The North East 250 road trip is a sister road trip to the well known North Coast 500. This route brings in 250 miles of castles, beaches and epic coastline on the north east of Scotland.

We share all of our favourite things to do around the route and provide you with the information on places to stay whether you are camping or staying in hotels.

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North East 250 Itinerary - The Ultimate 5 Day Aberdeenshire Road Trip

This North East 250 road trip itinerary takes you to some of the most incredible sights in this part of Scotland. In this itinerary, we will also discuss the best time to go to Aberdeenshire as well as the following

  • Day 1 – Exploring Aberdeen
  • Day 2 – Exploring the east coast
  • Day 3 – Visit one of the best hidden beaches
  • Day 4 – Trying Scottish Whisky
  • Day 5 – Castles Galore
  • Preparing for your trip to the NE250
cullen

Day 1 – See the sights in Aberdeen

Starting in Aberdeen, this is where you can hire a car or a campervan, whatever tickles your fancy. If you have your own method of travel, then you can just enjoy exploring the sights around the city of Aberdeen.

Footdee house

Marischal College

Marischal College is one of the most eye-pleasing buildings in the city of Aberdeen. The building was previously constructed for the University of Aberdeen, however it is now used by the Aberdeen City Council. Construction on this building began in 1837 and it was recently renovated in 2011. It is located on Broad Street in the city centre of Aberdeen.

marischal college aberdeen

Belmont Street

Belmont Street is like the social hub of Aberdeen. Here you will find some of the best restaurants, bars and cafes in the city. It runs perpendicular to Union Street in the centre of the city. In the past, the street was home to several churches, however today only one remains, The Triple Kirks, which today is the Triple Kirks Pub.

people walking down belmont street aberdeen

Footdee

Whilst you are in Aberdeen you must visit the small harbour village of Footdee. This old fishing village is lined with quaint houses. It is tucked away at the end of the esplanade and if you weren’t looking for it, it is unlikely you would find it.

It was built in the mid-19th century with the intention of re-homing the cities fisherman, however today it is a vibrant little village with quirky houses and decorations. Lovely for a wee walk around.

footdee
footdee

Aberdeen Esplanade

The Esplanade is lined with cafes and ice cream jobs, perfect for a cool down on a hot summers day. It is located around a 30 minute walk from Aberdeen city centre and the esplanade itself is around 6km and very popular for walking or running along. You can also hire surfboards from Scot surf who have a navy blue van parked up on the beachfront.

If you do have a van, then this is an ideal place to spend your first night after exploring the city. You will see many other vans and motorhomes parked up along the esplanade too.

aberdeen esplanade

Where Should I Stay in Aberdeen?

Luxury – Residence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen is a luxury hotel in the city of Aberdeen. It is within 20 minutes walk of the beach front and has free wifi, a gym and laundry facilities on site. The best things about this hotel might just be that it was rated highly for the comfort of the beds!

Book your stay at Residence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen here.

Mid-range – The Jurys Inn Aberdeen is located a stones throw away from the city centre shops, bars and restaurants. All rooms have air conditioning, a TV, hairdryer and most importantly, a comfortable bed.

Book your stay at the Jurys Inn Aberdeen here.

Budget – The Station Hotel sits opposite the train station in Aberdeen and is a fantastic budget option for your trip to the city. Each room is equipped with a TV and tea/coffee making facilities as well as having it’s own private bathroom.

Book your stay at The Station Hotel here.

Day 2 – Exploring the east coast

If you love nature then this might be one of your favourite days as we incorporate some of our highlights of this road trip. Think seals in their natural habitat and white sandy beaches, doesn’t get much better than that does it?!

Newburgh Beach

Newburgh Beach was a real highlight on our NE250 road trip. I had heard that this beach was well known for seeing seals but I had expected this to be a “you had to be lucky to see them” experience. It is absolutely far from that.

There is a car park beside the golf course at the beach, however if like us you have a larger vehicle that won’t fit through the 2metre height barrier, you will need to park in the small town and walk around 10 minutes. 

Follow the path way down to the beach and you will see a tidal river that you can walk along. We could have sat on the beach all day and watched the seals swimming up and down the tidal river, there were so many of them. 

