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:
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.
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 peak 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.
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.