I have always had a fascination with water, not the stuff from the tap – although I do drink a lot of tap water. I love the sea, lakes, lochs, streams, brooks, burns, waterfalls and even puddles. I instantly relax as soon I spot the sea. There was always a completion in our car as kids as to who would spot the sea first on our trips away, me being the youngest and shortest would often be last but I would always be stretching to see over the hedgerows as we drove along the A55 into Wales or as we rounded the corner after Harlech and could finally see our destination of Shell Island.
I can walk and sit on beaches for hours, just watching the waves constantly changing my view. Whenever we are looking to book a holiday, the filters which always gets ticked (after “pet friendly” of course!) are “coastal”, “sea views” “coast within 1 mile”
Our love of the sea is what attracted us to Aberdeenshire and the surrounding area. Just typing Aberdeenshire Coast into Google image search brings up hundreds of images of clear water, rugged cliffs, stunning beaches and tiny coves.
Our journey to Aberdeenshire was a long one, nearly 8 hours with stops, taking us up and along the M6 (ugh, hate boring motorways although scenery at times was gorgeous), over Shap (heavy rain, concentrating Husband driving rear-wheel drive car), past Sterling (average speed traps EVERYWHERE), very sunny Dundee (looked very pretty from our car windows), through Aberdeen (very busy, took us forever to get through) and skirting the Cairngorms National Park (stunning) before dropping us down into the seaside village of Portsoy (yey we arrived)
We settled into our cottage and found a folder full of leaflets & booklets on Aberdeenshire and the surrounding areas. Wine was opened, dinner was cooking on the Aga and we set about planning all the places we wanted to visit. We discovered the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail – 165 miles of clifftops, coves, beaches and towns all signposted from the main road running the length of the coast. We decided that we would split the trail into 2 – East & West of Portsoy over 2 different days
Our first trip out onto the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail took us East of Portsoy. We had chosen to visit Gardenstown & Aberdour Beach and figured we would stop anywhere else that took our fancy on our travels.
We arrived in Gardenstown at low tide with dark clouds, rain and choppy seas. The town winds down towards the sea, narrow streets with fisherman’s cottages flanking each side, some of which stop just before dropping into the sea. We had the impression the village is formed around a tight-knit community bound by the sea and steep cliffs above. We found a small car park to the far East end of the village right on the beach, donned our waterproofs and headed onto the shale beach. The weather and the choppy seas added to the dramatic coastline of cliffs and rock pools. Maddie found some of the best sea glass on this beach, resulting is us pottering around for hours looking for the best, most colourful sea glass we could find.
From Gardenstown we drove back up the winding streets and back East onto the A98. Upon driving out of the small village we literally left the clouds behind and the sun appeared shining brighter than ever.
Our next stop was Aberdour Beach with its sandstone caves. We figured that the caves would be best to view at low tide so we timed our visit just as the tide reached its lowest mark. We were not let down, the caves were stunning, some just going into the cliffs above, another passing all the way through back out to the sea beyond. The beach is shale and pebble and can be hard work to walk on but the caves at the Eastern end of the beach are more than worth it. At low tide we were able to explore the caves and surrounding rock pools. Mia loves rock pools, splashing around in them with Maddie
Our next trip out took us West along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. Our first stop was Findlater Castle, nestling on a rocky promontory 50ft above the waves below. The position of these ruins is stunning, leaving you asking yourself how they built such a structure is such a rugged and unforgiving position. We spotted people walking around the castle, exploring the rooms of the ruins. We decided that we would try and walk down, as paths can be seen weaving their way down to the castle. These paths are very steep and obviously not officially supposed to be used. We had several failed attempts at accessing the castle – our common sense taking over on some parts, however, we eventually found a way to the castle. This is not for the faint hearted, as there are steep drops and we are certainly not recommending it. But our trek down was rewarded by fantastic views from above the castle. There are rooms leading off in all directions, with sheer 50ft drops from openings in the walls. We kept Mia on her lead at all times and didn’t venture very far into the castle itself. It begs you to explore, but you have to remind yourself that it is a ruined structure overhanging the sea. We took some photos, admired the view and quickly retraced our steps back along the path to the hill above
From Findlater Castle we headed to the Scottish Dolphin Centre situated on Spey Bay. The Aberdeenshire coast is known for its sea life – dolphins, otters, whales & seals and the Scottish Dolphin Centre can be one of the best places to see such wildlife. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything, which isn’t unusual, apparently the animals don’t work to a booking system! 😉 There was a lovely little gift shop, information room and café, but unfortunately dogs are not allowed inside. So we headed out onto the beach to see if we could see anything. The views from the beach are stunning, hundreds of miles of North Sea rolling out in front of you. The centre sits on the mouth of the River Spey, apparently offering a perfect haven for seals and dolphins. But it was not our lucky day and we didn’t see anything, so we jumped back in the car and headed home for dinner!
We loved Aberdeenshire and have promised that we will return. There was still so much that we did not see including the famous Bow Fiddle Rock, The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, we never tasted Cullen Skink in its birthplace and we didn’t visit any distilleries (there are a lot!) or the collapsed sea cave at Bullers of Buchan. There is so much to see and do along this coastline, let alone heading inland to the Cairngorms National Park.
Aberdeenshire – you took our breath away with your rugged coastline, your miles of sandy beaches and friendliness of everyone we met. Mia’s Travels UK will be back and will continue to recommend you to everyone who wants to explore such a varied and spectacular coastline
This area is very child friendly, Maddie loved everything about our holiday. She swam in the North Sea, she explored hundreds of rock pools and loved searching for shells and sea glass on the beaches. The Aberdeenshire Coast is perfect for children, with sandy beaches to build castles and dig, wildlife to spot and crystal clear seas to paddle and swim in.
Mia highly recommends Aberdeenshire for a dog friendly holiday. There are miles of dog friendly coastal walks with coves and beaches for her to explore. As mentioned in part 1 there are dog-mess bins everywhere, so there is no excuse not to clean up after your best friend. Mia gives the Aberdeenshire (and Banffshire Coast) 5 paws. She enjoyed an amazing week away running along beaches, exploring caves, running through streams and chasing her favourite tennis ball.
Thank you Aberdeenshire – you were amazing!