When you think of the east coast of Scotland, you might think of a collection of rugged coastlines, beautiful beaches, picturesque fishing villages, quaint harbours and fresh seafood. But the east coast is also home to a rich treasure trove of all things cultural from arts and music to theatre and literature.
Here are just a few great places – many of which have free entry – to experience along the east coast.
Get started in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the first UNESCO City of Literature and the world’s leading festival city, home to the Edinburgh International Festival, rousing Hogmanay celebrations and the International Book Festival – the largest celebration of the written word in the world.
Explore collections of national and international significance at the National Museum of Scotland, with everything from Scottish and international archaeology to applied arts and design, world cultures, social history, science, technology and the natural world. Catch one of the free daily tours to guide you through this journey of discovery.
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century cannon Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun (get ready for its firing!) and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Discover the Kingdom of Fife and its treasures
Continue your journey north along the east coast and you’ll enter Fife. Top tip – go by rail, and you’ll cross over The Forth Bridge, Scotland’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dunfermline, once the capital of Scotland and now the nation’s newest city, is a great place to visit if you’re interested in history.
The town’s heritage quarter includes the 12th century abbey which is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce and the burial site of 11 other Scottish kings and queens. The world famous philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, was also born in the city. Hear the story of his life at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, then visit the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries adjoining the world’s first Carnegie Library.
Kellie Castle and Garden, near the picturesque village of Pittenweem, reveals a long-concealed mural by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Its majestic library ceiling is also one of the oldest ornamental plaster ceilings in Scotland.
Also worth a visit is the Scottish Fisheries Museum, situated on the edge of Anstruther harbour. Their large collection of paintings and drawings, inspired by tales of the sea, makes them an art gallery as well as a museum.
It’s not just the sun that shines in Dundee (Scotland’s sunniest city)
As you head across the River Tay to Dundee, the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design, you are greeted by the iconic V&A Dundee, the first V&A museum in the world outside London. Designed by internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, V&A Dundee was inspired by the dramatic cliffs along the east coast of Scotland with the building stretching out into the River Tay.
Continue your art tour with a visit to see the latest exhibitions at DCA, Dundee Contemporary Arts, embark on a journey through 400 million years curated in the eight galleries at McManus – Dundee’s Museum & Art Gallery, or take in an award-winning production at one of the UK’s foremost theatre companies, the Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre.
Find some gems in Angus
Further along the east coast brings you to Arbroath in Angus, known for the striking Arbroath Abbey and the Declaration of Arbroath.
You’ll also find Hospitalfield House in Arbroath. Originally owned by artist Patrick Allan Fraser, it is a significant early arts and crafts building which includes the Picture Gallery, one of Scotland’s most important Victorian rooms. Writer Sir Walter Scott once visited and was inspired to write his novel the Antiquary, in which the home of Monkbarns was based on Hospitalfield.
Also in Angus is the magnificent House of Dun, near Montrose, designed by renowned architect William Adam and the perfect example of a Georgian country house. It took 13 years to complete and the precision shows in the fine details. See if you can spot the patriotic emblems subtly detailed in the ornate plasterwork.
Explore Amazing Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
It’s an exciting time to enjoy all things cultural in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. The recently re-imagined and refurbished Aberdeen Music Hall is a national treasure with decades of wonderful history and an eclectic mix of performances to enjoy.
You can also follow the Nuart Trail where artists from around the globe have transformed the walls and buildings of Aberdeen city centre with works of art that are free for all to enjoy, 365 days a year.
Aberdeen Art Gallery is a major cultural attraction in the heart of Aberdeen. Its collection is one of the finest in the UK, and it’s recognised as a Collection of National Significance in Scotland. You can see how the landscape and people of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire provided such artistic inspiration, from Catterline’s light in Joan Eardley’s work, to the Doric tones echoed in Gabrielle Reith’s hand-painted jewellery.
Outwith the city, discover Duff House designed by William Adam. Once home to noted art collectors, it now displays collections from the National Galleries of Scotland. See works by El Greco, Gainsborough and Raeburn, as well as the Dunimarle Library, a rare collection of over 4,000 volumes which can be viewed by appointment.
Inspired to delve deeper? Plan your cultural trip along the east coast with our 7-day itinerary and meet its people, the places and their captivating stories.