoor-reared pigs lazed in the dirt as I rode on past Roseisle Maltings and Distillery, the largest ever built at a cost of £40 million, in 2010.

Just after this the route goes left, staying on the B9089 signed for Burghead. A short incline brings you to the B9013 and a left turn, followed by a right on the outskirts of Burghead at a sign for Lossiemouth, on the B9040.

The road passes through the pretty village of Hopeman, before Lossiemouth and the air base come into view. Keeping straight on, the road reaches the A941 at the harbour, where I turned right.

With the sun full out, I treated myself to a half-hour break on a bench at the East Beach, watching a small band of surfers while I ate lunch, and cringed as a couple of Typhoon jets thundered into the sky from the air base.

Saddled up again, I took the main road out of town to turn left on the B9103 signed to Fochabers, continuing for some way to reach the A96. With traffic flowing relentlessly in both directions, it was a while before I could cross to rejoin the B9103, so patience is definitely a virtue here.

A staggered junction soon appears where our route goes right, towards the wonderfully named Fogwatt and another distillery, Glen Elgin.

Leaving Fogwatt I turned right on the A941 then next left on an unclassified road, making for Thomshill. The route gets a little complicated now so watch the rights and lefts. At a T-junction I turned right, past distillery number four – Glenlossie – and through Thomshill.

Take the next left and follow the road to a junction, going left again to cross a narrow bridge over the River Lossie, then turn right along the B9010. In less than a kilometre, a road on the left is signed to Manbeen and Miltonduff, which has yet another distillery.

At a T-junction after the village I turned left on the final stretch back to Forres, stopping for a while on a bench outside Pluscarden village hall. The attractive, green painted hall bears the same name as the Benedictine monastery further on.

After the turning for the monastery I braced myself for a long, steady climb up to Hazelbank. But what goes up must come down and I enjoyed a fast descent to a junction with the B9010, turning right for Forres, eight kilometres away, through Rafford.

  • This route is one of 30 in a new guidebook by Alasdair Cain from Mica Publishing. With rides from the Borders to the Hebrides, it's the second book Alasdair, who lives in Kingussie, has produced, following the success of the first. Scottish Cycle Routes Volume 2 can be bought for under £11 online, and if you want the first volume there are deals for both.

Route details

Moray bike circuit

Distance 47 miles / 75km

Terrain Mixture of A, B and unmarked roads

Start/finish Nelson Tower car park, Forres

Maps OS Landranger 27 (Nairn and Forres) & 28 (Elgin and Dufftown)

A largely level circuit (with one exception) taking in coast and countryside

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