Extending across ninety-one miles from St Cyrus to Logie Head, the Aberdeenshire coastline connects sandy bays with rugged cliffside. Considered an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that has preserved the beautiful historic harbours that flourished in centuries prior, it’s also home to many charming villages that are well worth a visit. Here are our favourites.
Just south of Aberdeen City, Stonehaven is a charming seaside town that grew out of the iron and fishing trades. The village is overlooked by the ruins of Dunnottar Castle, which sits on a cliff edge above the town. Stonehaven is also believed to be the home of the infamous deep-fried Mars Bar, which has since become synonymous with the national palate. Its creators, The Carron Fish Bar have also been named one of the best Fish and Chip Shops in Scotland.
Made up of just a single row of houses and a large harbour, Pennan is a former fishing village that flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. Stretching as one long row of houses across the cliffside, many of the cottages are now holiday properties. Though, for a number of years, just three families occupied every single property in Pennan. The village was also used as a central location in the 1983 film Local Hero – and film fans still flock to its iconic red telephone box.
Descended on by 16,000 people every summer for the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, Portsoy is a popular seaside destination for the summer. The village is also renowned for its marble – which features in the Palace of Versailles – and its ice cream. It’s also been featured as a location in Peaky Blinders and the 2016 film Whisky Galore!
Just north of Aberdeen is Cruden Bay, this little village is perhaps best known for its golf course, which is ranked 29th in Scotland. It’s considered something of a literary town, as it was regularly visited by writers Bram Stocker and James Boswell. Cruden Bay’s long stretch of beach was also the location where aviator Tryggve Gran took off before making the first solo flight across the North Sea.
Considered one of Aberdeenshire’s most beautiful locations, this ancient fishing village has been excellently preserved by local volunteers. Popular for its beautiful coastal walks and the unique local dialect, Gourdon is also home to the Maggie Law Maritime Museum and Quayside, the multi-award-winning fish and chip shop which was named a UK winner at the 2019 National Fish and Chip Awards.
Just five miles south of Stonehaven, the quiet charm of Catterline makes it well worth a visit during your Aberdeenshire trip. Promising a magnificent view from its harbour, the village sits atop a cliff – allowing for amazing panoramas over the North Sea. Though originally known for its fishing, Catterline is now most popular for its colonies of artists, who come to take in the natural beauty, including artist Joan Eardley, who called Catterline home until her death in 1963.
The county town of the historic Banffshire, Banff is a historic fishing district. Locations like Banff Castle and Duff House were both designed in the classical Georgian style, which has earned the area the nickname ‘mini Edinburgh’. The town, which was granted its charter by Robert the Bruce, is also one of the few locations where both English and the Doric dialect of Scots are both official languages.
Another petite Scottish village that stretches in one line beside the water, Crovie is the smallest and most remote of Aberdeenshire’s fishing villages. Neighbours with Pennan, the village is so narrow you can only pass one-way by car. Bird-watchers will want to visit – if only to catch a glimpse of the resident gannet, kittwake and razor-bill auk colonies.
With a population of just under 1500 people, Boddam sits on the outer shoulder of Northeast Scotland. Best known for its fishing during the 19th century, Boddam is still dedicated to catching fish – though on a much smaller scale, particularly lobster. One of the island’s most significant landmarks is the Buchan Ness Lighthouse. Standing at 118 feet high, the lighthouse was one of many to be built by pioneer Robert Stevenson.
Neighbour to Crovie and Pennan, Gardenstown is just east of Banff. Particularly known for its fishing, the line of houses have a mix of holiday locations and permanent residents. Unlike its neighbours, there is a little more to see here – including a pub beside the harbour, a long stretch of beach and a footpath to take you to the other villages on the coast.
In the 19th century, Collieston was a bustling fishing village with a historical reputation for being the location where a ship of the Spanish Armada sank in the 16th century. Though not quite as vibrant today, it is nevertheless a picturesque spot on the coastline, where the natural harbour has been reworked to create a sandy, sheltered beach – just one of fifteen miles of beach that make up the town.