Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Springtime on the Moray coast

Spring has arrived in the north of Scotland. After a long and more "normal" winter, the weather is warming as the days lengthen, though there will no doubt be the customary colder spells punctuating the progress towards summer. On two consecutive weekends we headed up to the Moray Firth coast......

Firstly on a day of brilliant warm sunshine, the first properly warm day of the year.  The dark soils of the coastal fields were "smoking" as they absorbed the sun's warmth, giving off their moisture into cool morning air. 

The soundtrack to our walk between Portgordon and Spey Bay was cascading torrents of song from numerous Skylarks. We were treated to really close encounters as the birds took off from close by and climbed into the air, trailing their gorgeous song behind them - "larks ascending" indeed.

On the return leg we kept close to the long pebble beach which forms much of this stretch of coast.  The millions of tons of pebbles are regularly re-arranged by storms and there's usually dumping surf along the whole length of the beach as the waves run up to the steep berm.  This morning things were relatively calm, particularly at a lower state of tide.  Out to sea, great banks of haar drifted in and out, formed by the mix of warming air over a cold sea.

The following weekend we returned to the Moray coast, this time I took a kayak - and since a lively but steady easterly breeze was forecast, a Flat Earth sail.  Heading out from Lossiemouth, the first leg took me out to Halliman Skerries, a reef which is submerged above half tide, marked by a lattice tower.  The sea conditions out in the shallow waters around the skerry were decidedly bouncy with some wind over tide too - there are no photographs from that section!

Turning downwind, I enjoyed a fast run along the shore, maintaining a steady 10 km/h with some faster bursts in a decent breeze.

In no time at all I was approaching Covesea lighthouse, sadly no longer in use as a working light.  On the shore nearby are some of the concrete blocks placed during World War 2 to prevent amphibious invasion on the beaches here.

I made my own amphibious landing some way along the shore in an angle of the beach protected from the swell by a rocky spit.  It was a beautiful day and I was able to sit and relax in the warm sunshine with a flask of tea and some lunch.

There were plenty of folk out enjoying the beach and the spring weather.  The air was crystal clear and the colours seemed to be very vibrant.

Continuing west, I landed again near to the two-legged stack which is a prominent feature on this part of the shore.  I was surprised to see that most of the pebbles have been scoured from the beach around the stack, perhaps moved in the winter storms.

A last look back along the shore to Covesea lighthouse before turning into Clashach cove - a sparkling blue sea fringed with brilliant white surf - the North Sea is often dismissed as grey.......

The creeler "Calypso" has been up on the rocks here since 30th April 2017 when she lost power while lifting pots close to shore - fortunately her owner was able to get off safely.  I was mildly surprised that she hasn't yet been washed off the rocky shelf or completely broken up by big waves.

In Clashach Cove just west of Hopeman there are a number of superb caves cut into the honey coloured sandstone, well worth exploring.  Today, though this image appears calm, there was a fair swell running in and out and I didn't venture into any of them.  All too soon I was turning into the sandy beach inside the harbour to end a great few hours on the water.

It had been really good to have some warm sunshine - and it really feels that Spring has arrived.  Lambs are everywhere and on the 21st April we heard the first Willow Warbler as the summer visitors begin arriving.  We enjoyed an ice cream from the harbour shop to round off a day by the seaside in traditional style....Spring may be here, but as the Hopeman weather forecasting station reminded us - we don't really have a "climate" in Scotland, we have "weather"!


  1. Wonderful to see the blue skies and blue ocean, Ian. Great days out! Spring has arrived here on VI too, same blue skies and lovely temps in the "warmland". It truly feels like "Canada's Pacific island". Warm wishes from us both.

  2. Always great to see spring arrive each year and smashing photos. I like that empty pebble beach and the steaming landscape.

  3. Thanks Bob, it's been a strange Spring so far - the Swallows arrived back in Aberdeenshire just a day earlier than the first Cuckoo.....

    The moisture coming off every ploughed field was quite extraordinary, don't think I've seen it quite so marked or persistent (a few hours) previously