Heading to Scotland for your next camping trip? Then the North-East has a lot to offer fans of the great outdoors. With miles of stunning coastline, this is an area steeped in history as witnessed by the many castles and relics you’ll see here. It also has a worldwide reputation for whisky making, while for foodies there are regional treats such as Dundee cake and Arbroath smokies. And here on Campsited, there are plenty of places where you can set up base.
Here are some of the best things to do during your stay.
1. Trace miles of unspoilt coastline
Forming an impressive triangular inlet on the north coast, Moray is the largest of Scotland’s firths and a prime spot for whale and dolphin watching. It’s said to be home to 130 bottlenose dolphins, while farther out to sea there are harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales and killer whales. Meanwhile on the east coast, several miles south of Aberdeen, you’ll find the village of St Cyrus with its national nature reserve. The sand dunes here are a hit with birdwatchers and, depending on the time of year, you may also catch sight of roe deer and sea otters.
2. Doctor’s orders on the distillery tour...
Not averse to a wee dram or two? Then head for the malt whisky trail in Speyside, one of Scotland’s five famed whisky regions. In times gone by the amber nectar was valued for its medicinal qualities and it was prescribed for everything from colic and palsy to smallpox! The trail takes in seven world-famous working distilleries, one historic distillery and the Speyside Cooperage – where master craftsmen still make whisky casks from oak using traditional methods.
3. The lantern of the north at Elgin
If history’s your bag, then you’ll love Elgin and its majestic ruined cathedral. This was once considered Scotland’s finest cathedral, earning it the moniker “Lantern of the North”. The foundations date back to the 1200s and visitor highlights include the octagonal chapter house, Scotland’s tallest gravestone (standing at five metres) and, new for 2016, an exhibition of more than 100 carved medieval stones. From here, it’s a short walk along the high street to the Elgin Museum where you can find out more about local history and see an impressive array of fish and reptile fossils.
4. Count your castles in Aberdeenshire
From fairytale towers to formidable fortresses, there are more than 300 castles within easy reach of Aberdeen (i.e. less than an hour’s drive). You’ll want to put Queen Victoria’s beloved Balmoral on the top of your list, along with Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. Glamis has a fascinating history, and a king was supposedly murdered and a witch burnt at the stake here. There are even rumours of a secret room where a nobleman once played cards with the devil. How do you rate your luck?
5. Getting to grips with the granite city
Often called the granite or silver city because of the hard-wearing rock that many of its buildings are made from, Aberdeen has gone through several incarnations. Having started out as a fishing settlement, it has grown into a bustling port and Scotland’s third largest city – thanks to the oil and gas industries. The story of Aberdeen and the North Sea is told in fascinating detail at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, with whaler’s harpoons and underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) among the sea-themed objects on display.
6. Explore the great outdoors
The Cairngorms National Park in the north-east of Scotland covers close to 1,500 square miles, making it the largest national park in Britain. During the winter months you can ski or snowboard here and, once the snow has melted, hikers make the most of the guided walks around the Cairngorm Mountain Centre. These range from ambitious (4-5 hours for the Northern Corries Walk) to the more achievable (90 minutes for the Walk to the Top). And if you prefer two wheels to two feet, then head for the Glenlivet Estate (also within the park) with its purpose-built mountain biking trails.
7. Bring me sunshine… in Dundee
Campers are hardy types, we know, and won’t let the odd shower spoil a holiday. That said, it’s still good to know that Dundee is Scotland’s sunniest spot. And that’s not the only good news, as the city has been named the first UNESCO City of Design in the UK and is undergoing a billion pound waterfront development. (The V&A Museum of Design will open here in 2018.) For the time being, visitors can enjoy soaking up the rays at nearby Broughty Ferry, with its castle, seafront esplanade and fine sandy beach.
8. Discover Scotland’s very origins
Sandwiched between Aberdeenshire and Dundee, the county of Angus is known as the “birthplace of Scotland”. This was the heartland of the Picts, the indigenous Celtic people first officially recorded during Emperor Severus’s campaign (in 210 AD). The Pictish Trail (available to download) guides you to 12 key sites, including the Meffan Museum in Forfar which has a permanent display of carved Pictish stones. Here you can also walk back through time, down a reimagined narrow cobbled street, and peer through the windows of a sweet shop (with its Forfar rock), a “knockmaker’s” (or clockmaker’s) workshop, a bakery and a cobbler’s.
9. Feast on the flavours of Angus
And while you’re in Angus, why not sample some of the region’s finest dishes? There’s the world famous Aberdeen Angus steak, naturally, as well as Forfar rock and bridies (a type of meat pasty). And if you’re keen on fish, you won’t want to miss the Arbroath smokie – haddock smoked over hardwood in a time-honoured method thought to come from the Vikings. With protected geographical indication (PGI) status under EU law, these fishy morsels have to be made within a five-mile radius of the small fishing town of Arbroath. Tasty!
10. Coming soon!
Here’s hoping your camping holiday will be one to remember. And when planning your visit to North-East Scotland, check out Campsited for a list of all our sites in the region. You’re bound to find just the right one for you.
And while you’re here, do read our blog on family-friendly activities in the North-East of Scotland.