This is definitely a stop you don’t want to miss out on.

newburgh seal beach

Collieston

Collieston is a small fishing village a short drive north of Newburgh. What you will see here dates back to the 15th century when it was established as a fishing village. There is a really cute harbour area and a small beach. 

collieston harbour drone photo

New Slains Castle

The phenomenal ruins of New Slains Castle lie on the east coast, just outside of Cruden Bay. There is a small, free car park at the side of the road and the walk to the castle is around 1km on a flat path. 

New Slains Castle was built in the 16th century, however, there has been significant reconstruction to the castle over the years.

The ruins are large with many beautiful views looking out to see. You will be able to see that one day there was a second floor in place, however this is not in place today and it is only possible to explore the ground floor. 

Tickets – free.

new slains castle

Bullers of Buchan

Another place worth stopping at before you settle in for the night is the Bullers of Buchan. There is a small car park and a path leading down to the sea, the walk is flat and takes around 10 minutes. Watch your feet carefully around here as there is a 30m drop from a very thin grassy path. Soon you will see a collapsed sea cave and natural archway that the waves come crashing through. The coastal scenery around this part of the cliffs is absolutely breathtaking.
 
The cliffs at the Bullers of Buchan provide a nesting site in spring for colonies of seabirds and puffins can often be spotted here. 
 
Warning – just be prepared for the smell!

 

Bullers of Buchan cliffs
Bullers of Buchan birds

Cruden Bay

Cruden Bay is a gorgeous white sandy beach on the eastern coast of Scotland. The beach is 2.5km long and is accessed from a small footbridge in the village. If you are lucky you might even be able to see seals out at sea! 

We would recommend staying the night here, especially if you are in a van. You can stay at the harbour and have a view looking out to see and it is well worth the donation.

couple walking on beach
Cruden Bay drone shot

Where Should I Stay in Cruden Bay?

Luxury – The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel is a three star hotel in the centre of the coastal village of Cruden Bay. luxury hotel in the city of Aberdeen. It is within 10 minutes walk of the beach front and has free wifi and serves fine Scottish food using fresh, local ingredients in their restaurant.

Book your stay at The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel here.

Mid-rangeBy the Bay is a bed and breakfast located in Cruden Bay. There is a children’s play area and a garden with a barbecue.

Book your stay at By the Bay here.

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Day 3 – Visit one of the best hidden beaches

Today, we will taste some good food along the northern coast of the Aberdeenshire peninsula as well as finding what we think is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland.

Rattray Head Lighthouse drone

Rattray Head Lighthouse

This is one of those places that you visit not having any expectations and it just wows you. After driving down a rather bumpy off road track for around 1.5km, you will reach a small, muddy parking area.

Follow the grassy path through the gate and take the path that heads to the right. From here you will be immersed between sand dunes and walking through soft sparkling white sand. Eventually, you will see the lighthouse out at sea and an endless white sandy beach. 

 

Rattray Head lighthouse

Duff House

Located in Banff, Duff House was designed in the 18th century and is part of Historic Scotland. Inside, there is beautiful collection of furniture and paintings.

There is a small car park and a children’s play area outside. The building itself is stunning and well worth getting some photos of the outside.

 

Duff House
Duff House couple

Port Soy

Port Soy is a small town located along the northern coast of this road trip. You must stop in here to try an ice cream from Port Soy Ice Cream. This homemade ice cream is award winning and absolutely delicious artisan ice cream.

You may also want to try one of their waffles with the large selection of ice creams.

A bonus is that for an award winning ice cream shop, it is very reasonably priced.

Port Soy ice cream

Fyvie Castle

Located in the heart of Aberdeenshire, Fyvie Castle is a fine example of Scottish Baronial architecture. The earliest information about Fyvie Castle dates back to the 13th century when it was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce.

The castle grounds are extremely picturesque and there is even a beautiful lake and gardens that are very pleasant for a walk around. 

Fyvie Castle is part of the National Trust for Scotland therefore if you are a member, you will get entry into the castle and parking for free. If you are not a member then you will need to pay £3 for parking.

Tickets – Adult £14.50

fyvie castle

Cullen

If there is one place you cannot miss visiting on this NE250 itinerary, it’s Cullen. This little town was the highlight of our whole trip. We would even go as far to say it’s become one of our favourite places in Scotland!

