Alison Rose lives in Moray and works for the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre. As part of our #SeaHighlandsIslands series, Alison talks about things to see in Moray including the wonderful wildlife, recommends a Thai restaurant and shares her favourite walk.
I am the Centre manager of the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay, Moray. Based at the mouth of the river Spey, this is a spectacular place where visitors can spot bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, living wild and free. Other regular visitors are ospreys, seals and many species of coastal birds. The visitor centre is run by international charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation and is a place where people can learn more about the amazing whales and dolphins that live in Scotland. I am very proud to work for Whale and Dolphin Conservation who do such fantastic work to protect whales and dolphins throughout the world.
I enjoy yoga, as I find it helps me to relax and keeps me fit! I am a regular visitor to Elgin library as I get through so many novels – the staff are so friendly and helpful. Some of my favourite authors write about our impact on the environment, including Nicholas Evans and Barbara Kingsolver. As most of my close family live in Merseyside, I also spend time talking on FaceTime or Skype to my collection of small nieces and nephews!
My husband Rick and three guinea pigs, Smudge, Banoffee and Truffle. Banoffee is in charge.
I have lived here for 9 years. I grew up in Formby, Merseyside , which is much more built up and busy than Moray. After studying Zoology at University, I took the opportunity to complete a residential volunteering opportunity at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, and have not left since! This part of Scotland is such a beautiful place to live and I like the more relaxed way of life here (plus I ended up marrying an Aberdonian).
My favourite beach is the shingle beach here at my work place in Spey Bay. It is so unique that it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its active shingle ridges. If you come after a big winter storm you will see how much the shingle banks shift and move over time: the river mouth looks different each year! This beach is particularly special to me as it’s the first place I saw bottlenose dolphins when I moved up in 2009. These amazing creatures a part of a population of about 190 dolphins that are resident to the Moray Firth, and are in fact the most northerly population in the world of this species.
Sadly, there is a whole list of dangers that marine wildlife face in Scottish waters such as entanglement, underwater noise and pollution. However, we are thrilled that the Scottish government is creating protected areas for whales and dolphins following almost a decade of campaigning by WDC. You will be able to find out more about the progress of these MPAs by signing up to WDC’s e-newsletter at www.whales.org – later in the year you will find out how to show your support too.
The Scottish Dolphin Centre has been working to reduce our plastic use, as marine litter is such a danger to whales and dolphins. We no longer sell any drinks in plastic bottles in our café and we offer free water refills too. So many people are now joining the fight against single use plastic – if you visit us, you can get 10% off hot drinks when using your own reusable coffee cup. Or buy one in our shop and you will get your first hot drink completely free! You can find out more about WDC’s campaign on marine litter at www.notwhalefood.com.
Randolph’s Leap from Logie Steading, near Forres. This walk along the River Findhorn gives you lovely views of steep cliffs and woodland that look especially beautiful in the autumn time. We have often seen deer from the path on our walks here. There is a great café and collection of art and craft shops back at the Steading too. This walk is a real favourite of ours and visiting friends and family have also really enjoyed it.
I love the time around the Summer Solstice in June – the long, long daylight hours make it possible to get out and about after work! The wildlife around Spey Bay is really buzzing at this time of year too. We regularly see ospreys hovering over the estuary, waiting for the best moment to dive for fish. The dive is very distinctive as they hold their wings half folded and fling their feet forward just before they hit the water. It is a thrilling sight for our visitors to see. You can learn more from our trained guides who lead wildlife walks on a daily basis at 2:15pm, leaving from the visitor centre shop.
Spend some time looking out for dolphins! The best time to try is May – September, though they can be seen at any time of year. Bottlenose dolphins spend a lot of time near the coast so they are ideal candidates for watching from land.
We really promote land based watching as then the dolphins remain completely unaffected and undisturbed. I would recommend taking some snacks and a flask, dress for the weather, and be prepared to spend some time spotting! It’s worth looking out for feeding birds out at sea, as this can be an indication that fish are in the area, so the dolphins could well be feeding too.
When it comes to things to see in Moray, there is a really interesting rock formation at Portknockie village called Bowfiddle Rock. The rock does look like a Bow and Fiddle, or an elephant’s head, complete with trunk! The cliffs along this coastline are a favourite haunt of sea birds so it’s worth taking binoculars to spot the different gull and auk species, such as guillemots and razorbills. You can walk along the path for a couple of miles and reach the pretty village of Cullen, home to one of WDC’s Shorewatch sites. Shorewatch volunteers are trained up to gather vital data on whales and dolphins so we can better understand their movements. You can find out more about becoming a Shorewatcher at whales.org/shorewatch.
Scotland is one of the best places in the world to watch dolphins from land. Dolphins share increasingly busy sea with lots of humans in boats, kayaks, jet skis and other vessels and all this activity can disturb them. We want everyone to have fun, but when we’re on the water we’re sharing that space with dolphins and other animals for whom the sea is their home. If you head out on the water, please give them space!
Pattaya Thai restaurant in Elgin (High Street). I love the thai green curry! Then we like to walk a few doors down to the Drouthy Cobbler pub who do great cocktails (usually an Espresso Martini for me, please).
Thanks, Alison, for some great ideas for things to see in Moray. We have had some great days out at the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre and definitely recommend it. The food is delicious and we were lucky enough to see dolphins and an osprey.
If you’re interested in whales and dolphins, you may also like our local tips on things to do in the Scottish Highlands & Islands from Charlie Phillips who also works for WDC.
Read the other posts in our #SeaHighlandsIslands series:
See all posts in our #SeaHighlandsIslands series where we celebrate the coast of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.