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‘Laid-back but memorable’: Why Moray is an ideal destination for cruise ships

Experts believe the region offers a combination of attractions found nowhere else in the world.

Silhouetted person holding up whisky glass.
Moray and Speyside have more to offer than just whisky. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Cruise ships packed with thousands of potential tourists already sail past Buckie almost daily in the summer.

Money that could be destined for the pockets of businesses across Moray and Speyside is kept in pockets while travelling to Invergordon.

However, inquiries have now been received from cruise ship operators to potentially berth at Buckie harbour to bring passenger pounds ashore.

And tourism bosses believe Moray and Speyside have the perfect mix of attractions to make the area a tempting calling point for a range of visitors.

Unique appeal of Moray as a cruise ship destination

Efforts have been ongoing for several years to market Buckie harbour and the wider Moray area as a destination for cruise ship tours.

Kevin Mayne, operations director of Buckie-based Maynes Coaches, has been promoting the port in industry forums for a decade.

The region benefits from having a range of attractions, landscapes and communities all within a short drive between the coast and Cairngorms.

Visit Moray Speyside has been selling the sights of the region to cruise ship firms operating out of Aberdeen and Invergordon to entice day trips from further afield.

Gemma Cruickshank standing on Batchen Street in Elgin.
Gemma Cruickshank, chief executive of Visit Moray Speyside, in Elgin. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Chief executive Gemma Cruickshank said the region offers attractions “something a bit different” from traditional destinations. This includes world famous whisky distilleries, charming coastal communities and stunning scenery.

She said: “The potential arrival of cruise ships in Buckie could introduce Moray Speyside to new markets.

“Cruise passengers seeking less typical destinations may find our region appealing for its cultural, historical, and natural attractions.

“When considering this market sustainable tourism will need to be considered and how our local towns and infrastructure deal with this, working together with stakeholders and local community groups to devise solutions for any potential negative impacts.

“Moray Speyside is a laid-back yet memorable destination for those seeking a unique cruise experience.”

Visit Scotland’s top 12 things to do in Moray

Visit Scotland has compiled a list of 12 things that any visitor to Moray and Speyside must do to get the most out of their trip. 

Food and drink: Not just whisky but also shortbread, Cullen skink and farms selling local produce.

Explore Elgin: Elgin Cathedral and Elgin Museum are both within walking distance of the High Street.

Johnstons of Elgin: World renowned producer of cashmere and other woolen clothes.

Elgin Cathedral viewed through trees.
Elgin Cathedral already welcomes many coach tours every year. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Views from Nelson’s Tower: Climb to the top of Cluny Hill in Forres for views across Findhorn Bay to the Moray Firth.

Moray Coast Trail: A 50-mile hiking trail that Cullen, Buckie, the River Spey, Lossiemouth and Findhorn.

Looking for wildlife: From dolphins and seals in the Moray Firth to deer and elusive birds.

Ballindalloch Castle: Historic home dating from 1542 with walking paths and a whisky distillery nearby.

Balvenie Castle: Built in the 1200s the castle near Dufftown is one of the oldest of its types in Scotland.

Angler in River Spey under Craigellachie bridge.
Angling on the River Spey is a popular pastime for locals and visitors. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Duffus Castle: The ruin near Elgin is one of Scotland’s best examples of an ancient motte and bailey castle.

Mountain biking: There are trails across Moray and Speyside to explore the area’s most scenic spots in a different way.

Fishing: Catching a salmon on the River Spey is on many people’s bucket list.

Golfing: Many golf courses line the Moray Firth coast with even more inland.

Cruises could provide new sustainable future for harbours

Upon receiving interest from cruise ship operators about berthing at Buckie, a specific harbour charge was introduced by Moray Council to cover the arrivals.

The town’s port has historically relied on the fishing industry but has declined in recent decades, although some boats do still operate from the town.

Work is also currently underway to establish a base for wind farm operations in the Moray Firth from the harbour.

Boats at Buckie harbour.
A sustainable future is being developed for Moray’s harbours. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Marc Macrae is chairman of Moray Council’s economic development and infrastructure committee. He said the new arrivals could diversify harbour income to more industries to make them financially sustainable.

The Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor described the introduction of specific charges as a “good starting point” to develop interest received.

He said: “We certainly wouldn’t see the Queen Mary reversing into Buckie, but we certainly could see tender boats from large cruise ships.

Buckie Harbour from the sky.
Buckie harbour is larger than some Scottish ports that already welcome cruise ships. Image: Scottish Energy Ports Capability Directory

“They would be the type of boats that we already see in the harbour that the wind farm crews are using, so we’re already geared up for that.

“All these cruise ships are already going past Buckie, we just need them to come a little bit closer and to stop for a short period.

“It’s a good starting point and hopefully it will encourage some discussions. It’s an ideal opportunity to sell Moray, not just as a food and drink destination but also the landscape, golf and cycling trails we have here.”

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