If you enjoy history, there’s so much to discover in Lossie!
The Lossiemouth Heritage Association and the Fisheries Museum each have many enthusiastic volunteers eager to share stories and answer questions. During the summer, the heritage association runs guided walks around the town, see Facebook page for details.
This day long itinerary covers three main aspects of Lossiemouth heritage; town history, military heritage, and geology.
Circular Heritage Walk
Start the day with a circular heritage walk, full details below.
Time for lunch!
Stop for lunch at one of our friendly cafes.
In town, try Harbour Lights (https://theharbour-lights.co.uk/ tel: 01343 814622) on the Marina, or Cafe No8 (tel: 07772 764010) on Queen Street.
Great fish and chips from The Galley on Clifton Road (tel: 01343 812007, https://www.facebook.com/galleyojewel)
West Beach car park - Ponderosa Beach Cafe (tel: 07927 957850 https://www.facebook.com/Ponderosa-Beach-Cafe-190519651480833)
Near the lighthouse - Twenty Nineteen Coffee near the lighthouse (01343 208060 https://www.facebook.com/twentynineteencoffee19 ).
In the afternoon, explore the airforce and military connections, including a visit to the RN & RAF Heritage Centre beneath the lighthouse.
The Spotters’ Day Out itinerary has everything you’ll need.
End the day exploring the geology of the area.
There are large caves below the lighthouse. Park at the heritage centre and walk to the beach. In the early 1900s, tinker families lived in these caves, including one family, ‘The Joyfuls’ who would ply their wares in town while singing and dancing! Cave dwelling was outlawed in 1915.
Further along the coastline are more caves with a fascinating history dating back to prehistoric times, including evidence of human sacrifice!
There's a clifftop walk along the Moray Coastal Trail, which is uneven and unsuitable for buggies or wheelchairs. Access to the caves below is possible only at low tide, paths are unstable, proceed with extreme caution and check tide times.
Find out more here: https://coveseacavesproject.wordpress.com/about-the-project/
A short history of Lossiemouth
There are records referring to settlements in this area from over 1,000 years ago. The headland was originally thought to be an island, cut off by a huge sea loch, which extended inland to Spynie Palace.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the entry to Spynie Loch silted up, and the origins of the modern town were established with a harbour and settlements at Seatown and Stotfield.
Modern Lossie is an amalgamation of four separate settlements; ancient Kinnedar (near the current RAF base), Seatown, Stotfield (near the West Beach) and Branderburgh (the main town around James Square) which was built in the late 19th century to connect the two main fishing communities.
Circular Heritage Walk
The following route will take you on a circular walk of about two miles. The stops are presented in roughly chronological order from the first recorded settlement to the site of a World War II disaster.
The paths are all flat, mostly pavements, suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The latter section involves a steady ascent uphill, then a steeper walk down, involving steps (or a longer route avoiding the steps).
Park at the East Beach car park.
The official name for this is Gregory Place Car Park, but everyone knows it as the East Beach Car Park. Parking is free.
If arriving by bus, get off by the Police Station/Lossiemouth House B&B.
The Mercat Cross
Standing with your back to the sea, ahead of you is an open square with the Mercat Cross at its centre. No longer a cross, the top has been lost, but for centuries this was an important meeting point.
Turn back to the sea and cross the canal (heading away from the town), towards the 50 small fisherman’s cottages that make up Seatown. Take a wander through this area and imagine how life must have been for the fisherfolk of 300 years ago.
The iconic iron bridge across the River Lossie was first erected in 1913 and spanned from the Esplanade (near the ice cream shops) directly to the beach. Due to an increase of fishing boats arriving at Lossiemouth the bridge was deemed too low and had to be pulled down in 1915 to provide unrestricted access to Seatown harbour.
The current bridge was rebuilt in 1918 further upstream at its current position.
In 2019, after years of neglect, even as the community desperately tried to save it, the bridge was condemned as unsafe and forced to close.
There are plans underway to build a new crossing, from the original location on the esplanade and the old bridge will be removed https://www.lossietrust.org/east-bridge-beach/.
Return to the town and walk along the seafront.
Immediately behind the shops and cafes are the remains of an old quarry, in which some of Britain’s oldest dinosaur fossils were found. Elgin Museum has an excellent display about these and other local geology finds. https://elginmuseum.org.uk/
Further along, the war memorial is thought to be close to the original site of the cave which was home to the hermit, Gervadius. Later beatified as St Gerardine, he would walk around the headland with a flaming torch to warn ships away from the dangerous rocks.
At the far end of the Esplanade is a blue painted wall. This was the original entry to the harbour.
The Morayshire Railway connecting Lossiemouth to Elgin was opened in 1852. The steam engines had to be delivered by sea!
The railway was very important to the economy of Lossiemouth, exporting fish to market, and bringing wealthy holiday makers to ‘The Riviera of the North’.
