Moray, home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries, is about to become home to a new event – the Moray Walking Festival.
Running from today until Sunday, the festival has 33 events taking place, offering a huge range of differently themed walks suitable for all abilities and levels of fitness.
Naturally, some will have a connection with whisky while others offer historical, cultural or wildlife-spotting opportunities.
On each day of the festival, there is a walking challenge at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, Spey Bay, where two different lengths of guided walks begin.
Both are hosted by knowledgeable guides who can highlight some of the area’s amazing wildlife, including dolphins, ospreys, seals and wading birds.
The aim of the challenge is for the combined distance walked by all participants over the four days to equal the length of the Moray Way – that’s 95 miles.
These will also raise funds for the Dolphin Centre, with all walkers encouraged to make a generous donation, so don’t forget your wallet.
Today, there’s a choice of six walks ranging from a moderate stroll to a strenuous 11-mile walk linking the Rivers Divie, Dorback and Findhorn and featuring the spectacular viewpoint at Dusach.
The festival offers the only opportunities for this walk, as it passes through private gardens and therefore is not normally accessible either to individuals or organised groups.
The walk is repeated on Sunday, with places strictly limited, so advance booking is recommended.
Friday offers a choice of five walks ranging from a fairly easy seven-mile walk from Forres to Brodie which includes lunch and, for over-18s only, beer and whisky tasting.
There’s also a strenuous eight-mile walk in the footsteps of the Glenlivet whisky smugglers.
The evening offers a dramble, a one-mile ramble through Anagach Woods and along the River Spey near Grantown, with stories – and drams for the over-18s.
The weekend brings something special for families, story walks developed in three chapters by the pupils of Mortlach Primary School, Dufftown.
All are easy walks, hosted by the children and their parents, featuring storytelling and role playing. Chapters One and Two are on Saturday while Chapter Three, the longest walk at two miles, takes place on Sunday afternoon.
Other Saturday events include a wildlife walk through Anagach Woods with Moray Council Ranger Service which follows the former railway line from Craigellachie to Dufftown, followed by the option of touring Glenfiddich Distillery.
If you’re feeling fit, you can follow in the footsteps of the Vikings by taking a fairly strenuous six-mile hill walk to the site where they camped before the Battle of Mortlach.
On Sunday, there are a further three rivers and whisky smugglers walks and the chance to board a vintage diesel train on the old line from Dufftown to Keith, with ticket included in the price.
Leaving the train at Drummuir, there’s a brief stop at Drummuir Castle’s walled garden before walking the six miles back to Dufftown on the Isla Way, accompanied by Moray Council Ranger Service to interpret what can be seen.
There are also two easy walks starting on Sunday morning which aim to bring history alive.
What: Moray Walking Festival, organised by The Moray Way Association. There are many walks to choose from. Each is graded to suit different abilities.
When: From now until Sunday, June 24.
Contact: All walks are booked through the website www.moray walkingfestival.co.uk