Forres is know for its floral displays, impressive architecture and the largest Medieval carved standing stone in Scotland. The town is in Moray, around 26 miles from Inverness. Here are the highlights from my visit to the town.
This is one of the most impressive standing stones in Scotland. It's over 6.5m high. The protective glass box makes it stand out and draws you to it. The box seems to enhance the importance of the stone and provides a striking landmark for the town.
The carvings on the stone depict a battle. It's got infantry, horse riders and even decapitated enemies. It was made sometime in the mid 800s to early 900s.
Forres in Bloom
The town has won numerous awards for its floral displays. Grant Park is the place to see them. During my visit the displays were not quite ready, but the park is always a special place to spend some time.
My favourite view from the park looks out on a Tuscan bell tower. St John the Evangelist Scottish Episcopal Church has a tower that wouldn't look out of place in an Italian village. There's a great variety of architecture in Forres and this is one of the highlights.
There's also a cute statue of a piper in Grant Park.
Burn of Mosset
There are nice paths with bridges to explore on a walk down by the Burn of Mosset. On a sunny day this is the place to head with a picnic.
St Laurence Parish Church
This is my favourite building in Forres. It is grand with beautiful stonework and a 120 foot high spire. During my walkabout the bells were ringing and the Minister was outside the door, greeting parishioners.
Mercat Cross and Tolbooth
This structure might look familiar to you. It is modeled on the Scott Monument of Edinburgh's Princess Street. With the Tolbooth nearby this part of Forres is an architectural delight.
My favourite thing about the Tolbooth building? It's the stonework, with the different sizes and colours, and the arched windows.
The large number of impressive buildings in the town makes Forres a delight to explore. Some of my favourites include the Town Hall and the Red Lion Inn.
Maclean's Highland Bakery
You will find this bakery on the High Street and you should try one of their delicious pies. They have won awards and during my visit there was a window display devoted to the haggis and chicken and Scotch pies.
More to discover
I did not have time to see and do everything that Forres has to offer. This was a short visit, but I really enjoyed the town and would love to come back and spend more time here. Check out the Visit Forres website for ideas of more things to do.
It's just a 4 mile cycle from Forres to Brodie castle.
Where to stay
I stayed in the wonderful Knockomie Inn.
It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. I cycled here on National Cycle Route One.
"Charming, unique and delightful- this sums it up". I wrote this in my journal after staying at the Knockomie Inn in Forres. It has the classic ingredients of a Scottish country house hotel. There's antlers, wood paneling and a bar stocked with over 80 single malts. It's also got a relaxed and homely atmosphere.
Knockomie is around a mile south of Forres town centre. It is set in 4 acres of gardens.
The architecture of the building is Arts and Crafts. It was built in 1812 as a villa for visiting judges. It was later owned by the Fraser family who made their money from tea plantations in India.
There are 15 rooms, all with their own style. Mine had a neutral and calming decor. There are original features like the fireplace with an old servant bell and the large sash and case window.
My favourite thing in the room was the writing desk. I sat here in the evening and kept my travel journal up to date.
The only sound that could be heard inside the room was birdsong from the garden, a delight to wake up to in the morning.
The small restaurant is cosy, the staff welcoming and the atmosphere informal. I felt like I was a guest in the home of a good friend, rather than some anonymous hotel.
The starter of smoked salmon roulade with capers tasted sharp and fresh. For the main course I could not resist trying a fish n' chips with haddock in whisky batter. Although I couldn't detect much in the way of whisky flavour this was still a very good piece of fish and fluffy chips.
The dessert was the highlight. A chocolate ganache that was rich and seriously chocolaty.
Knockamie is in the Speyside whisky region. Benromach distillery is just 2 miles from the hotel, so I tried the 10 year old single malt. It has a golden colour and a wonderful flavour combination of fruit, malt and a hint of smoke.
The lounge with the real fire is the choice spot to relax with your drink.
The owners of Knockomie, Penny and Gavin, have gone to great efforts to make this place feel relaxed and informal. Although there is an air of luxury and grandness in the architecture and decor, you never feel that its stuffy.
