Outdoors

Discover 165 continuous miles of dramatic clifftops, enchanting coves, paradise beaches, charming towns and marvellous wildlife on the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail.

This four day itinerary features just a few of the great attractions you can visit on Scotland's beautiful north-east coast. Download the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail leaflet to find all the amazing things there are to see and do along the trail.

Transport

Car

Days

4

Miles

120

Route

St Cyrus to Portsoy

Highlights

Stunning sea views, coastal walks, clifftop castles, seaside wildlife

Areas Covered

North

see full route

Day 1

overview

St Cyrus & Stonehaven

The first day of your itinerary will take you to some of the fantastic coastal attractions of southern Aberdeenshire. Begin your day with a refreshing walk around St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, then visit the Maggie Law Maritime Museum in Gourdon. Visit the magnificently ruined Dunnottar Castle, perched high on a seacliff, and explore the beautiful coastal village of Stonehaven, where you can savour a luxurious ice cream and freshly caught seafood.
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Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Stop 1 - St Cyrus National Nature Reserve

You can start your journey anywhere on the trail but why not begin at St Cyrus in southern Aberdeenshire where you'll be rewarded with miles of golden sand dunes and cliffs? Visit this stunning National Nature Reserve for the chance to see peregrine falcons circling overhead, rare wildflowers, butterflies and moths.

Stop 2 - Maggie Law Maritime Museum

This seafaring museum is the newest addition to the trail, and occupies an old coastguard station. It sits beside the old harbour in the heart of Gourdon village. 

The museum's centrepiece is the lifeboat, the Maggie Law. This was one of the first inshore lifeboats, built in 1890. Still in good condition today, she was in service for 40 years and saved 36 lives. The museum also shares many more fascinating tales of the Kincardine coastline in the upper deck.

Stop 3 - Dunnottar Castle

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

Stop 4 - Stonehaven

A couple of miles north of Dunnottar sits the attractive fishing town of Stonehaven. Stop for a delicious meal at one of the cosy inns by the harbour and enjoy freshly caught seafood. Afterwards treat yourself to an indulgent ice cream at one of Stonehaven's wonderful ice cream shops, such as Aunty Betty's or Giulianotti's. Spend the night in Aberdeen and enjoy the pubs, restaurants and entertainment in the city.

Other great coastal attractions in this area include RSPB Fowlsheugh, Stonehaven open air swimming pool, Stonehaven Harbour and Tolbooth Museum.

Day 2

overview

Balmedie, Cruden Bay & Rattray

On your second day, visit some of the picture-perfect beauty spots on the coast north of Aberdeen. Absorb beautiful views of sand dunes at Balmedie, see seals basking in the Ythan Estuary, stop for lunch in the pretty coastal town of Cruden Bay and snap pictures of imposing Slains Castle,  which is thought to have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula.
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Cruden Bay Golf Club, Aberdeenshire

Stop 1 - Forvie National Nature Reserve

Travel north from Aberdeen to Balmedie where you'll be greeted with epic sand dunes and a pristine stretch of beach, perfect for a leisurely morning stroll. Stop at the nearby Forvie National Nature Reserve and Ythan Estuary to watch paddling eider ducks and seals basking at the mouth of the estuary.

Stop 2 - Cruden Bay

Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, often holidayed in Cruden Bay, and the pretty coastal town is a lovely place to stop for a refreshing walk along the beautiful beach before enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. You could even take time out to play a round of golf at Cruden Bay Golf Course, one of the finest link courses in the country.

Stop 3 - Slains Castle & Bullers of Buchan walk

This beautiful 1.5/2 hour walk, which starts in Cruden Bay, passes ruined Slains Castle, widely believed to have inspired Bram Stoker's horror classic, Dracula, and the Bullers of Buchan, a remarkable natural phenomenon that just has to be seen.

Snap pictures of the imposing castle (from a safe distance!) and watch the sea rushing through the archway of the Bullers of Buchan, a 30 m deep chasm created from a collapsed sea cave. Rare birds like mainland puffins can sometimes be seen nesting. Take care when walking along the path though as it is very close to the edge of the cliffs.

Travel north and spend the night in Fraserburgh, where your third day on the trail will begin.

Other great coastal attractions in this area include Torry Battery at the mouth of Aberdeen Harbour, where you can spot dolphins, Aberdeen Fun beach, just a short walk from Aberdeen city centre, Peterhead Bay, RSPB Loch of Strathbeg reserve and Rattray Head beach.

Day 3

overview

Crimond, Fraserburgh & Macduff

Spend your third day on the trail exploring the major fishing port of Fraserburgh before heading west along the Banffshire coast. Fraserburgh is the biggest shellfish port in Europe and has a busy commercial harbour so be sure to sample the seafood while you're there.
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Banff and Macduff © Roddy Matheson / Aberdeen Council

Stop 1 - Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

Begin your day in Fraserburgh with a visit to the fascinating Museum of Scottish Lighthouses and enjoy a tour of 18th century Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. This was the first lighthouse to be built on mainland Scotland and it sits on top of 16th century Kinnaird Castle.

Stop 2 - Fraserburgh

Stop for some lunch before enjoying some other activities in the town. On Fraserburgh beach you can try surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing with Synergy Kitesports, or you could pop into the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre to learn more about the fishing legacy of this important port using the fun, interactive exhibits.

Stop 3 - Macduff

Continue west towards Macduff. This stretch of coast is known as Scotland's 'Dolphin Coast' and it's a magnificent driving route - you might even be able to see dolphins from the shore or from the historic harbours of the area, 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 Hollywood film Local Hero.

Spend the night in Macduff and enjoy a hearty meal in one of the local restaurants.

Other great coastal attractions in this area include Arbuthnot Museum, New Aberdour beach, Pitsligo Castle, Sandhaven Meal Mill, Maggie's Hoosie and Inverallochy.

Day 4

overview

Macduff, Banff & Portsoy

Your final day on the trail takes in three of Aberdeenshire's most charming towns - Macduff, Banff and Portsoy. Visit the aquarium at Macduff, explore the beautiful Duff House in Banff and head to Portsoy, where you can learn about the town's salmon fishing heritage and enjoy a luxurious ice cream.
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Duff House, Banff

Stop 1 - Macduff Marine Aquarium

Begin your final day at Macduff Marine Aquarium where you can get up close to marine life and learn about the creatures that live in the Moray Firth, from tiny barnacles and mussels to octopus, lobster, jellyfish and beautifully patterned flatfish. Stop off at the touch pools for the chance to handle an array of amazing creatures and see the feeding frenzy in the central kelp reef tank when the divers jump in to feed the fish.

Stop 2 - Duff House

Travel on to Banff and stop for some lunch before you visit the exquisite Georgian mansion, Duff House. Designed by esteemed Scottish architect William Adam, Duff House is home to a splendid collection of paintings and fine furniture on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. Marvel at the lavish interiors, take a walk in the sprawling grounds and let the kids blow off steam in the play park.

Stop 3 - Portsoy

Bring your journey to a close at Portsoy, home to one of the oldest harbours in Europe and also part of the Banffshire Coast Harbour Trail. Stop off at the Portsoy Salmon Bothy and discover Portsoy's salmon fishing heritage in this wonderfully restored building.

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. This popular and busy festival also includes lots of boating activities, live music and delicious local food and drink stalls.

Other great coastal attractions in this area include RSPB Troup Head reserve, renowned Portsoy ice cream, Banff Links beach and Sandend beach which are popular surfing spots, Glenglassaugh Distillery and Cullen beach.

Summary

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