The east coast of Scotland spans all the way up from Eyemouth in the south to John O’Groats in the north Highlands, taking in the northern stretch of the Aberdeenshire-Moray-Inverness-shire coastline. Often outshone by the west coast, this outstanding stretch of coastline should not be missed.
From the golden shores of St Cyrus beach to the dramatic rugged setting of Dunnottar Castle, there is so much to explore along the eastern landscape and so many hidden gems along the way.
In this guide we look at some of the highlight destinations, beaches and castles that you can come across, and also some of the east coast best attractions for families and friends. Start planning a holiday in east coast Scotland today. If you are interested in staying by the sea in Scotland, view our collection of coastal cottages.
Fantastic destinations along the east coast of Scotland
There are so many fantastic places to visit along the east coast, from small, cute villages to bustling towns and larger vibrant cities. Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen are all set on the east coast, each offering something slightly different - from Edinburgh’s Old Town and cobbled streets to the industrial Dundee where the electric lightbulb was first invented! Here are some of our favourite seaside towns on the east coast of Scotland:
North Berwick is a pleasant seaside town in East Lothian, just 30-40 minutes from Edinburgh, with great beaches, a coastal setting and views out to Bass Rock - home to the world's largest colony of northern gannets! As well as lots of great places to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a drink, there is a great seabird centre, a museum, distillery, a luxury spa, and a world-renowned golf course.
St Andrews and the Fife area is a beautiful year-round destination on the east coast. Well known for its network of idyllic fishing and harbour towns, it is a lovely place to come and enjoy some peace and quiet by the ocean. St Andrews is a historic town home to the famous St Andrews University. It is a trendy town with lots going on, catering to students, visitors, and locals alike. Crail, Pittenweem, Kingsbarn, St Monan and Elie are lovely villages to potter around with boutiques, cafes and gift shops around every corner, and the award-winning fish and chip shop in Anstruther can cater for all meals! You can read more about the area in our guide to Fife.
View our cottages in Anstruther and our Fife holiday homes for accommodation options.
Arbroath and Montrose
Sitting north of Dundee are the towns of Arbroath and Montrose. The traditional seaside town of Arbroath is the largest town in the region of Angus and is best known for the Arbroath Smokie – a worldwide delicacy of haddock smoked over wood fires. It has an ancient abbey, a pretty harbour, sandy beaches, and sandstone cliffs. Montrose was historically a market town turned popular spa, but now its main industry lies with the oil industry in the North Sea. It’s a bustling pretty town with lots going on and the beach, golf course and wildlife centre offer up fun things to do during your visit.
Cullen and Lossiemouth can be found on the northern stretch of the Morayshire coast, and these are lovely seaside towns with lots to offer, from award-winning ice cream shops to beautiful shingle bays and fishing harbours. Lossiemouth boasts two big beaches: one set next to Moray Golf Course and one meeting the mouth of the River Lossie. Cullen is a cute village well known for its arched bridge and many rows of traditional cottages hugging the coastline. Based on the Moray Firth, these are both great places to spot dolphins playing in the sea, and the perfect spot for beach walks, water sports and outdoor activities. Just round the corner are Nairn, Findhorn and Ardersier. For more on the area, check out our guide to things to do and see in Moray.
Cromarty is a postcard-perfect village on the Black Isle, set north of Inverness on the east coast of the Highlands. Perhaps what makes it so picture perfect are the 209 listed buildings in the town, a cutesy network of traditional cottages with nicely coloured doors and window frames. Walking around the town, you will discover a lighthouse, medieval church, the award-winning courthouse museum and the birthplace of the famous geologist Hugh Miller in the form of a thatched cottage.
Dornoch and Brora
Further north lie the characterful towns of Dornoch and Brora. Dornoch is a historic town with a beautiful centre based around Dornoch Cathedral which stands proudly in the middle. The Old Jailhouse turned luxury shop and restaurant is a lovely place to grab a bite to eat, followed by a long walk along Dornoch Beach. Or, play a round of golf on the 18-hole course. Brora is a small peaceful harbour town where the locals are friendly and encourage you to have a relaxing stay. Again, it's popular with golfers as the course has stretching views over the sea, and there are also a couple of small beaches to spend lazy days on. Both of these towns are set on the NC500 driving route.