Gavin told me that they get a lot of cyclists staying here. This put me at ease as I always feel a bit self-conscious turning up at places like this. Especially after hours on the road and looking a bit dirty and disheveled.
I had poached haddock, served with a few grinds of salt. The fish was delicious and really didn't need anything else to go with it.
Then a warm croissant and coffee. In these surroundings it is impossible to rush breakfast. Enjoy the architecture, the large windows where the morning sun floods in and the birdsong from the garden.
Forres is famous for its floral displays and gardens.
It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. I cycled here on National Cycle Route One.
It's like a dream. Travelling through tree tunnels, where the branches have joined together to arch over the road. This is what I enjoyed the most about this 26 mile section of National Cycle Route One. Miles of quiet, country roads with sections of woodland that turn the road into a vibrant green corridor.
Highlights of this route:
This route begins at the Spey viaduct. This is a magnificent structure and riding a bike across it is not to be missed.
It's 10 miles from the viaduct to Elgin. The path heads away from the coast, but not so far because some of these roads can get a dusting of sand.
The previous coastal sections of Route One, such as Cullen to Findochty, are spectacular. The inland sections don't have the harbours, rock formations and beaches, but there is still plenty to love.
One thing you must do is pull over and walk into the forests that border some of the roads. These woods reveal a world just as magical as the cliffs and coast.
Within minutes of walking into the forest I was struck by the stillness. I had this feeling that this place has been like this for hundreds of years and not much has changed. The forest floor was covered in moss that was decorated with tiny wildflowers.
It is tempting to put your head down and pedal fast on these roads, but that would mean missing out on experiencing the beauty of these forests.
It is also worth taking notice of the farmlands. I stopped at a pig farm and loved watching these creatures rooting about in the mud, sniffing and grunting.
The sudden appearance of a busy town with traffic and lots of visitors is a shock to the system after the forest roads.
The Cathedral is a good place to break the journey. It dates from 1224 and is one of the finest medieval buildings in Scotland. Although much of it is a ruin, plenty survives to make it easy to imagine the former grandeur of this place.
My favourite part of the building is getting to climb the spiral staircase of the towers. This gives a brilliant view over the ruins and the town.
There is some very fine architecture to discover. The octagonal chapter house is one of the best preserved parts of the site. Inside there is a stunning carved ceiling where you might just make out the remains of gold paint. There is a statue of a Bishop that tells of the quality of stone carving.
If you have time for a diversion you can follow my 24 mile cycle route to a nearby whisky distillery and Duffus Castle.
Elgin to Forres
This 16 mile section of the route has more of those quiet roads with vibrant green tree tunnels.
At Coltfield I found a group of friendly horses that were keen to investigate my bike.
Then I came across overgrown railway tracks from the closed Burghead branch line. Usually the tracks are lifted from disused railways, so it was unusual to find this. It is possible that the tracks have been lifted since my visit, but let me know in the comments.
Around 3 miles from Forres is the ruined Kinloss Abbey. It was founded in 1150 by King David 1 and run by a group of Cistercian monks from Melrose Abbey. The abbey declined in importance after 1560 when Protestantism became the religion of Scotland and Catholic abbeys were no longer needed. It explains the state of the buildings today and why there is very little to see.
However, the information boards provide a fascinating insight into the life of this abbey. What I did not appreciate was the large array of job titles and responsibilities that the monks had. For example, the Guest Master was responsible for travellers as abbeys provided accommodation to anyone who needed it.
The Guest Master must have been particularly busy in 1303 when Edward 1 and his army stayed for 2 weeks. They got through a year's worth of food and drink!
There was also a Master of Novices who was in charge of training and coaching.
There is a handy floor plan that shows you the layout of the rooms in the abbey. Most I was familiar with, but this was the first time I had come across a Warming Room. There was no heating in the abbey so in the winter months this room helped the monks to stay warm after hours spent in the cold church and cloister.
There is a whisky distillery to see on the way into Forres. Benromach produces Speyside single malt whisky. There are tours and tastings.
This is an enjoyable section of National Cycle Route One. The highlight is the miles of quiet roads that are bordered with beautiful forests. Try some of the other sections of Route One in the Moray region of Scotland: