A HISTORIC canal route will be used to transport visitors to an ancient Moray palace during a new initiative aimed at boosting tourism in the area.
The project, called ‘The Secrets of Spynie – A Paddle and a Plod’, will take groups of 16 from a point just outside Elgin along the canal to Spynie Palace.
After getting out of their Canadian Voyager canoe, they will then return on foot, following a shoreline dating from around 1,200 years ago when the sea flowed through the Laich of Moray.
The route is set to be one of the highlights of the Moray Walking Festival, which takes place from June 19-23.
Engineered in 1812 by Thomas Telford at the request of local landowners, the canal system was required to drain 2,500 acres of the Loch of Spynie – an ancient sea loch just north of Elgin – taking the water around six miles into the sea at Lossiemouth.
Its route passes the ruins of Spynie Palace which, when built in the early 1200s as a Bishop’s Palace, would have been on the edge of the sea loch offering safe anchorage for merchant and fishing boats.
‘Secrets of Spynie’ is a joint venture between Elgin businessman Jim Royan and Iain Jamieson, the chairman of Outfit Moray, a Lossiemouth-based outdoor adventure charity.
Mr Royan, the founding chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, said: “The Spynie canal system, which is under the responsibility of the heritors of Spynie Canal, is a remarkable part of Moray’s history and gives us insight into the earlier and important history of the Laich of Moray.
“It brings to life the important role that Spynie Palace and its harbour played in its relationship with Elgin Cathedral and also as the port of Elgin.
“The canal provides an opportunity for all ages to experience this new addition to the Moray Walking festival programme, which is recreational, educational, environmentally friendly and fun.”
The ‘Paddle and Plod’ is one of over 40 events in this year’s Moray Walking Festival programme. This year’s festival has been expanded to include walks, talks and activities for all abilities, ages and interests. Tickets will be available to buy online from mid-April.
Jim Thomson, the chair of Moray Walking Festival, said: “The festival this year is really showing the very best of Moray from its food and drink, heritage, arts, culture and wildlife. The ‘Paddle and Plod’ event is a great example of this.
“We’re also very excited to announce that Cameron McNeish, Scotland’s best-known walker, will be our feature presenter this year.
“So whether it’s a walking challenge or a gentle amble, we look forward to walking with you.”
Margery McLennan, who with the Moray Chamber Commerce has recently taken over a role to promote tourism in Moray and Speyside, said the ‘Paddle and Plod’ would provide a great opportunity for people of all ages to get an insight into Moray’s environmental, social, religious and economic history.
“It, and the walking festival, are great initiatives and is the sort of thing that Moray can do well,” she said.
“We have some wonderful heritage sites which are easily accessible along short, mainly flat routes, and usually have the weather to enjoy them. This is certainly a unique and innovative attraction, and we wish it well.”
Built around 1200, Spynie Palace was for five centuries the residence of the bishops of Moray, and during that time, it stood on the edge of Spynie Loch.
A thriving settlement developed around it. However, over time the loch silted up and was used less and less.
More information on the Moray Walking Festival is available at www.moraywalkingfestival.co.uk/index.php