Scotland’s Elgin Cathedral & Driving The North East 250 Route

August 28, 2020

Visiting Scotland's Elgin Cathedral & Driving the North East 250 Route

Sometimes my job can take me some pretty cool places, and this Ireland and Scotland trip was one of the best.  Seeing Metallica at historic Slane Castle, some time in Dublin, and visiting our Scotch whisky distilleries were only a few things that I managed to fit into this work trip.

And then there was my (planned) last day in Scotland, driving from the gorgeous Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside up to the coast and on the North East 250 route over to Glenglassaugh Distillery at Sandend Bay…maybe the prettiest distillery setting ever???  I was super smart that morning, though, and headed out early to catch a few local sights first—starting with historic Elgin Cathedral.

The giant, historic ruins of Elgin Cathedral, Moray area Scotland

Other Scottish adventures from this trip:

What to Do with a Day in Aberdeen

Visiting Scotch Whisky Distilleries:  Glendronach, BenRiach, & Glenglassaugh

Discovering a Secret Scottish Castle Ruin on a Sea Cliff

Beautiful Bow Fiddle Rock On Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Coast

19 Of The Best Places To Visit In Scotland

…and how to plan an epic 10-day Scotland road trip itinerary!

The towering history of Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral was established in 1224, so goes waaaaaaaay back.  ACCORDING TO THEM, it’s the second-largest cathedral in Scotland, losing out to St. Andrews by a minuscule 20 feet.

That’s what they told me there.  But I am having the *DARNEDEST* time corroborating that.  So believe what you will.  It is big, though…

The giant doors of Elgin Cathedral

A beautiful day at historic Elgin Cathedral

Looking up at the ruins of Elgin Cathedral

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It’s about a 20-minute drive from the Craigellachie Hotel up to tiny Elgin, and the sun and blue skies had finally decided to make an appearance!  Finding parking was easy on the side streets, and I actually showed up right as they opened (see up-to-date times and prices here).  They do offer some guided tours at specific times as well, if that’s your bag.

The lovely man at the visitor booth was gracious enough to let me in for less than five minutes’ wandering and not charge me, just to snap a few pictures.  I told him (truthfully) that I had to be on my way for an 11am appointment so truly couldn’t stay longer than that.

Super old gravestones at Elgin Cathedral, in the Moray region of Scotland

Visiting Scotland's Elgin Cathedral & Driving the North East 250 Route | A beautiful drive in the Aberdeenshire region, seeing the historic Elgin Cathedral, gorgeous Bow Fiddle Rock, Glenglassaugh whisky distillery, a castle ruin, and beautiful coastal scenery. How to plan your visit, things to do in Moray area Scotland, Aberdeen day trips, Scotland coastal drives.

The side walls of Elgin Cathedral still standing

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Nicknamed the “Lantern of the North”, the style is apparently an early Gothic and is really interesting and beautiful.  The west front in particular is really well-preserved.

It’s also home to Scotland’s tallest gravestone, a whopping 5 meters high!  (This claim *is* legit.)

A stop at Elgin Cathedral is a must if you're driving the North East 250 route

The whimsy of Bow Fiddle Rock

Just up the road from Elgin Cathedral, the road at the coast joins up with the North East 250 route, one of the great Scottish drives.   One of the must-see stops along this route (about 30 minutes from Elgin) is Bow Fiddle Rock.

It’s fascinating to me how so much in this part of Scotland just isn’t super known and is not overrun by tourists.  I parked on a side street and briskly walked down to the water, weaving along a little footpath.  I got to soak in the views pretty much on my own, with a handful of elderly locals and tourists wandering about.

See more on my visit to Bow Fiddle Rock

Beautiful Bow Fiddle Rock on the North East 250 route

Visiting Scotland's Elgin Cathedral & Driving the North East 250 Route | A beautiful drive in the Aberdeenshire region, seeing the historic Elgin Cathedral, gorgeous Bow Fiddle Rock, Glenglassaugh whisky distillery, a castle ruin, and beautiful coastal scenery. How to plan your visit, things to do in Moray area Scotland, Aberdeen day trips, Scotland coastal drives.

