Coastal Walk: Forres to Culbin
Date: Friday 26th September 2014
Company: Myself and Cuillin
Distance: 29.4km, Ascent: 195m
Time: 6Hrs 40Mins
My original plan for today was to head to the Northern Cairngorms.
However as it was very windy, even at road level, I decided to undertake a coastal walk instead. I therefore drove to Forres to walk along the Findhorn River to reach the coast and then continue
along the coast towards Nairn. All going well I hoped to walk as far as Nairn but had several potential exit points into Culbin Forest should I wish to shorten the walk.
I parked at the edge of Forres with the intention of walking the East side of the river and crossing
over at the Broom of Moy bridge. However, due to Forres flood alleviation scheme works my intended route was closed off. I therefore set off along the A96 to cross the River Findhorn at Findhorn
River Findhorn looking towards Findhorn Bridge:
As I walked along the A96, I passed a memorial to No. 19 Operational Training
Unit - RAF Forres and RAF Kinloss Bomber Command during WWII. Behind the
memorial is a "Bervie" chipper. 15-20 years ago the original Bervie chipper in
Inverbervie was very good.
A short distance beyond the memorial I dropped down to walk alongside the river.
I ascended back to the A96 on reaching Findhorn bridge.
Cuillin at Findhorn Bridge:
River Findhorn from Findhorn Bridge:
After crossing Findhorn bridge, I dropped back down to the riverside before
starting to walk back along the West side of the river.
Below Findhorn Bridge:
I followed an excellent track alongside the river passing both the railway bridge and the Broom of Moy bridge.
Walking alongside the River Findhorn towards Railway Bridge:
Looking back to Broom of Moy Bridge:
Beyond the bridges I followed a vehicle track running alongside the river. On reaching a track junction I took the track signed "Sea Pool".
As I continued alongside the River Findhorn, I realised that I had a burn/river to the West that I would need to cross. However given I was following such a good vehicle track I wondered if it might continue on with an unmarked bridge somewhere ahead.
Fat chance! The track ended abruptly at a lovely viewpoint of the River Findhorn.
River Findhorn from end of track:
Instead of walking back one or two kilometres, I crossed through a field heading towards the Muckle Burn hoping that it would be easy to cross. If not, I would have to follow the burn to reach the bridge beside Earnhill Farm.
Through a field towards Muckle Burn:
On seeing the Muckle burn, I realised I would need to use the bridge!
Once onto the road, I made much quicker progress towards Findhorn Bay. I passed Wellside Farm, Laich of Moy and Binsness.
Once into Culbin Forest, I used Viewranger to ensure I was following the correct forest tracks.
In Culbin Forest beyond Binsness:
Without the detour at the beginning of the walk, and the retreat to get across the Muckle Burn, I had estimated that it would be 8km to Findhorn Bay. According to Viewranger I had already walked 13km just to reach the
start of the coast.
It was nice to look across to the lovely village of
Findhorn. Findhorn was only a couple of hundred metres distant and yet I had walked possibly 25km or more to get around the bay.
Looking across Findhorn Bay to Findhorn:
Findhorn across Findhorn Bay panorama:
On starting to walk along the beach, I soon realised that I had made a schoolboy error. Had I checked the wind direction, I would have realised that I would be walking straight into the wind. If I had started at Nairn, the wind would have been at my back.
Both myself and Cuillin struggled to see as we walked along the beach as sand was getting blasted into our faces and eyes.
Culbin Forest coast:
Looking back towards Findhorn:
However, the strong wind was momentarily forgotten when I noticed at least 100 seals basking next to the sea.
To fit all the seals into one picture I had to stitch five photos together.
>100 seals on the beach:
After taking several photos of the seals, I decided to charge at them to see what would happen. I did the same on encountering circa 100 stags in 2009 and the result was an excellent photo.
I wasn't sure if the seals would charge at me in return or back off.
They backed off straight into the sea.
What happens if you charge at them:
A short distance beyond the seals, I saw a large flock of Oystercatcher.
Oystercatchers in flight:
Walking along the beach:
After walking circa 3km along the beach, I stopped at a clearing where there was
the remains of a campfire. I think I know a group of kayakers who had a bit of a
party and set up camp here
Beyond the campfire, someone had constructed some kind of shelter from bits of wood. I suspect this was either Ray Mears or JG?
Has Ray Mears been here?:
Looking back along coast (Burghead visible in distance):
After walking another couple of kilometres, I realised that it was almost high
tide and that I was potentially running out of beach. On looking at the map, I
could see that I would need to cross over the dunes and across an area of marsh.
Walking along the coast:
Heading across the dunes to reach the mud flats:
After crossing the dunes, I had to take my trainers and socks off to cross seawater that was flowing into the mud flats.
Shoes and socks off to get across this one:
In the short time it took to cross the stretch of water, I realised that I had
to move quickly as this whole area was potentially going to flood.
Crossing the mud flats:
As I crossed the mud flats, I spotted a house located on a small island right in the middle of the mud flats.
House on small island in mud flats:
I was correct to have been concerned about crossing the mud flats quickly as they do flood at high tide!
High tide starting to cover the mud flats:
Due to high tide, I could not continue any further along the coast. I therefore headed into Culbin forest making my way towards a trig point that I had spotted on the map.
Into Culbin Forest:
I was really glad to have made my way to the trig point as next to the trig point is a viewing tower that can be ascended to get views across the forest.
At the 29m trig point in Culbin Forest:
Viewing Tower next to the trig point:
Looking back to the beach from the top of the viewing tower:
After ascending and descending the tower, I made my way out of the forest towards the Wellhill car park. I will likely come back to this car park at low tide to continue along the next stretch of coast.
Culbin Forest Wellhill car park:
I made my way towards Kintessack where I sighed on seeing a sign advising a further 4 miles to Forres.
My feet were already really sore due to beach sand in my trainers, Had I taken my trainers off and looked at my feet I would have realised that they were sore because I had two 1.5" blisters on the soles of my feet
I tried to pick as direct a route back as possible and took advantage of a small bridge over the Muckle burn.
Cuillin next to the bridge over the Muckle Burn:
The walk back along the road was really pleasant with lots of Hawthorn, Horse Chestnut, Brambles, Rosehips, etc. I collected a number of conkers for Becky.
On eventually reaching the car I could see that we had walked 29.4km
distance to do about 5km of coast. A really good walk though with lots of
interesting terrain. Seeing the seals was the highlight of the day