The coastal area of the north east of Aberdeenshire, the area starting north of the City of Aberdeen, is a very fascinating part of Scotland. Here you’ll find plenty of nature, lovely fishing villages, secluded bays and bustling towns such as Peterhead. It’s a pleasure to drive along the coast and take in the grand coastal views.
The extensive dune systems, mainly between Aberdeen and Newburgh, and the many remote beaches, bays and nature reserves provide a safe haven for wildlife. The beaches are great to explore on foot or just to enjoy on a sunny day.
Below is an overview of the villages, towns, landmarks and other interesting sites on the stretch of coastline between Balmedie and Fraserburgh. It’s a total length of 41 miles (65km).
Balmedie to Collieston
The area between Aberdeen and Collieston consists of a stunning coastline with miles of beaches and is backed by impressive dunes. This roughly starts around Balmedie, a small village north of Aberdeen and perhaps best known in the National News for the Donald Trump Golf Resort, to the north of the village. To the east of the village is Balmedie Country Park, a stunning dune system with many miles of pathways and access to the beach.
Dunes between Balmedie and Newburgh
The dune system stretches as far as the river Ythan near the lovely village of Newburgh. Where the river Ythan flows into the North Sea is a beautiful estuary which is a favourite location of many Grey Seals and Eider Ducks, and you can come up very close! The view from the top of the Dunes towards Aberdeen is breathtaking! Newburgh has a Golf Course and next to it is a large parking space for those who want to enjoy the wildlife, dunes and beach.
Forvie National Nature Reserve
Between Newburgh and Collieston, the area north of the River Ythan, is Forvie National Nature Reserve which provides many habitats for a large variety of wildlife. The nature reserve has several entrances and offers many miles of well maintained tracks. The reserve is also home to the largest breeding colony of Eider Duck in the UK.
This pretty village is built around a beautiful bay with the harbour and pier at its centre. Collieston is a former thriving fishing village and at some point in the 19th century many fishing boats brought in herring from the North Sea. Nowadays Collieston is a secluded hide-away with some holiday cottages, residential housing and a lovely pier, a viewpoint and small beach. With stormy weather it’s a great place to watch the waves crashing over the pier. The village has no shop but for Groceries you typically go to nearby Ellon. Just outside Collieston is the main entrance to the Forvie National Nature Reserve and the visitor centre.
Whinnyfold & Pump-station
To the North of Collieston is a single track road to Cruden Bay which passes Whinnyfold, a small coastal village with secluded bay. Just outside the village is a large pump-station connected to the Forties pipeline system which carries about 700 thousand barrels per day, 30% of the UK’s oil from the North Sea inland. The crude oil enters the pump-station at Whinnyfold through a 36 inch pipeline from where it is pumped 209km further south to the Grangemouth refinery near Edinburgh. The area between the single track road and the coast is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for nationally important colonies of cliff nesting seabirds, including kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar and shag
Cruden Bay to Peterhead
This is an altogether different landscape from what you find south of the river Ythan. The area between Cruden Bay and Peterhead consists mostly of farmland and a somewhat more rugged coastline with only a few villages and towns.
Cruden Bay and Slains Castle
The area between Cruden Bay and Fraserburgh consists mostly of farmland and a more rugged coastline with only a few villages and towns. Cruden Bay itself is a lovely village situated near the dunes and a long stretch of beach, well over 1 mile. The village has some shops, a good hotel and a marina. Opposite of the hotel is a wee road heading towards the harbour. After 100 metres is a parking place from where you’ll find a track going up to Slains Castle (keep right at the end of the carpark). It’s a lovely walk, mostly in sheltered woodland, and around half a mile long. Slains castle is a ruin but very much worth visiting. It was here where Bram Stoker got inspiration to write his novel “Dracula”. Slains Castle is built on 25 metre high cliffs and the views from the castle are just great! If you’re not a walker you might want to head north first before entering a small single track road which brings you directly to the castle.
Buchan Ness Lighthouse
The village of Boddam, a few miles south of Peterhead, was a fishing village in the 18th century but is nowadays a commuter village for Aberdeen and Peterhead. Due to the many ships that ran aground in the area the 118ft (36m) Buchan Ness lighthouse was built in 1825. The red band was added in 1907 and acted as a location marker for passing ships. The buildings besides the lighthouse are now holiday lets.
Peterhead is the biggest town in Aberdeenshire and has a population of well over 18.000. First and foremost Peterhead is a fishing town, the largest in Scotland and one of the largest in Europe. Well over 500 fishing boats are landing their catch regularly in this busy town. Although the fishing industry is struggling it is still very important for the town. At the same time Peterhead is investing more money in tourism and they are trying to attract cruise ships to this part of Scotland. In Arbuthnot Museum, in the town centre, you can find out more about the history of Peterhead.
RSPB Reserve Loch of Strathbeg
11 Miles north of Peterhead is RSPB Reserve Loch of Strathbeg, an important nature reserve which is a vital wintering and staging post for pink-footed geese. It’s surrounded by wetlands and dunes which makes it an ideal spot for wetland wildlife. The reserve has a visitor centre and offers guided walks.