The Coastal Trail

Follow the Coastal Trail and discover the magnificent north east coast of Aberdeenshire. Discover part or all of the route's 165 continuous miles of cliff-tops, coves, beaches, charming towns and villages, and marvellous wildlife. 

Stop by atmospheric castles, historic lighthouses and harbours along the way while taking the time to sample delicious seafood and soak up spectacular scenery.  

  • The Bullers of Buchan, a collapsed sea cave
    The Bullers of Buchan – an amazing collapsed sea cave that can be seen on the Coastal Trail
  • Golfer plays one of the holes at the golf course at Cruden Bay
    Cruden Bay
  • The Aberdeenshire coast with Dunnottar Castle in the distance
    Dunnottar Castle
  • Fraserburgh Harbour
    Fraserburgh Harbour
  • The harbour of Portsoy in the early morning, a small fishing village on the north Aberdeenshire coast
    The harbour of Portsoy, a small fishing village on the north Aberdeenshire coast

You can start your journey anywhere on the trail. Why not begin up near Banff, home to the exquisite Georgian mansion of Duff House? Or head along to St Cyrus in southern Aberdeenshire where you’ll be rewarded with miles of golden sand dunes and cliffs. Visit the is stunning National Nature Reserve for the chance to see peregrine falcons circling overhead, rare wildflowers, butterflies and moths.

Make the most of the rest or your day and head along the increasingly rugged coastline to Dunnottar Castle, one of Scotland’s iconic castles. Perched on rocky outcrop overlooking the North Sea, this once impregnable fortress was visited by legendary historic figures including William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell.

A couple of miles north of Dunnottar is the attractive fishing town of Stonehaven. Stop for lunch at one of the cosy inns by the harbour and enjoy delicious seafood freshly caught that morning.

Continue north to Balmedie where you’ll be greeted with epic sand dunes and a pristine stretch of beach, perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Stop by the nearby National Nature Reserve to watch tern diving into the waves for their prey and wading oystercatchers.

Travel further north and you’ll arrive at another of the region’s atmospheric castles. Situated on dramatic cliffs located about a mile north of Cruden Bay, the ruined Slains Castle is widely believed to have inspired Bram Stoker to pen his horror classic Dracula.

The author often holidayed in Cruden Bay, and the pretty coastal town is a lovely place to stop for a cup of tea or coffee. Keen golfers can even take time out to play a round of golf at Cruden Bay Golf Course, one of the finest link courses in the country.

Just north of Cruden Bay is the Bullers of Buchan, a remarkable natural phenomenon that just has to be seen. Watch the sea rushing through the archway of this 30 m deep chasm created from a collapsed sea cave where rare birds like mainland puffins can sometimes be seen nesting.

Make the town of Fraserburgh your next stop and pay a visit to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses where you can take a tour of 18th century Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, the only light house to be built atop a fortified castle.

Continue west onwards along the Banffshire coast, also known as Scotland’s ‘Dolphin Coast’ for the chance to see these magical creatures alongside whales and porpoises. Along this part of the trail you’ll also encounter some delightful fishing villages like Crovie which consists of a single line of houses by the water’s edge, and Pennan which featured in the classic film Local Hero.

Bring your journey to a close at Portsoy, home to one of the oldest harbours in Europe. Portsoy also hosts the annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival where traditional vessels from Scotland and beyond gather in the harbour to celebrate the region’s rich maritime and cultural heritage.