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Hiking Trails Galore In Moray … And The Perfect Place To Rest And Recover

Moray, on the north-eastern shoulder of Scotland, offers a vast spectrum of natural and man-made hiking trails and footpaths for all to explore.

Probably the most famous of these is the Speyside Way, at 60 miles one of Scotland's long distance routes. It links Buckie, on the Moray Firth, with Aviemore at the heart of Strathspey. It parts it is a gentle meander, and mostly follows the magnificent Spey River.

The Dava Way is a 23 mile trail and takes one across the ancient Celtic province of Morayshire between the towns of Forres and Grantown-on-Spey. It passes through a pleasing mix of farmland, woodland and moorland as you climb from the Spey Valley to cross Dava Moor before descending to the Moray Firth.

Almost all of the route follows the old Highland Railway line and is off road and safe from traffic.

The coastline and settlements of Moray are linked by the Moray Coast Trail, a waymarked coastal trail of approximately 50 miles. It stretches from historic Forres to Findhorn, Cullen and all the places between. The Coast Trail is a most interesting experience, comprising seaside towns, old fishing harbours and breathtaking beach and seashore scenery.

The historic Cathedral city of Elgin is situated almost in the middle, slightly to the south of the Coast Trail.

A popular combination in this region is what's known as The Moray Way, This 'concept way' is the brainchild of The Moray Way Association, and was formed in 2009. It is in total 95 miles (153km) long, and those in the know say it is good for 6 to 9 days. The Moray Way links existing hiking routes - the Speyside Way, the Dava Way and the Moray Coast Trail. It combines the entire The Dava Way, about two thirds of The Moray Coast Trail and roughly half of The Speyside Way.

What is interesting about hiking in Moray is that large parts of the routes follow what used to be the old Highland Railway line, complete with station buildings and railway platforms. Some of these have been converted into coffee shops and tourism centres.

Different types of trails are found in Moray, including cycle routes, horse riding trails, long distance paths and low level or hill walks. Large parts are situated next to rivers, and are of interest to canoeists, rafters and those who pursue all sorts of other water sports.

The Culbin Forest, close to the cathedral city of Elgin, is in itself a wealth of both hiking trails and history. Routes can be as short or as long as you wish, as there are clearly marked signs to guide you back to the car park.

One route takes you through the forest to end on Findhorn Bay, across the water from the village with the same name. Another takes you in the other direction, to end miles further on the outskirts of the coastal holiday village of Nairn.

And there's nothing like a giant, comfortable bed to rest your weary bones after a hard day's hiking and fresh air.

Combine your hiking expedition with a totally relaxed getaway in the yurt at Woodlands Rest - situated in the woodlands on the outskirts of Elgin - convenient and central to many hiking routes.

Make a cosy fire in the wood burning stove inside, or sit on the deck outside by the barbecue, and enjoy the natural woodland surroundings while planning tomorrow's route.

Situated among thousands of beech and ancient oak, birch and pine trees, Woodlands Rest is the perfect place to unwind and relax. It is also the perfect place from which to explore in every direction.

It is more than 25 acres of privately owned, semi-natural woodland. It forms part of a forest stretching tens of hectares, and borders onto Quarrelwood, miles of woodland with hiking trails to explore, where you're free to roam and enjoy the rich natural wildlife. Quarrelwood is a day-trip in itself. These woods are known to be the home of deer, badger and fox.

The yurt is beautifully and stylishly furnished for true comfort. It offers you spacious, self-contained and fully equipped camping luxury.

A well-equipped kitchenette with gas hob and oven, in addition to the outdoor deck with barbecue facilities, means meals are easy and quick to prepare. The private bathroom is luxuriously yet environmentally friendly equipped with a 12v shower and a compost toilet.

Your unit is serviced and cleaned daily, which means you don't even have to do the dishes.

Home-cooked meals - including breakfast in bed - are available on request at very affordable prices, if you don't feel like cooking.

The nearest pub is a half a mile's walk. Shops and everything offered by city life - numerous bars and restaurants, boutiques and supermarkets - are about a mile away.

Woodlands Rest is conveniently situated on the main bus and train routes between Aberdeen and Inverness.

An array of other attractions in the area include fly-fishing. Sea-fishing and dolphin spotting, as well as the famous white, outstretched beaches and picturesque fishing villages offered by the Moray Firth, are a few minutes to the north.

There are malt whisky distilleries open to visitors in every direction. Moray and the Highlands boast a rugged beauty and a rich history, with numerous castles and various top-quality museums on your doorstep.

The Cairngorm National Park is less than an hour away to the south.

Airports and car hire as well as regular train services are available from both Inverness to the west and Aberdeen to the east.

Woodlands Rest (tel. 077 066 851 83) offer a free pick-up service, available from Elgin and Forres, and luggage transfer can be arranged at very competitive rates.

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