North East Scotland Coast and Water

Scotland boasts a hugely varied coastline and a rich offering of inland waters in both rural and urban settings for both visitors and locals to enjoy.

The North East of Scotland is host to an amazing array of coastlines and rivers which are greatly valued and cherished by communities and visitors alike. These assets play an important part in the visitor experience, offering boat trips, activities, fishing opportunities and active holidays, while the many nature reserves across the area are home to a tremendous variety of flora, fauna and wildlife.

Water has shaped the area’s history: from fishing and farming to whisky and wave power, thereby influenced its culture, its stories and a way of life.

Make time during a visit to explore and enjoy the coasts and waters of the area.

The coastal setting has a captivating blend of natural beauty, rugged landscapes, and rich maritime heritage. Stretching along the North Sea, this region offers a diverse array of stunning vistas, picturesque fishing villages, and enchanting sandy beaches.

From the windswept cliffs of Dunnottar Castle to the quaint charm of hidden fishing villages, North East Scotland’s coastal scenery is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

One of the most iconic landmarks in the region is Dunnottar Castle. Perched dramatically atop sheer cliffs overlooking the North Sea, this medieval fortress stands as a testament to Scotland’s turbulent past.

Moving along the coast, charming fishing villages dot the shoreline, each with its own unique character. One such village is Cruden Bay, known for its sandy beach and stunning views of Slains Castle. The Castle dating back to the 16th century, boasts an imposing silhouette on a dramatic coastal setting. It gained literary fame as Bram Stoker’s inspiration for “Dracula,” infusing it with an air of mystery and intrigue.  

Cruden Bay’s picturesque harbour is a bustling hub of activity, with colourful fishing boats bobbing in the water and fishermen mending their nets. Strolling along the village’s narrow streets, visitors can discover quaint cottages, welcoming pubs, and local seafood delicacies. 

Water has played a major role in shaping the culture and heritage of the north east of Scotland. Traditions and customs are remembered with various events and festivals being held in the area. One of the larger gatherings is “The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival” held in Portsoy each year which brings together boats, music, crafts, food and drink in order to celebrate the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Explore and Discover ...

Further along lies the windswept coastline of the Moray Firth, renowned for its Outdoor Activities, nature and stunning vistas. The Moray Firth, is a vast inlet of the North Sea, is home to an abundance of marine life, including dolphins, seals, and various bird species. Boat trips along the Moray Firth provide an opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat and appreciate the region’s coastal beauty from a different perspective.

The small town of Macduff is a gateway to this captivating region, offering panoramic views of the rugged cliffs and the chance to spot dolphins, seals, and seabirds. Nature lovers can explore the Macduff Marine Aquarium, where they can learn about the diverse underwater ecosystems and even have the opportunity to participate in interactive exhibits.

For those seeking a coastal escape, North East Scotland’s sandy beaches provide an ideal setting. Fraserburgh is proud to be home to award-winning beaches that have garnered recognition for their outstanding beauty and cleanliness. Fraserburgh Beach and Waters of Philorth have both been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag status, an internationally recognized symbol of quality coastal environments.

Balmedie Beach, just north of Aberdeen, stretches for miles, inviting visitors to take leisurely walks along the shore and enjoy the tranquility of the rolling dunes. With its clean sands and sparkling waters, it is a popular spot for picnics, sandcastle building, and even horseback riding.

The coastal region is not only blessed with natural beauty but also boasts a rich maritime heritage. Aberdeen, often referred to as the “Granite City,” is known for its bustling harbor and long-standing ties to the North Sea oil industry. The city’s Maritime Museum showcases the history of Aberdeen’s seafaring past, including tales of fishing, shipbuilding, and offshore exploration. It is a fascinating exploration of the region’s deep-rooted connection to the sea.

Venture south and discover Arbroath, a picturesque coastal town renowned for its stunning coastline, Wild Swimming and rich maritime history. Situated on the east coast Arbroath offers visitors a perfect blend of natural beauty, historical landmarks, and a vibrant fishing heritage.

Angus, as a region is also blessed with an array of rivers and lochs that contribute to its scenic beauty and offer a range of recreational activities. These waterways, nestled amidst rolling hills and picturesque landscapes, provide a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Keep heading south and you will arrive at Dundee. Located at the end of Scotland’s longest river it provides the setting for its famous waterfront setting. As one of the largest active regeneration projects in the UK, Dundee Waterfront Dundee will have 5 key zones along an 8km stretch. The waterfront is also  home to the world famous RRS Discovery located at Discovery Point. This famous ship took Scott and Shackleton to Antartica in 1901!

Cullen Sea School in Cullen, Moray & Speyside
Macduff Marine Aquarium in Aberdeenshire
North East Scotland Award Winning Beaches
Discovery Point & RRS Discovery in Dundee
Cairngorm Activities Grantown on Spey in the Cairngorms National Park
Kincardine Beat on the Kincardine Estate, Kincardine O'Neil Aberdeenshire
Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms National Park

North East Scotland is also blessed with a multitude of lochs and rivers that weave through its scenic landscapes, offering a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. These waterways are not only a source of beauty but also play a vital role in the region’s ecosystem and cultural heritage.

One of the prominent lochs in the area is Loch Morlich, nestled within the stunning Cairngorms National Park. Surrounded by majestic mountains and dense forests, this freshwater loch provides a serene setting for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife spotting. Visitors can embark on picturesque walks along the loch’s shores, immersing themselves in the tranquility of the surrounding nature.

The River Dee, originating from the Cairngorms, flows through the heart of Aberdeenshire. Known for its crystal-clear waters and salmon fishing, the River Dee is a paradise for anglers. Its picturesque stretches offer breathtaking views and a chance to engage in various outdoor activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, and riverside walks.

Another notable waterway in the region is the River Don, which winds its way through Aberdeenshire and eventually flows into the North Sea. The River Don is rich in natural beauty, with stretches of idyllic countryside, charming villages, and historic sites along its banks. Visitors can explore its diverse landscapes, go fishing, or simply enjoy a peaceful riverside stroll.

Equally stunning is the mighty River Spey in Speyside, widely considered to be the finest river in Scotland and is one of the most important and productive salmon rivers in the UK.

The River Tay which starts in Loch Tay, and flows out into the North Sea is the largest river in the British Isles by measured discharge. It is also internationally renowned for its salmon fishing and classed as one of the best salmon rivers in western Europe, attracting anglers from all over the world. 

North East Scotland’s lochs and rivers offer a tapestry of natural wonders that enhance the region’s allure. Whether it’s the peaceful serenity of Loch Morlich, the angling opportunities along the River Dee, Spey or Tay or the cultural heritage or the captivating marine life of the Moray Firth, these waterways provide an immersive experience in the beauty and diversity of Scotland’s landscapes.


The Northern HighLights Pass helps you to create a bespoke itinerary for your short break or longer Scottish holiday in the North East of Scotland.  Purchasing a Northern HighLights Pass enables you to plan ahead, know before you go, plus, there are big savings to be had on entrance fees to the many excellent visitor attractions across the region. Visit the best for less!

Your Northern Highlights Pass is available as a digital pass and can be easily downloaded straight onto your smart phone. Alternatively, you can purchase a hard copy pass and this will be mailed out to you

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So whatever you choose to do in the next few weeks and months please do remember to stay safe and continue to follow the Guidance To Protect The Environment, yourself and all our local communities.

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