Guest post by Emma Gibb
Having been brought up in the Moray area, I have walked countless times along the back shore at Findhorn; looking at the stretch of sandy beach that curves round to Burghead, like a thumbnail imprinted on the coastline. I have taken hundreds of photographs of waves rolling in from the horizon and sun sinking into the Black Isle. I have jumped down the dunes at Roseisle; I have explored the caves at Cummingston; I have gazed out at the great body of sea from Hopeman when rockpooling as a child; I have sailed towards Cromarty in my grandfather’s boat; and I have, once or twice, walked the length of beach from Findhorn to Burghead.
I have a heart full of memories of the Moray Firth but until this week, I had only ever admired the Burghead – Hopeman area from the land. I had never looked back at the coastline I love whilst bobbing on the waves, gathered in the arms of the sea itself. I went out on a trip with North 58° Sea Adventures hoping to spot some dolphins and ended up completely captivated by a coastline I know well, but which suddenly seemed so new.
North 58° Sea Adventures is based at the marina in Findhorn and runs a number of boat trips in the Moray Firth, from journeys along to Burghead and Hopeman to dinner cruises over to Cromarty (how spectacular on a glorious summer’s evening). My guide, Pippa Low, said that the trips vary depending on conditions and sightings; the day before my trip they had been guided west towards Nairn by some bottlenose dolphins.
It is the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins that many visitors are keen to see – measuring up to 4 metres, they are the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world. During a trip with North 58° Sea Adventures you may also spot the particularly sociable common dolphins, minke whales, porpoise and, if you’re very lucky, maybe even basking sharks and orca. It was around this time last year that a number of basking sharks were sighted around the Firth and the last orca spotting was at the beginning of July this year. I can only imagine the thrill of seeing these magnificent creatures up close.
We started our tour with a trip round Findhorn Bay; if you haven’t seen the village from the water it’s a lovely sight that not everyone gets to enjoy. As we zipped out the channel from the bay and my hair whipped around my face, I immediately felt my shoulders relax (to me, the Moray Firth has always been a balm for tiredness and busyness, and soothes me like nowhere else).
After about twenty minutes we spotted the fins of the camera-shy porpoise arching out of the water and quickly disappearing. Rounding the headland at Burghead, we sped along to the caves at Cummingston. We soon reached the harbour at Hopeman (I love the line of colourful beach huts running along its east beach) and then arrived in front of Primrose Bay; a lovely hidden gem that I had never heard of, despite having grown up in the area. The highlight of the trip for me was the sea bird colony near Primrose Bay, with its stunning sandstone cliffs. Pippa took us right up to the cliffs where we could look up at the Kittiwakes, Shags and Cormorants, and I looked around in wonder that there were so many unknown treasures on a coastline I thought I knew like the back of my hand.
We stopped near the harbour in Burghead on our return journey and watched some playful seals while keeping an eye out for any fin-like movement. The final stretch back to Findhorn gave us a closer view of the forested dunes and crescent of beach, and I basked in this different perspective. By this point the sun had managed to battle through the clouds and Findhorn was shimmering in the sunshine. It was, quite simply, idyllic. As I watched some canoeists meander past the boat, I thought how wonderful it must be to have the sea as your office, showing visitors this amazing coastline and its wildlife. How each and every day must be different, depending on the mood of the Firth. And that even if you don’t see dolphins or basking sharks, the Moray Firth reserves its most special sights for those who experience it from the sea.
For more information visit www.north58.co.uk. Many thanks to North 58° Sea Adventures for my Moray Firth experience – my trip was complimentary but the views and opinions expressed here are all my own.