WALKERS are to be transported back in time by canoe along a little-known canal.

They will take a trip through the history of Moray to see a bishop's palace that once stood on the shores of a sea loch, where mariners would seek a safe haven and would visit the thriving settlement that had grown there.

There is nothing left of the town now. Loch of Spynie is land-locked and much reduced, and Spynie Palace, for centuries home to the Bishops of Moray, stands in ruins.

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But the project, called The Secrets of Spynie - A Paddle and a Plod, will take a group of 16 from a point just outside Elgin along the canal to Spynie Palace using a Canadian Voyager. They will return by foot, following the ancient shoreline dating from about 1200 years ago when the sea flowed through the Laich of Moray, the area's rich agricultural coastal plain.

It will take about an hour each way and is to be one of the highlights of the Moray Walking Festival in June.

Engineered in 1812 by Thomas Telford at the request of local landowners, the canal system was required to drain 2500 acres of the Loch of Spynie, just north of Elgin. It was to save the area from flooding, taking the water about six miles into the sea at Lossiemouth

Secrets of Spynie is a joint venture between Elgin businessman Jim Royan and Iain Jamieson, chairman of Outfit Moray, a Lossiemouth-based outdoor adventure charity.

Mr Royan, the founding chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, said: "The Spynie canal system is a remarkable part of Moray's history and gives us insight into the earlier and important history of the Laich of Moray.

"It brings to life the important role that Spynie Palace and its harbour played in its relationship with Elgin Cathedral and also as the port of Elgin.

"The canal provides an opportunity for all ages to experience this new addition to the Moray Walking festival programme which is recreational, educational, environmentally friendly and fun."

Jim Thomson, chairman of the Moray Walking Festival said: "The festival this year is really showing the very best of Moray from its food and drink, heritage, arts, culture and wildlife. The Paddle and Plod event is a great example of this.

"We're also very excited to announce that Cameron McNeish, Scotland's best-known walker, will be our feature presenter this year."