Explore the rich delights of Quarrelwood
Come and soak up spectacular modern Moray views alongside glimpses of the distant past. Wander among the old oaks and beeches and uncover Quarrelwood's remarkable history – from reptile and fish fossils to an ancient henge and a medieval hunting forest.
You'll find information about other forests in Moray in our guide.
You can find refreshments, shops and public toilets at the nearby towns of Elgin, Lossiemouth and Burghead.
Wander through the mature oakwoods in the footsteps of our ancestors to discover a 4000-year old henge.
Firm but uneven earth and gravel surface with exposed tree roots. Long moderate slopes with some short steeper sections. Includes some steps and parts that may be muddy.
2 ¼ miles / 3.7 km Allow 1½ hours
This atmospheric circular trail leads you through the woods to the banks and ditches of a 4,000 year old henge, perhaps used for ceremonies by our Neolithic ancestors. Stroll through the contrasting areas of old oak and beech wood and planted pine and larch and look out for woodland birds, roe deer and red squirrels.
You can link this with the Elginia Trail to create a longer route to discover more of Quarrelwood’s historical secrets. The trail starts from the Brumley Brae car park. Follow the human footprints carved into stone waymarkers.
Uncover the secrets of Quarrelwood, where a reptile older than the dinosaurs was found in remarkable fossils. There are extensive views over the Moray Firth.
Firm but uneven earthy and grassy surface. Many exposed tree roots and some slightly muddy sections. Fairly steep slopes. Includes a narrow opening.
3 miles / 5.0 km Allow 2 hours
"This scenic circular trail leads through the woods to Cutties Hillock Quarry and viewpoint. This is where fossils of Elginia mirabilis, a spiky-headed prehistoric reptile, were found, along with other creatures who roamed here 250 million years ago. Today you’re more likely to spot red squirrels, roe deer and a host of woodland birds amongst the oaks, beech and conifers!
You can link this with the Ancestors Trail to create a longer route to discover more of Quarrelwood’s historical secrets. The trail starts from the Leggat car park. Follow the reptile footprints carved into stone waymarkers.
Mountain biking trails
A story of wood and stone
Quarrelwood commands a hilltop position overlooking Elgin, the Moray Firth and the surrounding countryside. There are old quarries scattered throughout the wood: you’ll recognise the attractive yellow sandstone used in many local buildings. Some very rare fish and reptile fossils were found at the quarry on Cutties Hillock, including Elginia mirabilis, a spiny-headed reptile about the size of a Labrador dog that roamed here long before the dinosaurs. You can see some of these fossils at Elgin Museum.
Quarrelwood lies on the site of an ancient oakwood, now also planted with beeches and conifers. Its name may come from the ‘quarrel’ or bolt fired by crossbows that were used when it was a hunting forest in medieval times. People were living here long before then too – look out for the banks and ditches of a 4,000 year old henge (enclosure) near the top of the hill.
Wildlife in the wood
The mix of broadleaf and conifer woods here provides good habitats for a great variety of small mammals. Woodmice feed on the beech mast while red squirrels extract seeds from the pinecones.
Many woodland birds make their home here too, including coal tits, siskins and wrens, and listen out for the distinctive drumming of the greater spotted woodpecker.
A protected landscape
Cutties Hillock and the complex of sandstone quarries are protected due to their geological status and the very rare reptile fossils found there. They have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
How to get here
There are two car parks at Quarrelwood.
For the Ancestors Trail and orienteering course, head for the Leggat car park:
Take the A96 west from Elgin. Pass the Eight Acres Hotel and then Oakwood, both on your right, then take the next road on your right, signposted to Rosebrae. Look out for the car park on the right after about 350 yards (300 metres).
The car park is at grid reference NJ 174 635.
For the Elginia Trail, you need the Brumley Brae car park:
Take the A96 west from Elgin. Turn right onto Morriston Road at Eight Acres Hotel. After about ½ mile (0.8km) turn left onto Brumley Brae. Look out for the car park on the left after about 500 yards (450 metres).
The car park is at grid reference NJ 198 634.
- IV30 8XT is the nearest postcode for the Leggat car park.
- IV30 6AR is the nearest postcode for the Brumley Brae car park.
The nearest railway station is at Elgin. There are also regular buses between Inverness and Aberdeen that stop at Elgin. You’ll find service details at Traveline Scotland.
Want more walking?
Find a range of tranquil woodland trails, great views and a perfect picnic spot beside the Black Burn at Torrieston.
The coastal forest at Roseisle is also a great place for a walk or cycle – and the sweet-smelling pinewood provides plenty of shelter in wild weather! There’s a sandy beach, play and barbecue equipment, toilets and a wildlife hide too.
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