Extending from Moray’s western border near Nairn, along the Moray Firth and all the way around the right-angled wedge of Aberdeenshire, the North East coast of Scotland covers over 200 miles of coastline. Read on for my top five beaches along this stretch, from west to east, where you can spend the day foraging for shells, watching wildlife or just soaking it all in.
Findhorn has a beach of two halves. Surf down a steep shingle bank onto an expanse of fine sand, revealed at low tide. The bay here is known for its seals – depending on the tide they might be hauled out on the beach (if so then keep your distance) or bobbing in the shallows.
At the foot of Covesea Lighthouse is another sandy beach, running to nearby Lossiemouth. As the tide recedes on quiet winter days, you might see sanderlings feeding here. They move in sudden bursts like a breeze has swept them up.
A lesser-known spot, Sunnyside is close to the ruin of Findlater Castle. Perch on the hip-high bank or roll your trousers up and explore the rockpools that collect among the geometric rock formations.
The fishing village of St Combs, five miles southeast of Fraserburgh, has a curved beach facing east, making it a good sunrise location. The sand is the colour of Biscoff even on an overcast day, threaded with narrow water channels trickling into the bay.
Forvie National Nature Reserve is 13 miles north of Aberdeen and famous for its magnificent shifting sand dunes. Watch seals and a variety of birds on the River Ythan or venture north along the beach and join walking trails through mixed heather and marram grass.
Where’s your favourite beach? Let me know in the comments!
The following article was featured in my latest issue of On The Wing magazine, which you can read here. I often see Aberdeen unfairly shrugged off as simply ‘The Granite City’. As with many urban places, there’s so much more to Aberdeen than grey buildings. Here are six of my favourite spots for nature enthusiasts to explore.
With its deep rocky dells and hip-high bracken, this is what I call a Jurassic forest because it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a dinosaur poking above the foliage. Beeches, birches and rowans line interweaving trails – look out for a Neolithic cairn and a stone monument hidden among the trees.
Like in all good parks, kids and dogs have open space to run around, but away from the play park area you can sit in a variety of gardens and hear nothing but birdsong. You can also explore Robert the Bruce stone cairns, a sculpture trail and Scotland’s oldest maze here.
Hazlehead Avenue, AB15 8BE
David Welch Winter Gardens
Within Duthie Park, this warren of greenhouses contains tropical flowers, roses, ferns and a squadron of carnivorous plants. I spent an unholy amount of time in the Arid House, where there’s every sort of cactus you could imagine. With more than 750 species, this collection is one of the largest in the UK.
Polmuir Road, AB11 7TH
Open: daily all year round
This small headland forms a curved dell just past Aberdeen’s harbour. A range of seabirds gather in the shallows by the rocks and it’s a great spot to see bottlenose dolphins too. Watch in cosy comfort from the excellent Liberty Café, located within the historic structure of Torry Battery.
Greyhope Road, AB11 8QX
Sitting beside a dangling loop of the River Don, this is the largest green space in Old Aberdeen. Splashes of colour from dramatic flowerbeds, a high quality river footpath leading to a pedestrianised arched bridge, and several concealed features of historical interest make this more intriguing than your average park.
Don Street, AB24 1XS
University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum
Scales and fur and feathers oh my! The lower gallery’s skeletons draw the eye first, but also make sure to check out minuscule amphibian bones, corals and a troupe of fish you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley. The upper gallery is an ornithologist’s delight, featuring everything from goldcrests to golden eagles.
Christmas always ends up being a hectic whirlwind, but this year I think we’re all looking forward to a bit of festive cheer. However, the festive season can get wasteful and very expensive, so I’ve put together a list of tips for making this Christmas a green one.
While I try to limit my online shopping, it’s inevitable that I’ll order something now and then. Luckily, the cardboard packaging is perfect for trimming down and transforming into homemade cards – ready to be decorated with photos and messages.
If you keep your cards dinky, you can make several from one piece of packaging. For even more crafty points, save the Christmas cards you receive this year and cut them out to decorate your homemade cards next year. You can make your own gift tags this way too!
There’s an ongoing debate about whether it’s better to have a real or artificial tree. While there are pros and cons of each, for fresh trees it’s best to find a locally grown one that supports local businesses and reduces the pollution associated with delivery. To find out where the local retailers are near you, check out the British Tree Growers Association.
To prevent your tree from going to landfill after Christmas, look out for tree recycling schemes which are offered by a lot of local councils. It’s also possible to rent a tree! After enjoying your tree over the Christmas period, you return it to the grower who replants it ready for next year.
Once you have your tree, you’re going to want to decorate it. We’ve all seen the countless decorations on display at garden centres but beware: lots of these ornaments are covered in glitter – a harmful microplastic which should be avoided.
For more sustainable decorations, why not make paper chains using brightly coloured cardboard from cereal boxes and other packaging? You could also gather some natural materials such as holly, ivy, pinecones or small pine branches to make your home both festive and wild.
While swapping gifts can be loads of fun, I’m sure we’ve all received some we’d sooner exchange for something else… To avoid any awkwardness on Christmas morning, get your loved ones gifts that are fun and practical – reusable metal straws or plastic-free shampoo bars perhaps.
We’re all guilty of a little overindulgence at Christmas but that’s perfectly acceptable – it’s Christmas after all! Although, we should be aware of how much food we end up throwing away.
To minimise waste, it’s a good idea to eat all your freezer food during December to make room for leftovers. Everyone knows about turkey sandwiches, but there are lots of other good leftover recipes around including vegetable tray bakes, turkey curry and countless soup flavours.
Has anyone ever been pleased by what they’ve won in a cracker? Let’s be honest – it’s all tacky plastic tat! A very refreshing trend that’s growing more popular is homemade crackers – this handy guide is easy to follow and doesn’t require many materials, but you can experiment any way you like. Making your own crackers not only cuts down on single-use plastic but also gives you the freedom to choose the gifts. And maybe find some better jokes too.
Do you have nifty ideas for an eco-conscious Christmas? I’d love to hear them!