Aberdeenshire // Seven Places to Visit on the North Coast

Needle's Eye Rock, Tarlair, Macduff

About an hour's drive north of the city of Aberdeen, the land meets the sea with rugged clifftops and adorable fishing towns along the coastline of Banffshire and Moray. 

We headed north on a scenic road-trip on Wednesday and were halfway along the coast when we got the disappointing news that Aberdeen was heading back into a local lock-down that very evening. It's going to be a little while before any of us can leave the city again, which means I'm treasuring this adventure and its dozens of pictures all the more. 

If you're not stuck on lock-down and are looking for some places to explore in the North East of Scotland, outside of Aberdeen, here are seven points on the Banffshire and Moray coast that I enjoy visiting...

New Aberdour Beach, Aberdeenshire

1. New Aberdour Beach 

Situated at the east end of the coast, not far from the town of Fraserburgh, the pebbled beach of New Aberdour is lined with limestone caves and home to St Drostan's Well, from which the Saint is said to have baptised local people, founding one of the earliest churches in Scotland. 

For me, it's the chance to explore the caves' nooks and crannies that is the real pull here (although you certainly need to be mindful of the changing tide), but it also seems like an ideal bay for a turn on a paddle-board or kayak. 

Gannets at Troup Head, Aberdeenshire

2. Troup Head 

A 15 minute drive west of New Aberdour, past the village of Pennan (also well worth a visit if you can brave the road down), you'll find the RSPB nature reserve, Troup Head. 

This 4km stretch of grassland and stunning clifftops makes for a bracing yet picturesque walk with plenty of photographic opportunities. Dolphins, porpoises and seals are often spotted out at sea, but it's the 90m high cliff face itself which provides home to the most impressive wildlife display: razorbills, guillemots, the occasional puffin, and mainland Scotland's largest gannet colony.

Whether you're a nature-lover, avid photographer, or just enjoy a nice, scenic walk, Troup Head is a great place to visit. 


3. Crovie Village Viewpoint 

Sitting on the edge of the North Sea, the coastline of Banffshire and Moray is dotted with adorable seaside towns and fishing villages. Crovie is one such place - one of Europe's best preserved fishing villages and the only known settlement on mainland Britain where it's impossible to drive a car, with only a narrow footpath separating  the houses and a rocky drop into the sea. 

Thought to have been established in the late 18th century, Crovie came into existence as families found themselves forced out by landlords taking over inland estates. The village continued to thrive thanks to the fishing industry until the mid 20th century, when many of the properties were abandoned after a devastating storm. These days, many of the buildings are used as holiday-lets, occupied mostly in the summer. 

As with many of these villages, the road to reach Crovie is narrow and incredibly steep. Fortunately, a car park near the top of the hill allows for some beautiful views. 


4. Tarlair Swimming Pool

Built in Macduff in 1931, in the brief interlude of peace between two World Wars, Tarlair's open-air, sea-water swimming pool sits at the foot of a cliff, where it was enjoyed by the community right up until 1996. 

Long since abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair, the art deco building and its three pools are thought to be the best remaining example of outdoor seaside pools in Scotland and it remains a beautiful site to visit and explore. 

The Needle's Eye rock formation on the shore is also worth looking out for. 


5. Portsoy Ice-Cream

It wouldn't be a real day out if there wasn't a stop for ice-cream, would it? The seaside towns of the area are home to a number of popular ice-cream shops, but the one at Portsoy is by far my favourite. 

The almost-permanent queue outside the door is testament to the quality of their product, offering small-batch ice-cream and sorbets in more than a dozen flavours, alongside bubble waffles, toppings and a delicious selection of hot sauces. 

Grab an ice-cream and enjoy it overlooking the Loch of Soy or the local harbour. 


The view over Cullen from Castle Hill

6. Castle Hill, Cullen 

A little further along the coast of the  Moray Firth lies the village of Cullen - a quaint seaside settlement of colourful cottages, quirky shops, beautiful beaches and a series of historic viaducts. The village is famous for its fish-based delicacy, Cullen Skink, but I hear the local ice-cream is pretty good too.

There are a number of walking routes to explore from Cullen, including the coastal path to Sunnyside Beach and Findlater Castle, but within the village itself there's a worthwhile walk to the top of Castle Hill. Once the site of a Fort where Robert the Bruce's wife is thought to have died, the open hilltop now provides the perfect panoramic view of Cullen's beauty. 

Bow Fiddle Rock, Portknockie

7. Bow Fiddle Rock 

Our final stop was just along the road from Cullen, off the coast of the village of Portknockie. The natural sea arch known as Bow Fiddle Rock is an impressive Quartzite rock formation created by years of erosion by the sea. 

Parking the car at Portknockie, the walk along the clifftop takes in Bow Fiddle Rock from all perspectives and offers a route down to the lovely little beach below. A beautiful place to end the day.  


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