Thursday, 16 May 2013

Hostelling on the Moray Firth

The one truism about Scottish Independent Hostels is that every member hostel is unique and that they are run by people who are passionate about their particular beautiful part of Scotland.  One of our newest members introduces us to Findhorn and its new Village Hostel
Lying on the Moray Firth with the bay hanging like a blue pearl from the rest of the coastline, the village of Findhorn has in the past been an important port, a salmon fishing station and latterly a popular holiday destination. The Hostel is located in the heart of Findhorn.  Once the village school, (it was closed as a school in 1965), the building was eventually  taken over by a body of local people who transformed it into the Hostel it is now.  It is ideal for groups or individuals, with 2 spacious dormitories each sleeping 12 people and 2 twin rooms, ideal for group leaders or individuals. Bedding can be provided or guests can use their own sleeping bags.   There is a very large communal room with ample cooking and kitchen facilities or guests can choose to eat at the 2 pubs in the village: The Kimberley known for its good food and once the holder of The Telegraph’s Best Fish and Chips in Scotland Award and The Crown and Anchor . 

Feel part of the Findhorn Community
Hostel guests are encouraged to get involved with the local community. Attached to the Hostel is Muirtown House which houses 2 conference rooms, a library, a small business and community gardens.  The conference rooms can be booked for various activities and currently host pilates, art clubs, mother and toddler groups, knitting and sewing clubs etc with most of these groups welcoming Hostel guests.   There are ample opportunities to take part in local outdoor activities, especially on the water; for instance sailing or kayaking on beautiful Findhorn bay.  Lessons are available in the Findhorn Yacht Club and the Marina. Findhorn is also the home of "The Moray Gig", a replica of an 18th century captain’s gig and the only boat of her type in Scotland.  This can be seen out sailing / rowing 2-3 times a week from April to October.The Marina also has a water taxi which offers trips to the Culbin Sands for the opportunity for a coastal walk.  The bay is a safe area for children to play, making sand castles, hunting for shells and paddling or swimming in the sea.  The Moray Firth shore is for more confident swimmers and there is fun to be had in the waves on which you can body surf back onto the beach. Of course you can always relax just looking out to sea dreaming of times past when boats sailed into Findhorn harbour and the trains came down to the piers to collect the cargo. A recommended walk is the 5 to 6 mile walk east to Burghead, an ancient Pictish Hill Fort with a lovely harbour and a small town to explore.    

Wildlife in the waters
Findhorn is ideal for bird and mammal spotting and watching, the Moray Firth has resident populations of dolphin which can often be seen cavorting and breaching in the waters giving an extraordinary display.  Occasionally Basking Sharks are seen in the Firth along with Minke Whale and Orca Killer Whales.  The point at Findhorn is home to up to 300 seals and these can be seen swimming in the bay. 

A centre for exploring the Moray Firth  
Due to the mild climate and the long daylight hours in May, June and July, Findhorn is a delightful place to visit.   On the south coast of the Moray Firth you have easy access to Inverness if arriving by bus, train or air, if coming by car the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness will take you to Forres and then it is just 5 miles to Findhorn.  There are buses to take you to some of the other interesting towns and villages along the coast such as Nairn, Burghead, Hopeman, Lossiemouth and Elgin.

A little bit of history
This is in fact the latest village by the name of Findhorn with others in the past having been destroyed by the elements.  A previous village of Findhorn was lost to the sea in 1701 when the river Findhorn changed course and broke through the sand bar on which it was situated.  Fortunately the big trading ships were still able to get into the new village piers and commerce flourished. In 1860 a railway to take the goods from the piers to Kinloss and then Forres was commissioned but sadly this was proved uneconomical and lasted for barely 9 years.  Signs can still been seen of the track base, embankment and railway sheds. Since the early 1900’s large vessels were no longer able to get into the bay due to the constant silting up and the role of Findhorn as a port was over and with it the connections to The Baltic and Low Countries.  By the 1980's the commercial salmon fishing companies were also gone.

Findhorn’s latest incarnation is now as a popular holiday spot.  Findhorn Bay is a sheltered haven for learning the ropes in yachting, kayaking, windsurfing and other water sports.  It is also a nature reserve with many species of water birds and mammals to be seen. The village also has a splendid Heritage Centre, unusually contained in Bothy Huts and an Ice House telling the fascinating history of Findhorn.

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