Things to Do in Moray Speyside with Kids – Visit Somewhere Family Friendly – Moray Speyside, with its miles of sweeping coastline, offers windswept beach holidays and coastal adventures. AD/Affiliate Links
Tucked between the nearest cities of Aberdeen and Inverness, Moray Speyside runs along the coast from Cullen to beyond Findhorn, then deep inland beyond Tomintoul. The region’s renowned for whisky (think Speyside!) but there’s a lot of family friendly activities to try too. Let’s start with the beaches.
Our Favourite Beaches
The fascinating community at Findhorn stands out from the crowd. And the beach is a cracker too. It’s also a great place to spot seals basking in the sun. We’ve spent many a happy hour in Findhorn, you can pick up great food (especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan), and see sustainable and environmental living in practise, so read the full write up here.
For a beautiful walk through a picture-postcard town, right along to the photogenic viaduct, Cullen is an attractive option. We even managed it with a buggy.
A pebbly beach here, but the kids had a blast. We’d usually drop by the Scotland Dolphin Centre for its wildlife info and some potential dolphin spotting. It usually offers a tour of the UK’s largest ice house, but right now it’s open as a takeaway café only. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
What to Do
HISTORY – If you’re into your history – from food and drink, to textiles, castles and museums – then click here.
When it comes to days out I’ve tried to share the latest Covid-19 info, but this can change in a heartbeat, so double check each site’s website for updates before heading off. And be sure to prebook tickets as required. Oh, and have fun!
Brodie Castle Playful Garden, Brodie, nr Forres
The Playful Garden – OPEN. The headline attraction is a GIGANTIC bunny to climb on. It’s so wondrous and unexpected that kids gravitate towards it in an instant. This innovative space contains a mix of installations allowing kids to experiment with sounds and visuals, as well as running, jumping and splashing. It’s very quirky, and it’ll be open 1 Aug–25 Oct, Wed–Sun, 10.00–16.00.
There will be a mobile catering unit inside the Playful Garden selling hot and cold drinks and sweet treats. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food/picnic into the Playful Garden or the grounds. The indoor soft play remains closed for the time-being.
The castle itself won’t reopen till 2021, but whilst the tours are interesting we did feel they were aimed at adults and older children so, instead, take the opportunity to explore the grounds for free. The grounds are open daily, and in Spring they’re renowned for over 400 species of daffodil in bloom.
Extras – Ample parking (free to NTS members). For prices click here, and bear in mind that the garden is free to NTS members.
Gordon Castle Walled Garden Nature Play Area, Fochabers
Nature Play Area – OPEN. This historic walled garden, complete with attractive Victorian Glasshouse, features a super cool outdoor play area for kids, created from reclaimed materials on the estate. Wellies are recommended as it’s an earthy combination of wood and sand, with an excellent wee foot-operated water pump for creating dams, rivers and mud pies, let their nature-loving imaginations run riot. Read a full write up here.
The current prices for the Nature Garden are £2.00 per child (Nov – April) and £3.00 per child (May – Oct) – supervising adults and babies up to 12 months go free.
At almost eight acres, the Walled Garden is one of the oldest and largest kitchen gardens in Britain. The Gordon Castle Walled Garden café is delightful, dishing up salad, fruit and veg straight from the garden. The shop welcomes visitors to purchase fresh produce and gin created from botanicals grown in the garden. It also sells a range of toiletries.
Extras – The latest update says that the café is open 11.00am to 4.00pm, Thursday to Monday, with outdoor seating and limited indoor seating available too. Entry to the garden currently costs April – October: 10am – 4pm every day. £6/£5 concessions, under 16s free. November – March: 10am – 4pm every day. £3/£2 concessions, under 16s free.
FOCHABERS – For more family activities in Fochabers click here, including Byres Farm Tour where kids meet and feed the animals, and get time to play in the farm play area.
The Speyside Cooperage, Craigellachie
A cooperage, where barrels are handcrafted for the whisky industry, doesn’t sound overly child friendly, but it worked for us. Barrels, large and small, are used in the grounds, creating wee houses, statues, tables and chairs, so it felt more playful than I expected.
Tours must be pre-booked in advance. Although the tours aren’t particularly aimed at kids, it’s conducted along various points spanning a viewing gallery, as the men crash, thud and hammer barrels into shape below. The cooperage is noisy, and modern children aren’t used to seeing men at work, pure physical activity, so they were awed by the sights and sounds before them. It kept my two quiet!
