Sculptors Cave is one of many sea caves situated on the Moray Firth. What distinguishes Sculptors Cave from all the others is its long and fascinating history. Factor in that it is only accessible during low tide and its allure becomes too difficult to ignore.
Sculptors cave lies near to the village of Covesea, between Lossiemouth and Burghead. It is named after the Pictish symbol rock carvings (AD 600-800) found on the walls.
History of Sculptors Cave
The first detailed excavation of the cave was carried out in 1928-30 by archaeologist, Sylvia Benton. The cave was excavated again in 1979 by Ian and Alexandra Shepherd. Bronze Age metalwork, Iron Age artefacts and human bones were found.
Since excavations began the cave’s most significant finds include ten 3,000-year-old gold-covered hair-rings and the most northerly Roman Iron Age coin hoard of its kind.
It is widely believed that the mummified severed heads of children were displayed at the entrance of the cave during the bronze age. All the discoveries point to the cave being used for rituals and sacrifices. The why remains a mystery.
The Pictish carvings in the Sculptor’s Cave include the Fish, Crescent & V-rod, Pentacle, Triple Vesica, Step, Mirror-Case, and Rectangular symbols. The carvings are most prominent around the entrance to the cave. Sadly, you must find them amongst modern scrawling and graffiti. We don’t care that “you were here” Tom! Nevertheless, It is a fun activity to locate the original carvings!
How to get to Sculptor’s Cave
There is a dirt track off the B9040 you can drive down that ends with parking spaces for about 6 vehicles. On the right you have an excellent view of Covesea Beach (which we later explore). You follow the foot path round to the left. There are two ways you can reach it from here:
- The first way to get there is by following the coast all the way round from Covesea beach. Bearing in mind that the cave can only be reached at low tide it’s best to set off an hour or two before the lowest tide to allow enough time to get there and back before the tide starts to come back in. This way involves a scramble over wet and slippery rock so be careful with your foot placement and watch out for slippery seaweed! The walk is quite fun although slow going at times and you pass some other sea caves and sea stacks on the way. You can return back the same route or by using the route in option 2.
- The second way to get there (and our preferred method) is by using the coastal path which follows the Moray Trail then veers off to where the cliff is at its lowest. This part of the cliff has some steps and rope laid out to help you down/up. It is quite hard to find the steps down from above so many people opt to walk along the coast on the way there and take the cliff route on the way back. If you fancy tackling the cliff route on the way there, I’ve made a map below to help you find the spot. From the bottom of the rope it is a short walk to the cave.
The co-ordinates for Sculptor’s Cave on the OS map are NJ 1750 7072.
Arriving at the cave
Once you arrive at the cave you will see two entrances. One entrance has been boarded up. Perhaps to protect the Pictish Carvings. Historic Environment Scotland has put up an information board showing what the Pictish carvings on the cave walls look like. Many of these can be located near the entrances.
The inside of the cave is large with a lot of natural light. However, it’s still a good idea to bring a torch to help find the carvings on the walls. We loved exploring the cave walls and all its nooks and crannies. There is a mini shrine towards the back of the cave where people have left a variety of items. Perhaps a modern-day homage to its history. The cave entrance offers a spectacular frame looking out to the Moray Coast. This provides the opportunity for a great photograph.
Extending the walk to Clashach Cove
If you would like to extend your walk you can return to the coastal path up the rope and continue along the path until you reach Clashach Cove. A path to the right will take you down to this beautiful beach. There is a steep option and a more gradual descent to reach the sandy bay below. Sea arches, caves and stunning rock formations flank either side of Clashash Cove.
There is a flat grassy area behind the sand that would be perfect for camping. The calmness of the water also makes this a great spot for swimming, kayaking and paddle-boarding. If you have the time, I would definitely add this onto your walk. There are also some fossilised dinosaur prints available to see nearby at the entrance of Clashash Quarry. Unfortunately, the weather has begun to wear away these amazing fossils, but they are still well worth a visit!
This area of Scotland is just spoiled for choice with beautiful beaches and before we returned to our car, we veered off to the left to have a look at Covesea beach (situated close to the carpark). After seeing the spectacular beach stretch before us we decided to go for a paddle! The beach boasts 4km of beautiful white sand and eventually leads onto Lossiemouth West beach. There are several rock pools, a lighthouse, and more caves to explore. Along with Clashach Cove this is my favourite beach on the Moray coast.
What started as a day out to find and explore Sculptors cave turned into so much more for us. Finding the cave is an adventure in itself. However, when you do reach it you will be blown away by its history, intrigue and beauty. We weren’t prepared for was how beautiful this entire section of coast is. Stunning cliff edges, caves, rock formations and beautiful sandy beaches made this a very difficult place to leave. We will definitely be back.
We recommend visiting this enchanting cave and taking in all the beautiful surrounding coastline while you do so!
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