Steep red-sandstone cliffs sweep down to sheltered sandy coves and rocky outcrops, where thousands of sea birds flock together. Scattered farmsteads and fishing villages border the fertile land by Moray Firth, known as the 'Granary of the North'. The Spey's soft, peaty waters supply a host of malt whisky distilleries, and its rocky pools are alive with salmon and brown trout.
Ladycroft Agricultural Museum, a mile east of Archiestown, displays horse-drawn vehicles, distinctive farm tools.
Ardclach Bell Tower
Two-storey tower built in 1655. Bell tolls to summon locals to church and to warn of danger.
Fortress of clan chief 'Edom o Gordon' in 16th century tops ancient earthworks. Its corner-stones were taken for use in Balvenie Castle nearby.
Castle motte of 12th century over-looks scene of 1645 Civil War skir-mish. Restored dovecote on castle mound provides views of Black Isle. Remains of medieval Rait Castle stand nearby.
Earth Pillars, naturally eroded from red sandstone, stand on steep hillside near River Spey.
Dcv moat surrounds bold, 13th-century castle ruin, noted for its high stone walls and double iron gates. Triumphant Jacobite troops returned here in 1689 after the Battle of Killiecrankie.
Family portraits line walls of battlemented tower house built in 1567. Ornate plaster ceiling of flowers and fruit in dining room.
Fishermen moor at Cluny to sell their catches. Chapel dedicated to fishermen who died at sea. Maritime museum illustrates local fishing industry.
Charlestown of Aberlour
Old general store has original shop fittings dating from the 1920s.
Thomas Telford's cast-iron bridge of 1815 spans River Spey.
Roe deer and capercaillie inhabit forest and salt marsh along coast. Picnic areas near dunes, which cover old village of Culbin.
Ducks, geese, terns inhabit shingle bars along coast. Predatory birds scout acres of salt marsh where waders sift the mud. Stone-crops and lichens thrive on Nairn Old Bar to the west, as well as heathers, crowberries and gorse.
Resort village on two levels, divided by disused viaduct. Distant Sutherland peaks present panorama from Bin Hill. Foot-bridge leads to golf course and 'Three Kings' rock formations.
Set on River Lossie. US vice-president George Mifflin Dallas, a descendant of Dallas family which owned the village, gave his name to the Texas city in 1845.
Dallas Dhu Distillery
Working distillery housed in a Victorian building offers guided tours, videos of whisky making. Impressive shop display of 200 different whiskies.
Darnaway Farm Visitor Centre
Old farm tools contrast with a modern dairy viewed from elevated walkway. Afternoon trips explore Darnaway forest and castle. The latter is noted for its magnificent medieval hammer-beam roof in the hall.
Noble church ruin bears inscription of founder, Alexander Ogilvy of Deskford, dated 1551.
Lantern tower crowns restored castle, built by Duff family in Victorian era. Guided tours of castle and grounds available.
River Fiddich and Dullan Water converge here. Town clock tower houses museum and information centre. Glenfiddich distillery was founded in 1887.
Ruin of Duffus Castle, rebuilt of stone in 14th century, stands on a Norman mound. The sounds of modern fighter planes are heard from RAF Lossiemouth.
Settlement featuring remains of Elgin Cathedral, burned by 'Wolf of Badenoch' in 1390. Pictish symbols survive on Celtic cross slab in choir. Old oatmeal mill on River Lossie dates from 13th century.
Third village of this name; storms buried first one with sand in 17th century while flooding swamped second in 1701. Sea birds feed in tidal bay and organic vegetables flourish at Findhorn Foundation, established 1962.
Steep path to ruins of cliff-side castle, built by Ogilvy family in medieval times and inhabited until about 16011. Crescent-shaped Sunnyside Beach to the west.
Village's lower part envelops sandy cove, from which footpath leads to Portknockie. Upper part's skyline dominated by church.
Gridiron-pattern village designed in 18th century. Horse-drawn vehicles, model engines re-create past at folk museum, housed in old church.
Castle of 16th century lies at heart of conservation village. Impressive canopied tombs housed in small church.
Ancient town among hills. Buildings of many periods include 15th-century market cross and a 19th-century tolbooth. Steep path leads to battlemented 7Oft Nelson Tower, which provides views of Moray Firth. Walks south explore riverside and woodland trails.
Whisky distillery supplied by soft, peaty water from Grampian Hills. Guided tours, exhibitions/displays explain whisky-making process.
Fishing village, now water sports and fishing centre. Pleasure boats moor at harbour, village itself is set on slope away from sea.
Excellent fishing at this meeting place of the rivers Bugle and Deveron. A 17th-century heraldic carving stands over the main door of Huntly Castle, set in lush park-land by Deveron Gorge.
'Auld Brig o' Keith' over River lsla, built 1609, links medieval Old Keith and New Keith (1750) to Fife Keith (1817). Milton Distillery, now Strathisla, of 1785, is Scot-land's oldest operating malt whisky distillery.
Kingston and Garmouth
Local pine forests supplied timber to these two once-flourishing sailing-ship building centres on the River Spey in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Sea birds flock to coastline. Coastal path by sand and shingle beach leads 7 miles west to Lossiemouth.
Bustling fishing port, with sandy beaches good for bathing. Fisheries and Community Museum at harbour includes story of James Ramsay MacDonald (1886-1937), born here, who became Prime Minister in 1924. A 4 mile walk inland leads to ruins of Palace of Spynie, 15th-century fortress of Bishops of Moray. Good fishing at both riverside and seashore.
Mill of Towie
Restored oatmeal mill, built 19th century, stands beside River Isla.
Well-preserved church stands on an ancient site, founded by St Moluag in 6th century. Pictish stone in the churchyard records Danish defeat.
Monastic services still take place in abbey founded in 1230 by Alexander II. Badly damaged in 14th century and had fallen into ruin by 1560, but was restored in 1948 by Benedictines.
Restored Gollachy ice house, relic of salmon industry, and where fish were once stored, stands on shore of this 18th-century harbour. Dovecote surviving from now-vanished castle nearby can be seen from A98.
'Preacher's Cave' on shore was church in 19th century. Foundations of 7th-century Pictish fort perched on promontory overlooking harbour. Cliff-top path to west provides views of the Black Isle.
River Findhorn runs through a deep, spectacular sandstone chasm at Randolph's Leap. Beech, larch and oak shade woodland paths above gorge. Floodstones are reminders of the storms of 1829, when waters rose 5Oft.
St Ninian's Chapel
Restored 18th-century chapel; perhaps oldest post-Reformation Catholic church still in use.
Long-distance 30 mile walk follows fishermen's trails and old railway south. Ospreys fish in river near Fochabers. A marked and well-maintained pathway leads to Ballindalloch.
Stretch of steeply angled hillsides hold the turbulent waters of River Findhorn in check, like a bridle on a mettlesome horse -- Gaelic srian means 'bridle'. Grouse moors overlook the Tirfogrean Gully, eroded by swirling currents. Scattered farms are those that survived flooding in 1829.
Carvings of warriors and corpses embellish this 23ft monolith east of Forres. It was carved by the Picts around AD 900. Witches' Stone a't foot of Cluny Hill nearby marks the place where women accused of practising witchcraft were put to death.
Whiteash Hill Wood
Marked paths, called Winding Walks, span stretch of woodland east of Fochabers. Hill's summit provides views of Fochabers and lower Speyside.