Must See Scotland: the Northeast Coast

Before things got hectic and busy around here with the arrival of our shipment and the move to our flat, we went out exploring one weekend. Exploring the fishing villages, lighthouses and beaches of Northeast Coast.

After reading a post by fellow Canadian expat blogger Camila, about the dolphins at Chanonry Point, I wanted to see if for myself.  So we took the long way round Aberdeenshire to Banffshire and onto Nairn and Moray Firth.

Here are some of the must see spots on the Northeast Coast of Scotland:

The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh

We made sure to arrive in time for the guided tour and it was worth it.  Our guide explained that Kinnaird Head Lighthouse was the first in Scotland.  It started as a simple lamp on top of a 16th century castle to warn sea-goers of the rocky shore nearby.  It was in operation from 1787 until 1991 when it was decommissioned and replaced with an automatic lighthouse nearby.  The tour included a demonstration of the lighthouse operation.  He showed us how the mechanical gears work to keep the large reflective lens swirling around.  He dabbled in the history of the lighthouse men and their families, the hardships at sea and how they lived in the on-site apartments.  A fascinating history with many examples of lighthouse construction and design.

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The fishing villages

The coastline is dotted with many picturesque fishing villages and seaside towns.  You could spend days just driving to each one uncovered their hidden treasures and charms.

Pennan is very small and set below the cliffs.  It’s a steep narrow drive down to the bottom but you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views of a town frozen in time.  Fresh laundry swung in the wind. Small fishing boats rested in the mini harbour.  And pretty white cottages lined the one and only street.


Portsoy was perfect for a coffee stop overlooking its small fishing harbour.  There is no shortage of places to take a rest and smell the fresh sea breeze.


In Cullen, find a picnic bench on the hill at Seafield St and Bayview Rd.  While you have a snack or a picnic lunch, take in the views of the sleepy town and beachy bay below.  The main feature is the viaduct crossing overhead.


Dolphins at Chanonry Point

The main reason for this weekend trip was to see the bottlenose dolphins of Moray Firth.  We arrived about an hour after low tide which is the best time to see them.  A small crowd of people with chairs and cameras had already gathered.  Unfortunately for all of us, it was one of the windiest weekends.  The bay was covered in white capped waves and the wind was unrelenting.  We stayed for about an hour and caught just a few glimpses of dolphin fins poking out of the water.  We just weren’t quick to snap some photos.


It’s impressive how close they came to the shore.  So no need to hire one of the many boat tours companies in the area.  I can only imagine how magical it is on a sunny, calm day.  And well, we can always go back as there is still so much beauty along the coast line that would make another trip complete.

The elusive monster at Loch Ness

We couldn’t go all this way and not spend some time marveling at the mystery and majesty of the famed Loch Ness.  Home to Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.  I was curious to know more about the legend so we went to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.  However, I can tell you can miss this one.  I found it overpriced (£7.95 each) to be shuffled from room to room to watch poor quality video clips.  Some Interesting information about the science that disproves the possibility of a sea creature but I came away thinking “why did they spend so much time, effort and money trying to find this thing?!”  Overall I don’t think it is worth the time and money.


We also snuck a peek at Urquhart Castle.  We were discouraged by the long line-up of cars along the street waiting for a parking spot so we didn’t bother waiting.  I’d recommend going early in the day to see it to avoid the crowds.  north-eastern-coast-scotland-3132

What to eat

­­­­­­Findlays Fish Bar in Frasurburgh.  It was our first taste of Scottish Fish and chips and they hit the spot.  Also try local dish Cullen Skink – a smoked haddock soup that is rich and filling but not overly fishy.

Where to stay

Nairn. When we couldn’t find accommodation in Inverness due to the last minute nature of our trip, we looked nearby.  We found a lovely B&B, Greenlawns Guesthouse in Nairn just minutes from the beach.  The host was friendly and helpful and she served up an amazing Scottish breakfast.  It was the perfect place to relax after a long day of driving.


This was just one of many weekend trips we plan on taking while living in the new city we now call home.  I can’t deny that Aberdeen is actually nicely located to explore this beautiful area.

What would attract you to this area?  The fishing villages, the dolphins, or Nessie?   Share your thoughts below.

