Dramatic coastlines framed by long rolling beaches, peaked mountains standing tall between fast flowing rivers, an abundance of distilleries, castles and history, as well as countless adventure sports regardless of the season, the North East 250 offers it all for those seeking an authentic yet adventurous Scottish experience.
Start your journey in Aberdeen, a vibrant modern city entwined with an intriguing historic past. Just a short walk from the bustling industrial harbour in the heart of the city, you will be immersed in the city’s historic fishing past as you wander through old cobbled streets and small cottages in Footdee (known locally as Fittie). Enjoy a stroll along the beach esplanade, or take a boat trip and watch the local dolphins play in the surf on the fringes of the city.
As you move along the route to the west, you can be sure of a royal welcome in Deeside, home to Balmoral and Braemar castles, steeped in history and surrounded by mountainous scenery, fast-flowing rivers, moody moors and enchanting forests. Wildlife is in abundance and the River Dee provides plentiful salmon fishing opportunities with a chance to take in the stunning scenery at leisure. Visit Aberdeenshire Highland Cattle Farm where you can get up close with Scotland’s own much loved hairy coos!
For the energetic, Deeside and the Cairngorms is the perfect location for cycling, hillwalking and climbing, with 15 Munroes nearby to conquer (maybe not all in one day!). Glen Tanar offers a variety of country sports and activities including horse riding, fishing and wildlife photography, while the Braemar Highland Experience allows visitors to get close to the natural beauty and culture of Deeside through guided walks and off road tours. Glenshee Ski Centre is open all year, offering skiing when the snow descends, as well as trips on the chair lift throughout summer showcasing stunning mountaintop views.
Home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries, Speyside offers a range of distillery experiences and whiskies to savour. Visit The Glenlivet Distillery near Tomintoul for a sensory introduction to the whisk-making process, and enjoy the coffee shop and on-site gift shop too. A few miles along the road, the Ballindalloch Distillery will share the art of making whisky their way, which can be complemented by a visit to nearby Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens. The Spey River which flows nearby offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, with Craggan Outdoors on hand to provide adventurous activities on both land and water.
The stunning Moray Firth Coastline was voted one of the best in the world by National Geographic. Abundant with wildlife including birds, seals, dolphins and whales, it’s a wildlife lover’s dream. Take a boat trip, or get close to and learn more about the Moray Firth sealife at Macduff Marine Aquarium. For those who want to spend more time on the water, open water swimming, paddle boarding and surfing are popular along the coast with many locations offering lessons to get you started. If you’re more at ease on land, there are golf courses galore, with each offering unique yet incredible views of the coast.
A fine fare of Scottish culinary delights await you along the route too. Be sure to stop at the Cullen Bay Hotel to try delicious local fish soup known as ‘Cullen Skink’, followed by a tempting ice cream from Portsoy Ice Cream Shop just a few miles along the road! The route is dotted with quaint former fishing villages and towns waiting to be explored, including Portsoy, which hosts the annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, and Pennan, made famous by the phonebox used in hit film Local Hero.
The Museum of Lighthouses and Kinnaird Head Castle in Fraserburgh will teach you everything about the world of lighthouse engineering, and also offers the chance to enjoy a super view across Fraserburgh and beyond – just the matter of a few steps to climb first! Nature is abundant around the East Coast, with the Loch of Strathbeg, Bullers of Buchan and Ythan Estuary all worth a stop to admire the local wildlife.
The final stretch of the North East 250 takes you along the East Coast towards Aberdeen. Nearby Forvie National Nature Reserve boasts some of the largest sand dunes in Britain, where the moving sands constantly change the landscape. Fans of Gothic novel Dracula will be thrilled by a stop at Old Slains Castle and New Slains Castle, as author Bram Stoker is thought to have found inspiration for the story from the New Castle. Find out what life was like behind bars at Peterhead Prison Museum, which only closed as a working prison in December 2013 – take care not to get locked in for longer than expected!
Whether a laid back sightseer, an avid wildlife spotter or an adrenalin fuelled adventure seeker, there is something to suit everyone on this trip through the heart of Scotland, come and experience the ultimate road trip and the very best Scotland has to offer.
This is a guest blog by North East 250. To find out more about the North East 250 and to start planning your journey, visit www.northeast250.com