This beautiful seaside fishing village is situated on the Moray Firth and is surrounded by the Cullen viaduct which adds to the incredible scenery. Cullen beach is one of the most beautiful we have seen as well so we can’t recommend enough that you visit.

If you are in a campervan, you can park up down at the harbour and hopefully you will be blessed with a beautiful sunset.

Cullen view from Castle Hill

Where Should I Stay in Cullen?

Luxury – The Seafield Arms Hotel is a three star hotel in the centre of the coastal village of Cruden Bay. luxury hotel in the city of Aberdeen. It is within 10 minutes walk of the beach front and has free wifi and serves fine Scottish food using fresh, local ingredients in their restaurant.

Book your stay at The Seafield Arms Hotel here.

Mid-rangeCullen Bay Hotel is a perfectly situated hotel overlooking the Moray Firth Coast. Cullen Bay Hotel offers high-quality cuisine in their restaurant and there is also a very comfortable lounge bar.

Book your stay at Cullen Bay Hotel here.

 

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Day 4 – Trying Scottish whisky!

If there is one thing that you must try on your NE250 itinerary, it’s some whisky. There are plenty of distilleries around but we can highly recommend Glenfarclas Distillary.

Glenfarclas Distillery Barrels

Bow Fiddle Rock

Bow Fiddle Rock is a unique rock feature just off the coast of Portknockie. It is named the Bow Fiddle Rock as it looks like a bow. This natural formation was created by the pressure of the waves coming in from the North Sea. 

It is a great spot for a photo. especially at sunrise. You can either view if from the top or walk down to the beach.

Bow Fiddle Rock sunrise
Bow Fiddle Rock drone

Linn Falls

Linn Falls is a spectacular waterfall located in Aberlour. It is only a short walk through the woods from the town of Aberlour. It takes around 15 minutes with no incline. 

The waterfall in on the pathway so it is easy to find. It is also accessible and would be a great waterfall for a wild swim.

girl in front of waterfall

Glenfarclas Distillary

Glenfarclas Distillery is a family owned distillery and has been in the family since 1836. The offer friendly tours around the distillery with a tasting session at the end. The tour is free and very interesting learning about the process of how the whisky is made.

Now it’s time to fight over who will be the designated driver! 

Glenfarclas Distillery

Braemar

Braemar is gorgeous quaint town surrounded by the Grampian Mountains and woodland. There are many walks to enjoy around here or you can visit one of the many castles on the NE250, Braemar Castle. The scenery around here is absolutely stunning and there are plenty of little park ups with great views if you are staying in a van.

drone photo of scottish hills and river

Where Should I Stay in Braemar?

Cranford Guest House is a bed and breakfast in Braemar, featuring garden views and free WiFi. Cranford Guest House also offers a continental or Full English/Irish breakfast.

Book your stay at Cranford Guest House here.

Braemar Apartment is a property located in Braemar with riverside views. The apartment has 2 bedrooms and an equipped kitchen. There is also a washing machine, and 1 bathroom with a bath.

Book your stay at Braemar Apartment here.

Day 5 – Castles Galore

With so many castles in this part of Scotland it’s only fair we dedicate a day to the rich history that Scotland has to offer.

girl in front of craigievar castle aberdeenshire

Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle is located near the village of Braemar and is open to the public Wednesday- Sunday. The grounds were first built on in the 11th century, however the castle we see today was constructed in 1628 by John Erskine and has since been a hunting lodge, fortress, garrison and family home.

Braemar is the only castle in the UK which is under community management, therefore funds raised go towards preserving the castle. Unfortunately, due to steep winding staircases a tour of the building is not suitable for those with impaired mobility.

Tickets – Adult £10

braemar castle

Craigievar Castle

Craigievar Castle quickly became one of our favourite castles on our NE250 itinerary. The gorgeous pink colour is said to have been the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle and we can see why! Craigievar Castle is one of the most loved and well kept castles in Scotland and the exterior remains pretty much unchanged since it was built in 1626.

The castle is open to visitors on a first come first serve basis at the moment. We would recommend arriving early to avoid disappointment as when we visited, there was a 2 hour wait to enter inside the castle. There is also a kiosk and toilet facilities

The property is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, therefore if you are a member you will have free entry and parking. There is a small car park and overflow parking, costing £3.