The whisky and views of Glenglassaugh

After Bow Fiddle Rock I headed onto my appointment, at one of our single malt distilleries.  Glenglassaugh happens to sit overlooking beautiful Sandend Bay, and I loved learning more about our process, watching the barrels get filled, and watching the mesmerizing waves roll in and out.

You can see more about my distillery visits here!

View of Sandend Bay from Glenglassaugh Distillery

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The charm and cuisine of The Old Kirk Bistro

This was a complete accident, and a perfect example of why you definitely should spend time hanging out with locals.  While I was at the distillery, I asked some of the staff about any good places nearby to grab some lunch, and they recommended this adorable gem nearby.

It is WELL WORTH a trip a few minutes out of your way!  You can see the ever-changing menu here…I had warm coconut and sweet potato soup, fish and chips, and sticky toffee pudding.  They have lovely baked goods and all sorts of other stuff.

A lovely lunch at the Old Kirk Bistro just off the North East 250 route

The danger and beauty of Findlater Castle’s ruins

And yet again, talking to locals…while I was eating lunch, the owner came by to chat for a minute, and asked about my plans, which were pretty squishy other than getting to my hotel that night.  She said, “There’s a lovely little castle ruin nearby on a sea cliff, would you be interested in that?”  OH WOULD I?!

They gave me directions that were…only somewhat helpful, but Google Maps and I figured the rest out.  And after a little 5-10 minute walk out to the edge of the cliffs, I found Findlater.  And then almost fell down a cliff trying to get closer, and rolled into a sticker bush to save myself.

You can read the whole story on my Findlater adventures here!

Findlater Castle's ruins are a perfect stop along the North East 250 route

The ruins of Findlater Castle along the North East 250 route in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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The delight of cute towns like Cullen

There are so many cute towns and beautiful little beaches to stop in along the North East 250 route!  If you have the time, you definitely should explore several.  I made a quick stop in Cullen (no, they’re not huge Twilight fans, but the famous soup “cullen skink” comes from there).  I also made a quick pastry stop in Banff.

Cullen is a cute town along Scotland's North East 250 route, and close to Elgin Cathedral

Adorable coastal towns along the North East 250 route and a short drive from Elgin Cathedral

Where to stay in the Moray/Speyside area

If you’re planning a visit to Elgin Cathedral, planning to drive the North East 250 route, or just spending any time in this area, then the Craigellachie Hotel is your must-stay!  The hotel  was built in the late 1800s and sits in the heart of Scotland’s malt whisky trail.  It’s a lovely blend of history and modern touches

It’s super cozy, with a great restaurant and fun tiny pub inside.  The staff was welcoming and everything felt so home-y.  There’s also a whisky bar upstairs with an amazing collection (and not just whiskies)!

The Craigellachie Hotel is a perfect place to stay for visiting Elgin Cathedral & driving the North East 250 route

You’ll fall in love with this little corner of Scotland, so often overlooked by tourists!  Whether it’s the coastal views, the drams of whisky, the towering historical charms of Elgin Cathedral, or the people themselves, the Aberdeenshire region (including Moray and Speyside) is worth a few days of your time.

Here’s a map of Elgin Cathedral and several of the different places along the North East 250 route mentioned in this post, if it’s helpful.

Other historic UK roadtrips you’ll love:

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Visiting Scotland's Elgin Cathedral & Driving the North East 250 Route | A beautiful drive in the Aberdeenshire region, seeing the historic Elgin Cathedral, gorgeous Bow Fiddle Rock, Glenglassaugh whisky distillery, a castle ruin, and beautiful coastal scenery. How to plan your visit, things to do in Moray area Scotland, Aberdeen day trips, Scotland coastal drives.

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