Come to Culbin...and you'll never want to leave
There's a fascinating network of tracks to explore and the level ground makes it easy. Hill 99 is the only waymarked trail, but you can use the Culbin map and numbered posts at path junctions to explore this unique, diverse and ever-changing coastal forest. Don't miss the panoramic views from the top of the amazing Hill 99 tower.
The toilet block at Wellhill is open year-round. It includes easy access facilities and facilities for baby changing. Find refreshments and shops at Brodie Country Fare as well as the nearby towns of Findhorn, Forres and Nairn.
Hill 99 Trail
Easy - 3.2 miles / 5.0 km - Allow 2 hours
Wind through this remarkable pinewood and experience the forest canopy from the top of the amazing viewpoint tower.More Information...
The path winds through the forest to the Gravelpit Ponds, a pretty stop for a picnic or birdwatching, then across shingle ridges and through lichen beds to gently climb Hill 99, Culbin's highest sand dune at a dizzy 99 feet. Get a ‘squirrel’s-eye’ view of the pinewoods from the top of the viewpoint tower – on a clear day you can see over the sea to the Sutherland hills! Return through mossy glades, passing the Dragonfly Pond, which teems with wildlife.
Starting point and directions
The trail starts at Wellhill car park. Follow the Culbin waymarkers.
The trail is designed to be accessible to all. The path is reasonably level with a solid, sandy surface and there are seats at regular intervals. The steepest section up to the viewpoint can be bypassed on a straight, level forest track if preferred. The tower is accessible to wheelchair users up to its mid-point, with steps leading from there to the very top.
Culbin’s network of criss-crossing trails and paths over flat sandy ground is ideal for horse riding. Cloddymoss car park gives the best access for horse-boxes. From there you can either head east towards Findhorn Bay and Buckie Loch, or west towards the less-visited Nairn end (but please avoid the fragile saltmarshes).
Culbin's birdlife is rich and varied, ranging from tiny woodland birds to immense flocks of wildfowl. The forest is a great place for bird spotting as you explore its many tracks and trails. Most of coastal Culbin is managed as a reserve by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but it’s a reserve that can be quietly enjoyed by anyone and accessed free, all year round.
Top tips for exploring Culbin
With a forest stretching for more than 8½ miles along an ever-shifting coastline, there's so much to discover. Here are our top twelve things to see and do – a useful guide, especially if you’ve never visited before. They’re all marked in the Culbin leaflet – and there are plenty of stories about the place there too.
- The Hill 99 viewpoint trail
Wind through the sandy pinewoods and experience the forest canopy from the top of the amazing viewpoint tower.
- Gravelpit Ponds
An attractive area of marshy ground and ponds close to Wellhill car park, with easy walking on well-surfaced paths that are suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
- Dragonfly Pond
A pretty pond on the Hill 99 viewpoint trail, where you can spot brilliantly-coloured dragonflies in summer.
- Hidden History
This peaceful stopping-point tells some of Culbin’s human story in unexpected ways.
A pleasant, heathery corner surrounded by lichen beds, where you can find out how life clings on in such a hostile environment.
- The Gut
This muddy bay is a haven for all kinds of wading and water-birds – just don’t expect to find a beach here.
- Buckie Loch
There the forest meets the sea. Wild and empty coastline which may one day become a true sea-loch again. It’s currently a stretch of marram dunes and heath.
- Findhorn Bay
If you’re lucky, you’ll see ospreys or seals fishing at this river-mouth with a beautiful view towards the village of Findhorn.
- Lady Culbin’s Buried Trees
Growing on the edges of Culbin’s largest sand-dune system, some of the deep-rooted trees here have bizarre, tapering trunks twice as long as they look.
- The Minister’s Pool
A reedy freshwater pool that attracts both birdlife and walkers. It’s very close to Nairn East Beach.
- Otter Pool
A big pool in a hidden corner of Culbin, and a good place to spot some of Culbin's mammals drinking.
- Maviston Dunes
Wave upon wave of huge curving sand dunes planted with pines.
Culbin in World War II
As you explore Culbin’s shore, you’ll notice long wooden poles still sticking out of the sea. When Britain braced itself for a German invasion in 1940, the poles were placed in the water to stop enemy gliders landing along the coast. If they fire your imagination, there’s plenty more to discover about Culbin’s remarkable wartime history.
Contact Name : Moray and Aberdeenshire Forest DistrictDistrict Office Name : Moray and Aberdeenshire Forest District
Address : Portsoy Road
Postcode : AB54 4SJ
Telephone : 01466 794161
Email : email@example.com
How to get here
Leave the A96 Inverness to Aberdeen road at Brodie, following the signs to Culbin. The main car park is at Wellhill. If you’re planning a horse-ride or bringing a horsebox, head for Cloddymoss car park.
IV36 2TG is the nearest postcode.
- Wellhill car park is at grid reference NH 997 615.
- Cloddymoss car park is at grid reference NH 981 599.
By public transport
The nearest railway station is Forres, 3 miles (4.8km) from Wellhill on foot, or a ten minute taxi-ride. There are also regular buses to Forres running between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Moray Council offers a limited local bus service (no. 318) running from Forres to Kintessack on schooldays, Tuesdays and Fridays. It's about a mile (1.6km) from Kintessack to Wellhill. You’ll find service details at Traveline Scotland.
National Cycle Route 1 runs through the south side of Culbin, around half a mile (800m) from the main car park at Wellhill.
You can walk into Culbin from Nairn East Beach – a good option if you’re interested in birdwatching and coastal wildlife.
Looking for the beach?
It’s quite a long way to the beach and shoreline through Culbin forest. If you're looking for a great beach and forest experience that's easy to reach for all the family, try Roseisle. You can walk or cycle the trails or just relax on the sandy beach there, and there’s a play area, barbecue equipment, toilets and a wildlife hide too.
Want more walking?
Find a range of tranquil woodland trails, great views and a perfect picnic spot beside the Black Burn at Torrieston, or a hilltop woodland with stunning views over Elgin and the Moray Firth at Quarrelwood. There are trails there that follow in the footsteps of our Stone Age ancestors, or of creatures even older than the dinosaurs!
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has lots of information about Culbin’s bird life.
If you’re interested in horse riding here, check out the Moray Equestrian Access Group.
There are plenty of other wonderful forests to discover in Moray: they’re all described in our guide.