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Burghead

Burghead is believed to have been the Pictish capital of Moray. You can find out about the history of the area at a newly renovated visitor centre run by the Burghead Headland Trust, a local community group.
The distinctive white building has been a visitor centre since 2003, having been built as a storm signal in the mid-19th century. It was almost doubled in size as a result of an ambitious scheme which was completed towards the end of 2012.
The centre features a collection of Pictish exhibits as well as displays about the famous Burning of the Clavie and is visited by thousands of people every year.
The recent development includes the installation of a window which allows people to enjoy a panoramic view of the Moray Firth from indoors.
Visit the ancient well, unique in Scotland, in the heart of the town. A flight of steps hewn from the rock leads down into an underground chamber where a still pool is fed by an underground natural spring. You have to phone ahead and ask for the key. Call 01667 460232.
Each January, the skies above Burghead are lit up with flames as thousands of revellers gather to witness one of the most spectacular and revered rituals of the Pictish world – the Burning of the Clavie.
The fiery ceremony marking the start of the Pictish new year on January 11 is steeped in ancient tradition.
With its roots firmly in paganism, the Burning of the Clavie was condemned by the church in the 18th century but is now firmly established as one of a handful of distinctly Scottish signature celebrations.
A barrel cut down to 17 inches, the Clavie, which is filled with tar and slivers of wood, is nailed to a four-foot pole with a specially forged nail which has been used for many years, and ignited with the help of gallons of creosote.
The burning nest of fire is then led through the crowd-lined streets of Burghead’s old town by the Clavie King and his Clavie Crew, a group of native “Brochers”.
Along the way, fragments of burning wood from the Clavie, which are deemed to be harbingers of good luck for their recipients, are left at key points including local hostelries. Several householders are also honoured by the presentation of burning embers which traditionally are taken into the home to purge it of evil spirits and to guarantee good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year.
At the end of the procession, the Clavie is positioned on a stone altar on the site of the Pictish fort at Doorie Hill and, after the barrel collapses, the blazing embers are scattered over the hilltop.
Pictures: The Northern Scot

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