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Burghead Moray half-way between Forres and Lossiemouth lacing west over the Moray Firth on the tip of its bay and created early in the 19th century is still a busy port, seine-net fishing harbour and sailing centre, and headquarters of the former Outward Bound Moray Sea School for young men, which closed in 1976.
Burghead has a unique relic of ancient times the remarkable rock-cut structure, thought to be an early Christian baptistery, possibly constructed by followers of St Columba in the 6th century Under a hill-slope. Just off the Burghead headland, this well was discovered in 1809. A stair hewn from the solid rock leads down to a chamber 11 ft high with a well or cistern almost square and 4 ft deep, cut into the ﬂoor.
Round the well runs a stone ledge 4 ft wide with a raised seat or altar at one corner. It has been suggested that the present roof a lofty ‘Roman' arch. was built in l8l0 by William Young of Inverugie to replace a vaulted ceiling also carved from the rock.
The well is in the care of the Department of the Environment and open to the public at all times.
Pietish sculptured stones bearing incised representations of bulls were found here, the originals are in the British Museum, but replicas may be seen in the Harbour Masters office and there is an elaborate ancient fort on the headland which has been variously identified as the Ptoroton of the Romans and the Torfness of the Vikings, but Burghead is probably best known for its annual ceremony of the Burning of the Clavie.
At the landward end of the cliff-top plateau is the smoke-blackened Dourie Pillar, a l9th century freestone erection on which the Clavie is enthroned during the Aul ’Eel ceremony, which itself appears to have been carried on for at least 300 years. The Clavie is made from half a tar-barrel fixed to a stout shaft 5 ft long by a hand-wrought nail hammered in with a stone. At six o'clock precisely on the evening of llth Jan., it is lit at the Manse Wall of the old United Presbyterian church with a peat from a household fire by the Clavie King. Then follows the march around the burgh to the Dourie Hill from which, after blazing with glorious vigour, it is felled, to cascade down the grassy slope. The embers treasured as keepsakes and sent to ‘exiled’ Burgheadians all over the world, are known as ‘witches’.
There are splendid views from Burghead round the Moray Firth and farther north west and, apart from the busy scene in the harbour, there are the striking tour storey warehouses and waterfront.