I have lived in two locations in Scotland, the first Elgin I will tell you about another time, my favourite of the two is called Burghead. Burghead is a small village of about 1600 people lying in the county of Moray in the north east of the country. Its position on the coast, lying between the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen means it is an attractive place for many to want to relocate to. Geographically it lies on the warm air currents of the Gulf Stream, resulting in some of the better weather in the UK.
There has been a settlement of sort form or another on this peninsular jutting out into the North Sea since well before the time of the Roman invasion over 2000 years ago. The village’s position with the sea guarding three sides of the peninsular meant it was an easily defendable spot. It is unknown just who the first settlers were to this area. There is evidence of it being used as far back as the stone ages. The ancient Scots, or Picts as they were called had a fort here to deter any would be invaders. Much of the archaeological evidence was lost during the rebuilding of the village during the early 19th century; it was at that time laid out in a grid pattern of streets, much as it is to this day. One relic preserved from the age of the Picts is a well, known simply as Burghead well. The exact purpose for the well is not known, although it is believed to have been used for sacrificial purposes.
Due to its position next to the sea, a harbour has been in use for many years, the present harbour was built during the time the village was redesigned as I wrote earlier. Nowadays it is home to a small fishing fleet, although occasionally larger vessels do call in.
During the 19th century with the arrival of the railway, the harbours use as a commercial one diminished, the railway has long since gone as a result of a certain Mr. Beeching who was responsible for the cutting of much of Britain’s railway network in the 1960’s.
One of the stranger ceremonies or festivals takes place here on the 11th January every year. Called the ‘Burning of the Clavie’, it is quite a sight to witness on this winters evening. The ‘clavie’ is a burning barrel of wood and tar, carried around the village aloft by the claviemen, these are all descendants of the original Burghead families, and count it as a great honour to be chosen for this event. They stop at the houses of locally notable families, as well as the villages’ three pubs for much needed refreshment. At each of these stops a piece of the burning embers are handed out to the residents of these houses and it is said to bring good luck for the following year. On this day each year many hundreds of people travel into the village to witness this event, I was taken somewhat by surprise the first time I witnessed it from an upper storey window and quickly found out all I could about this somewhat strange but traditional annual reminder of the past.
It is a tranquil and charming place to live, with its many miles of beaches. One side of the village is mostly sandy wide open beach, the other rocky with small coves, great for exploring when the tide is out. It is one of the best places I have ever seen for beach glass, both the quantity and quality. I would often return home with pockets overflowing with pieces of all shapes and sizes. Many people have holiday (or vacation) homes here, others have moved here with a view to it being their choice of an ideal place to retire to.
Sources; personal experience, personal knowledge