Moray’s ‘capital’ city really is a city as it boasts a medieval cathedral all of its own. Although ruined by the dastardly Wolf of Badenoch in a spree of pyromanial revenge, it still stands tall and proud, keeping a lofty watch over it’s dominion, several hundred years later. So take a look around and Eat, Explore, Elgin.
The cathedral’s elegant windows lent their designs to Avva Gin’s labels and packaging too. Avva Gin is made nearby, and uses a unique still handcrafted by the local coppersmiths. The name Avva refers to the still itself as it means ‘respected Grandmother’ in an ancient Indian language, The still was named JessieJean after the founder’s two grandmothers. Avva Gin hosts visitors for tours, several times a week, by appointment. Click here to learn more, or to buy their delicious range on-line.
Elgin has much to explore besides its cathedral and its gin. Gordon and MacPhail is here, one of Scotland’s leading independent whisky distillers and bottlers, and began life in 1895. As well as a host of whiskies and gins, their shop on South Street is also a fabulous deli. The range of cheese on offer is always a powerful reason to head to their door!
Johnston’s of Elgin is another global brand with it’s home in the heart of Moray. The wool and cashmere mill on the banks of the River Lossie, close to the Cathedral, is also long established and dates from1797. These days its a place of luxury and indulgence, with fine cashmere garments and home accessories, plus a lovely informal restaurant ‘Weavers’, which features local produce in the menu, while the retail area stocks a good range of Scottish gins.
But we’re here to explore the finest food and drink to be enjoyed locally, so don’t forget to visit Allarburn Farm Shop, on the south side of town. Started by a local farming family, the business started as the outlet for its dairy produce, but quickly grew to include home produced eggs, vegetables and potatoes. It now combines a retail area where all manner of locally grown, reared, laid, brewed, milked and distilled produce can be purchased, and enjoyed in the café too.
For specialist butchery at the highest level, look to John Davidsons on Elgin’s High Street (and mail order). You’ll find everything from local black pudding to Toulouse Sausage, alongside the finest Scottish beef, lamb and pork. There are even some oven ready meals (including Stovies), if you fancy giving cook the day off.
The centre of Elgin also has a number of fine independent coffee shops. This is always a pleasant change from the big brands we see everywhere around. Batchen Street has become a tiny stronghold of some of the area’s finest. Here’s Bijou, a family run gift shop and coffee shop, making it somewhere to browse and graze, all in the same place! Try their pancakes, straight off the griddle and onto your plate.
Planta, also on Batchen Street, gives local food an Italian twist and presents it in the most colourful and attractive way. Come here for great coffee, or lunch. Maybe stay for dinner with a cheese platter or charcuturie selection, matched with some fabulous wines, beers and local gins. Highly recommended.
We can’t leave Batchen Street without mentioning Manna, a juice bar and home of healthy eating options, that still manages to offer deliciousness by the forkful. You’ll be hard pressed to know which of these Batchen Street businesses to try first!
The east end of the High Street contains some of Elgin’s oldest buildings. Look upwards to see the pantiled rooflines, crow stepped gables, and irregular angles which give some clues as to the age of them. Small closes (alleyways) divide the buildings, offering glimpses into the lives these ancient dwellings contained. One of these closes is home to The Drouthy Cobbler, an informal gastro pub with outside heated seating areas where dogs are also made very welcome. Everything from Sunday lunch to a coffee and piece, accompanied by the widest selection of local whiskies, beers. And of course, Scottish Gin!