Our tour guide brought out the characters of the craftsmen — tales of Atila the Hungarian who rides a Harley Davidson, Guinness World Record holder David McKenzie who holds the record for building a 190 litre barrel the fastest, and ‘Crazy Pete’ (my favourite) who apparently builds one even faster! It’s just something totally different, that you’d only find in the whisky heartland of Scotland.
Extras – Free parking is available. There’s an informal café serving soup/sandwich type lunches, tray bakes and coffees — the coffee shop will be table service only with seating appropriately distanced. The gift shop will be open too. For the current prices and guidance, click here.
Nelson’s Tower, Forres
For a cool viewpoint, hike up to Nelson Tower. This is an achievable walk for little legs and a unique piece of local history. The tower was built by public subscription after the death of Lord Admiral Nelson, and today it’s run by local volunteers. It’s a very tranquil walk through the forests of Cluny Hill, and although the forest path is uphill it’s relatively buggy friendly (especially if your other half does the pushing).
Extras – At the bottom of Cluny Hill is a lovely wee play park called Grant Park. There was also an ice cream kiosk there when we visited called Mather’s Ice Cream. Free parking is available next to Grant Park.
Where to Eat – Things to Do in Moray Speyside with Kids
Baxters of Fochabers
OPEN – Renowned primarily for its soup and jams, Baxters is worth dropping into. The visitor centre includes a Victorian Grocer’s shop, akin to the one where the Baxters initially started selling their wares. There’s a mix of shops, including a food hall stocking some of the finest produce from across Scotland. One shop sells Scottish alcohol, from fine gins to craft beers, and a third shop is packed to the rafters with Baxters’ produce.
Extras – We swung past the café to share a ginormous pancake with cream and strawberries. The Baxters’ pancakes are legendary.
The Old Mill Inn, Forres
OPEN – A cosy historic vibe, dishing up classics such as Gressingham Duck, Black Isle Sirloin Steak and Loin of Organic Roe Dee with a tiny Shepherd’s Pie. The ‘Wee Miller’s Menu’ for kids included a Melon Smile to start, Mini Fish Supper or Cheese Toastie with Skinny Chips and Beans, rounded off with a Clown’s Hat. Our kids talked about the Clown’s Hat for days – an upside down vanilla ice cream cone with fruit!
The Mosset Tavern, Brodie, nr Forres
OPEN – Modern and spacious, with playpacks for kids including colouring sets and stickers. There’s a Vegan Menu, and the Day Menu included Pub Classics such as Guid Auld Mince and Tatties, or Steak and Craft Ale Pie, or Irn Bru Glazed Half Back of Pork Ribs. Kids could choose between a Roast Chicken Dinner, Spageti Bolognese with Garlic Bread, or a Children’s Picky Plate featuring a mix of nibbles.
Where to Stay – Things to Do in Moray Speyside with Kids
GLAMPING – Macbeth’s Hillock, Forres
OPEN – Macbeth’s Hillock is a v cool and cosy glamping destination. It’s said Macbeth that met the three witches who prophesised his rise and fall at this hillock. The spooky witch theme throughout the decor and the design of the glamping pods is wonderfully playful.
The pods include a kitchenette, shower room and a powerful heater, making life so clean and warm. Campfires are set outside the pods, maintaining that camping, toasting marshmallow vibe. Read a detailed review here.
Covid-19 changes include the current closure of the honesty shop, but logs and charcoal for fire pits can be purchased before arrival. Due to the extra cleaning there is now a minimum stay of 2 nights. Check in and out is via a key lock system and codes are sent out before arrival to limit contact. Guests are encouraged to take their own bedding where possible, including a base sheet which is no longer provided, although bedding packs can be hired. Contact them directly for updates to this info.
HOTEL – Cullen Bay Hotel
Simple and comfortable family room, some with excellent sea views but a real highlight is the food. Excellent menu, from a staggering seafood platter (must be preordered) to home-cooked favourites such as slow cooked blade of beef, Balmoral chicken followed by sticky toffee pudding. Also a great spot to start a walk into Cullen over the famous viaduct.
SELF-CATERING – Carden Cottages, Alves, Elgin
OPEN – For homely, comfortable 4-star self-catering cottages that simply offer everything you need to create a home from home the four star Carden Cottages deliver. There are several cottages available so it’s easy to book as a group. Super spacious, clean and cosy, set in rural isolation, these traditional cottages offer a chance to escape from it all.