Discovering Aberdeenshire's castles and coastal gems

The following post has been created as part of a paid partnership between Kim Grant Photography and VisitAberdeenshire.

It's great to be able to get out and about again and explore my home country. Having lived in Aberdeenshire for a few years now, I know first-hand the variety of experiences and locations this region has to offer. Although I have visited many over the years, there are still many spots I have yet to explore. It was therefore great when VisitAberdeenshire invited me out to visit some of these places and discover some of the many castles and coastal gems that the region has to offer.

An inspiring stop at Slains Castle

The weekend began with a trip to the infamous Slains Castle by Cruden Bay. Although the weather wasn’t its best, I felt this really added to the experience of being there - especially when you find out this castle was a big influence behind the Dracula novel. The misty drizzle that shrouded the sky, added an atmospheric feel to the location and really allowed my imagination to run wild. This location is incredible to see as it is perched right on the cliffs edge looking out to sea. It really gives you a sense of wonder and feels like it’s come straight out of a horror film – no wonder Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) was so inspired by this spot!

Slains Castle, Aberdeenshire

Nature spotting at the Bullers of Buchan

Just a short drive (or walk) from Slains Castle was the next destination – Bullers of Buchan. This spot is home to some incredible cliffs and sea stacks. The main geological attraction here is a large collapsed sea cave which is now home to a number of nesting kittiwakes. The rugged cliffs and panoramic sea views from here are breath-taking but if that wasn’t enough, during the spring and summer months this spot is home to a number of puffins (everyone's favourite seabird). Sadly, with it being the end of the season, we didn’t see any but I have enjoyed watching and photographing them at this spot a few times in the past and I can tell you – it’s an amazing experience.

Bullers of Buchan, Aberdeenshire

Lunch at BrewDog

After a morning of coastal exploration, we were well in need of a bite to eat and were lucky enough to be booked into the BrewDog DogTap Bar in Ellon. This bar hosts a unique experience and allows for a choice of tasty pizzas and burgers, alongside craft beer and soft drinks. It was great to fill our appetite here before heading out for our afternoon adventures.

Food at BrewDog DogTap, Ellon

Exploring the grounds of Castle Fraser

While visiting a ruined castle like Slains is great for the imagination, there are a number of well-preserved castles in Aberdeenshire too that are well worth a visit. After lunch we headed to Castle Fraser for a walk around the grounds and garden. This castle was magnificent to see, standing tall in the tranquil countryside. We enjoyed walking around the castle grounds and discovered some interesting spots within the woods such as an old memorial cairn and a well. It’s amazing to imagine the days when this castle was occupied and the many stories it must have hidden within its walls. An afternoon stepping back in time is always an afternoon well spent.

Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

An overnight stay and dinner at Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course

As we left Castle Fraser, the weather took a turn for the worst (thunder began to rumble through the skies and torrential rain battered the car) so we were very grateful to be heading to the nearby Meldrum House Country Hotel for the evening. Hidden within the countryside, this was the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of exploring (and to shelter from the storm). We had a lovely golf course view from our window and enjoyed watching the rain lash down outside from the comfort of our hotel room. After some rest we enjoyed a lovely evening meal in the hotel’s Pineapple restaurant. The weather began to clear and before bed we enjoyed a lovely walk around the hotel grounds where we discovered highland cows, golf course paths and a waterfall.

Meldrum House, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

Dinner at Pineapple, Meldrum House, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

A tranquil stroll around Fyvie Castle

Sunday arrived and we awoke to see lovely sunshine over the golf course view from our bedroom window. Following a healthy breakfast in the lounge we headed out to our first location of the day – Fyvie Castle. I have visited the grounds of Fyvie a few times in the past, but no matter how many times I visit this castle, I am always blown away with its structure. Its pink colour really makes it stand out against the countryside that surrounds it and there is a lot of incredible masonry work to be admired. Fyvie Castle is also home to a lovely pondside walk and a fruit garden, which was very interesting to walk around.

Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire

Getting the sand between our toes Forvie Sands and Newburgh Beach

To finish off our weekend, we headed back to the coast to explore some of the largest sand dunes in Britain and look for seals. We began our coastal exploration at Forvie National Nature Reserve. A lovely walk from the car park saw us enjoy views over the river Ythan, before reaching the sand dunes themselves and then the beach. The sun was shining brightly at this point and we couldn’t resist taking off our socks and shoes and having a dip in the sea. The vast expanse of beach and dunes here make this spot a real gem to visit and explore.

Forvie Sands, Aberdeenshire

Following our dip in the sea, we headed to Newburgh Beach to try and catch a glimpse of the seals. There is often a large hall out of seals here and it is one of the best locations in the area to see them. We spotted a number riding the current by the beach bay and drifting passed the shoreline, which was a joy to witness.

Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire

The weekend exploring some of my home region was great! From iconic castles to wildlife encounters and coastal views to tasty food – the weekend certainly had it all. It always amazes me what we have on our doorsteps and it’s great to be able to get out and explore them all once more.

Check out Kim’s vlog about these locations over on her YouTube channel and learn more about what you can rediscover in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

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