The line was eventually closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts. You can follow the old railway line to Elgin, a very pleasant five mile walk through fields and woodland.
Station Park now stands on the site of the old railway terminal and incorporates many of the original features and sleepers. There is a play park and bandstand, as well as a viewpoint with information board overlooking the East Beach.
There are also public toilets here.
Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum
This fascinating museum is well worth a visit. Staffed by volunteers, opening times vary.
Now rebranded as ‘Lossiemouth Marina’ and home to glossy yachts, there are only a handful of fishing boats working out of Lossiemouth, mostly creel boats bringing in shellfish for the domestic market.
In its heyday, you could walk from dock to dock across the decks of the fishing boats tightly packed into the harbour.
Bouts brought herring
Head inland and up King Street or Kinnedar Street to James Square. This pretty square was created in the 1830s on land originally owned by Lt Col James Brander, Laird of Pitgaveny.
Nearly 100 years ago, the then Laird, Capt James Brander Dunbar, sent his ploughman and horse to plough up the square, claiming that the land belonged to him.
Thankfully the dispute was resolved amicably and the plough that was used is now a feature in the square.
The Lossiemouth Heritage Association has erected information boards in the square telling this story and more.
Prospect Terrace and the Ramsay MacDonald Viewpoint
A little way along Prospect Terrace, on your right, is St James Church with its beautiful stained glass window.
Prospect Terrace surely has one of the finest views in Scotland! There are many grand houses built along this stretch of road, many were originally second homes for rich traders who would travel up from London. One person who was not allowed to build a house here was Lossiemouth’s most famous son, and Britain’s first Labour Prime Minster, Ramsay MacDonald (apparently being told ‘Red bastards don’t build up here’).
There is however, now a viewpoint bearing his name on Prospect Terrace with information boards.
Ramsay MacDonald was born in Lossiemouth in 1866, and rose to become Britain's first Labour Prime Minister in 1924. In total he was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in three Governments between 1924 and 1935.
There is a brochure with more information about Ramsay MacDonal that you can download here: https://www.electricscotland.com/lossiemouth/ramsay.htm
Ramsay MacDonald’s House.
Descend the steps in front of you, and make your way across to 17, Moray Street, which is where he built his family home.
Granddaughter, Iona Keilhorn, now lives in the house. Mrs Keilhorn is a member of the Lossiemouth Heritage Association and sometimes opens the house to visitors on open days.
Back to Mercat Cross
Complete your tour by going to the bottom of the street and following the road round, back to the Mercat Cross.
On the west side of the square stands a small plaque commemorating the eight civilians and three RAF aircrew who lost their lives when a Wellington aircraft crashed into a house shortly after take off on 24 May 1945.
On the east, a small unassuming house next to the lane is where Ramsay MacDonald was born.
Other notable spots
Kinnedar Castle, aka the Bishop’s Palace, Kinnedar Burial Ground
Just outside the RAF base gates is a cemetery in which a 12th century palace for the Bishop of Moray once stood.
The Stotfield Disaster Memorial, West Beach Car Park
On Christmas Day 1806 all three ‘Skaffie’ boats were lost from Stotfield with a loss of 25 men, leaving 17 widows and 47 orphaned children. The Stotfield Disaster Memorial was erected in 2006, looking out over the town’s West Beach.
World War II defences
All along the coastline and through the wood to the east are concrete war defences, including several relatively intact pillboxes (gun emplacements). http://www.pillbox-study-group.org.uk/gazeteer/home-front-defence-sites/scotland/moray/lossiemouth/
Lossiemouth Heritage Association - https://www.facebook.com/Lossiemouth-Heritage-Association-1974030129285442/
Moray Council Local Heritage Services - http://www.moray.gov.uk/moray_standard/page_1537.html
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lossiemouth
Side by side georeferenced maps show current day maps next to the equivalent map from an previous era. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=14&lat=57.71709&lon=-3.28771&layers=3&right=ESRIWorld
Elgin Museum - https://elginmuseum.org.uk/
Covesea Caves Project https://coveseacavesproject.wordpress.com/publications-press/
Lossie Loons & Quines Adrift, Facebook group about local heritage https://www.facebook.com/groups/466635763401556
Creative Visions Moray - books and videos about Lossiemouth - http://www.creativevisionsmoray.co.uk/projects/
Videos about Lossiemouth History
Local historian, Donnie Stewart, has an extensive YouTube archive - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW5HAqJ5Fq2bBX0fTd2KViQ/videos
Trailer for Northern Lights Film - https://youtu.be/IylJXVI2SmM
Trailer for Land, Sea & Sky Film - https://youtu.be/IylJXVI2SmM
Pathe News’ YouTube channel has many clips of Ramsay MacDonald in Lossiemouth, including this one, from 1931 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhzrjk0bMmc