Tickets – Adult £14.50

couple in front of craigievar castle

Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses in Scotland and is a castle we would definitely recommend visiting on the NE250 road trip. It is part of the National Trust for Scotland therefore if you are a member, you will get entry into the castle and parking for free. If you are not a member then you will need to pay £3 for parking.

Within the castle grounds there are some beautiful walks as well as the walled gardens and a children’s play area. You don’t have to pay to access these areas and if you are short on time it is even just a beautiful place to stop and take some photos. There is also a tearoom in the castle and toilet facilities.

Tickets – Adult £14.50

couple walking towards castle fraser

Drum Castle

Drum Castle Garden and Estate is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses. It is lies on the outskirts of Banchory and not far from the city of Aberdeen.

Robert the Bruce granted William de Irwyn the castle and its grounds in 1323 and the castle remained in the Irvine clan until 1975. Later, a Jacobite mansion was added and in the Victorian era the lower halls was converted into a library. This is now home to over 4,000 books!

It is free to roam around the grounds of the castle where you can take some great photos of the castle.

The property is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, therefore if you are a member you will have free entry and parking. There is a small car park and overflow parking, costing £3.

Tickets – Adult £14.50

drum castle

Also Visit

There are a some places that we visited on this road trip that aren’t officially on the NE250 road trip but we would highly recommend you visit. One being Dunnottar Beach in Stonehaven and the other being Findhorn. These were both places on our bucket list so we couldn’t miss them.

Dunnotar Castle

Dunnottar Castle has been on our bucket list for a while, so even though it is slightly off the NE250 route, it is well worth a visit whilst you are in this part of Scotland. It is located a short drive from Stonehaven.

Dunnottar Castle was built in the 14th century and used until the 17th century. It was also once lived in by the most powerful family in Scotland, the Keiths.

Tickets must be purchased online as they are not available to buy at the castle. The tickets allow you entry into the castle grounds, however you can still get some cracking photos without a ticket.

Tickets – Adult £8

dunottar castle drone photo

Findhorn

Findhorn is a lovely little fishing village in Moray. The beach is lined with colourful beach houses and is a lengthy beach of golden sands and clear water. The town is small but very aesthetic. Worth heading off track a little to visit.
Findhorn Beach steps

Before You Leave on the North East 250

Before you head off on your trip around the NE250, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.

How Do I Get Around the NE250?

Given the reasonably remote location of the NE250 and the majority of the sights along the route, the best way to get around this road trip is by driving. There are of course other methods that are still popular, such as cycling and hiking, however, if you have a short amount of time on the route, neither of these are very suitable.

As for public transport, this isn’t completely impossible, it is just a lot more difficult.

If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip around the NE250, we highly recommend hiring through Bunk Campers. We toured with these guys around the up-and-coming Heart 200 road trip in Scotland’s central highlands and could not believe the comfort and customer service we experienced with their vans.

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Bunk Campers over here.

cullen

What Should I Pack for the NE250?

When it comes to packing for a trip along the NE250 there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your 7-day NE250 road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket.

As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.

Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C

Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C

Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C

Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C

As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

Photography Equipment

Main Photography Camera – Sony A7iii Mirrorless Camera

Main Lens – Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM 

Zoom Lens – Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8

Camera Stand – Neewer Portable 177cm

Vlogging Camera – Sony HX90v

Action Camera – GoPro Hero 8 Black

Drone Camera – DJI Mavic Pro 2

Camera Bag – Lowepro Flipside 300 AW

 

What is the Best Travel Insurance?

No matter what type of adventure you are heading on, whether it is a mountain adventure or a relaxing beach destination, one thing we all need to be aware of is that accidents can happen. The last thing you want is for an unexpected medical emergency to ruin your trip of a lifetime. Luckily, that is what travel insurance is for.

Whenever we travel abroad, we get covered with World Nomad’s Travel Insurance, a reliable, friendly and extremely affordable method of covering yourself on any adventure. With years of experience working for backpackers around the globe, the service they provide is perfect for whatever type of trip you have planned.

Get covered for your next trip and get a quote from World Nomad’s right here.

So there you have it, a 5 day North East 250 road trip itinerary, including castles, cliff views, and beaches. If you have visited the NE250 recently, let us know what you thought of the sights listed above, or if you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.

As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own North East 250 adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.

When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.

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