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Hey, thanks again for reading!  I’m linking up with #WanderfulWednesday with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Go check out other great travel posts to fill you with inspiration.


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  • Samantha Beattie

    you HAVE to go to Stonehaven and see Dunnotar Castle! Loch Ness is beautiful but I find it better during the off season, try to go in the springtime before the busy tourist season begins! Theres a wonderful Loch Ness cruise done by Jacobite Cruises and you cruise Loch Ness and get entry to Urquhart Castle! I lived in Aberdeen for a year, and regularly visit the northeast of Scotland, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me! 🙂

  • nice places! I’ve heard of Stonehaven too since I have some acquaintances who moved to Aberdeen two years ago and they visit the Dunnotar castle all the time!:)

  • Ooh I love watching dolphins, that’d be my favorite!

  • This part of the world is soo beautiful – we only made it as far north as Edinburgh, but definitely want to return and explore further north. The people are soo nice too. Good luck with settling in! Cheers from Denmark, Erin

    • Thanks Erin! We were in Edinburgh just this past weekend and fell in love. Blog post coming soon. I love Copenhagen and would love to see more of Denmark. Cheers xo

  • Rebecca

    Still in the process of planning my trip home to Scotland in September with the Italian boyfriend so I’ll put some of these places on my list! I’ve been too busy falling in love with Italy to explore my home country so I feel now is the time!!

    • Italy is amazing as well! It’s so true we explore other far off places more than what we’ve grown up in… I’ve barely seen any of Canada in comparison to what I’ve seen in Europe.

  • I love tiny fishing villages like these! And dolphin-watching? Definitely count me in! We can see whales here in Tromso during winter though it’s way better from a boat for sure!

  • So pretty and that blue sky just makes everything look even better! I love those shots you took inside the lighthouse – great angles! 🙂

  • What a beautiful part of the world! Your Scottish fish & chips flashed me back to my own road trip in Scotland. Your B&B looks simply charming and I wish I could transport myself there now!

    • Thanks for the comment! The fish and chips were so good. As was the B&B, such a nice way to get out of the city, slow down and take in some country air.

  • Wow! Thanks for taking my into a journey thru Northern Scotland. I do not know a lot about the region but your photos confirm how special is this place.

    • I had no idea Scotland was like this and happy to live here now and get the chance to explore. Thank you for reading and taking he time to comment.

  • I would love to explore all of Scotland! this was a lovely post! #WanderfulWednesday

  • Clare Thomson

    What wonderful photos! It’s great that you’ve already had time to explore some of Scotland. I’m a big fan of fish and chips at the British seaside and I love the idea of exploring the small towns along the coast.

    • Yeah almost wish we had more time. I’m sure we’ll be back though. It’s so close and such a nice way to escape to the countryside.

  • Scotland is calling meeee! This is such a great post!

  • Ahila Thillainathan

    Beautiful photos! Love Scotland and have wonderful memories of my travel around the Isle of Skye and Inverness last summer. Couldn’t make it to the northeast though.

  • I really don’t know much about Scotland, but every time I read a blog post about it there seems like so many places to see and so many things to do! I would love to visit one of those little fishing villages, they look so cute and picturesque! And I always love Dolphin watching! Great post! 😀

    • There are so many things to do!! I’m working on a Scotland bucket list that I’m going to post soon. 🙂

  • Roma

    Love a good roadtrip. Scottish roads are a bit narrow which makes it a bit harder, but it does give you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. 🙂

    • OMG they are so narrow! Plus trying to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road than we’re used to. It’s a bit harrowing at times! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  • Dolphins from shore is unusual and wonderful- that would get me there!

  • Lovely! So happy you ended up going to see the dolphins! You’re up north so you can definitely head back other times – it’s a really fun activity and apparently when they are feeding they come out much more of the water, jumping and such! And I always wanted to drive through some of the northern coast villages, how lovely!

  • Beautiful photos! That cpastal light is incredible. I used to live in St Andrews, but other than one day-trip to Aberdeen, I never made it north of Fife. Desperate to go back and explore the true north, though. I’ve got a weird magnetic pull northwards and to the sea – so the north-east coast of Scotland is definitely calling me!

    • Thanks for the comment Katie! It’s definitely worth the drive. I’m sure it gets even more beautiful the further north and west you go too. Looking forward to exploring more of it.