Beaches to visit on the east coast of Scotland
Beaches are the precious jewels of any coastline, and they can offer anyone a place to relax and unwind by the ocean. Whether you want to lie and soak up the sun all day, or spend hours digging holes, there is something for every age and interest on the beach. The east coast of Scotland is not short of a beach or two, and we have some particular favourites that we want to share today. Enjoy discovering these east coast of Scotland beaches:
West Sands Beach
West Sands Beach in St Andrews is almost 2 miles long and offers up white sands and beautiful clear water, backed by dunes and the world-famous golf course. Just a short 15-minute walk from the town centre, the beach is perfectly placed for the best of both worlds. This is a popular spot for dog walkers, swimmers, runners, and dog walkers with a backdrop of the castle and cathedral.
St Cyrus Beach
St Cyrus Beach is part of St Cyrus National Nature Reserve and is situated near Montrose on the east coast (the town we mentioned above). At 3 miles long, the beach boasts striking cliffs, sand dunes, many bird species and butterflies. This is a really special beach with amazing views out over the sea.
Findhorn Beach is one of the most magical that Scotland has to offer, only made better by the unique and quirky village of Findhorn itself. Both shingly and sandy, the far-stretching beach is a great place to spend days building sandcastles, playing in the surf, and spotting seals. The views over to the east coast of the Highlands are spectacular on a clear day.
Here are some more beaches to keep on the list when you are planning to visit the east coast of Scotland:
- 🌊Eyemouth Beach
- 🌊Whitesands Bay Beach
- 🌊Tyninghame Beach
- 🌊Elie Beach Fife
- 🌊Kingsbarns Beach
- 🌊Newburgh Seal Beach
- 🌊Dornoch Beach
Hopefully you have fallen in love with these best beaches on the east coast of Scotland. Why not try some surfing or sea kayaking on the east coast of Scotland? For more inspiration and ideas, check out our pick of the best beaches in Scotland.
Castles to explore on the east coast of Scotland
Aberdeenshire on the east coast is known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’, being home to over 300 castles, country houses and ruins. However, they are not just found in Aberdeenshire; they are dotted all the way up the east coast too. A day out at a castle is a lovely way to spend time, soaking up history, culture and enjoying some light-hearted education. Many castles have tearooms, walled gardens and gift shops to enjoy too. Here are some of our favourite castles in the east.
Dunnottar Castle is where the Scottish crown jewels were hidden in the 17th century. It now stands as a ruin on dramatic cliffside on the north-east coast of Scotland with the North Sea as a backdrop. Medieval and impressive, it can be visited and walked around, where you can discover the 14th-century tower house and 16th-century palace.
Dunrobin Castle is possibly Scotland’s most Disney-like castle of all! It has 189 rooms and is still lived in by the family and has been since the 14th century. It has a fascinating history which can be discovered, with one of the more interesting points being that it was used as a naval hospital during WW1. The walled garden is beautifully kept, providing a nice place to sit and soak up the sea views.
Here are some other castles to keep in mind:
- Fast Castle (south)
- Newark Castle, Fife
- St Andrews Castle
- Slains Castle
- Brodie Castle
- Boddam Castle
- Knockhall Castle
- Skibo Castle
Read our guide to the best castles to visit in the UK and, for a spot of history, check out our guide to the ruined castles of Aberdeenshire.
Highlight attractions and things to do on the east coast of Scotland
Whenever we visit a new place, days out are often the best way to see them - and often the best way to entertain the kids too! Here are some attractions we have highlighted to give you some ideas for days out on the east coast of Scotland.
The Scottish Seabird Centre
The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick is a 5-star visitor centre where you can learn all about the resident sea birds and marine environment in this area. You can take seasonal boat trips, enjoy food in the Seabird Café and read all the information boards and soak up all the fun facts.
Buddon Ness Lighthouses
The Buddon Ness Lighthouses are located east of Dundee and date back to the 17th century. They are a fascinating bit of Scottish history and can be accessed by the walking route from Carnoustie to Monifieth.
St Abb's Head
St Abb's Head is a clifftop nature reserve with breathtaking sea views and dramatic surroundings. A walk here is certainly a walk into the wilderness and you can spend hours watching and studying thousands of sea birds which all come and nest and feed here. You will be amazed by the variety of flora and fauna.
Here are some more attractions that are a must-see along the east coast of Scotland…
Along with attractions, you will find the NE250 driving route which takes you on a 250-mile route through all the best bits of the east. You can also arrange fishing trips on the east coast of Scotland as well as boat tours, castle tours and dolphin watching on Scotland’s east coast. We hope we have inspired you to come and stay on the east coast of Scotland. There is so much to see and do and it’s all waiting for you!
For more inspiration, read our guide to Scotland's coast.
Stay in a self-catering cottage on the east coast of Scotland
We have lots of holiday homes dotted along the east coast of Scotland. Browse our coastal cottages and start planning your Scotland holiday today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.