One of our favourite places to visit here in the North East of Scotland is Stonehaven.
It’s somewhere we visit quite often, so you can expect a couple of posts to pop up on things to do in Stonehaven and the surrounding areas.
Stonehaven is a coastal town that lies around 15 miles south of Aberdeen and is quite rightly one of the most sought after areas for property in Aberdeenshire thanks to its strong sense of community and beautiful sea views. It’s also just a short drive away from the city of Dundee which lies about 50 miles to the south.
It is a very popular destination for those that like water sports such as paddle boarding, surfing and sailing but also very popular among tourists during the summer months.
Many of the attractions in Stonehaven are close, so walking is certainly manageable but I do find many of the pavements along the harbour side quite narrow, and there can be a lot of uneven ground if this is something of concern to you. Please don’t take that as a reason not to visit though as there are plenty of areas with better walkway access should you need it.
Stonehaven Swimming Pool
The Stonehaven open air swimming pool is one of the most unique in Scotland as it is a heated open air pool.
This Art Deco building and open air pool is only open during the Summer months, (the North East of Scotland can be very cold the remainder of the year) and I fondly remember visiting during the school holidays as a child. It is a great place to take children. It seemed such a novelty. A swimming pool, that’s outside, with saltwater and it’s warm. Excuse me?
Oh, and if you are keen to experience the pool without children, they also hold midnight swims in peak season. Just another thing I love about this Stonehaven swimming pool and think is pretty special.
Stonehaven HarbourOne of the local attractions is Stonehaven harbour. Filled with small fishing boats and sailboats and certainly draws crowds in the hotter weather. Surrounded by cafes and ice cream shops it is a popular spot to take a seat and enjoy the view. And talking of that hotter weather (rare as it is), Stonehaven is the place to be, so expect queues. EVERYWHERE.
Stonehaven War Memorial
Standing proudly on Black Hill overlooking the town and not far from Dunnottar Castle, is the Stonehaven War Memorial.
This war memorial is different from many others we have seen as it is octagonal and resembles an old ruin, as opposed to the strong and imposing structures we are used to associating with memorials.
The ruins of this Stonehaven castle are some of the most recognised in Scotland and iconic throughout the world thanks to its dramatic cliff-side location.
Dunnottar Castle is around 2 miles south of Stonehaven and is a hauntingly brooding and unforgettable attraction to visit. The ruins of the castle overlook the North Sea.
This castle is often a romantic backdrop and ceremony location for weddings throughout the summer and it is best to check visitor details in advance.
Two popular options for getting to Dunnottar Castle; you can either walk along the clifftop walk from Stonehaven Harbour which offers amazing views but is quite a distance or if you choose to drive, there is a car park by the castle.
When visiting Dunnottar Castle, please be aware that there are many uneven steps to reach the castle and this may cause difficulty for some.
Dunnottar Castle Ticket Cost
Adult – £7
Child – £3
Family (2+2) – £17
If you’re thinking of visiting then you should read our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Dunnottar Castle.
Dunnottar Castle may be closed in bad weather for safety reasons, so it is always advisable to check the official website before booking any travel.
Stonehaven Land Train
The Stoney Express is a charity funded land train that provides tours to many of the attractions in Stonehaven such as the outdoor pool, Stonehaven harbour and Dunnottar Castle.
Running from early April to October this popular tourist attraction draws in crowds from far and wide. A storyteller is on board this hop on, hop off train to provide a humorous guide to the town throughout the 45-minute journey.
The Stonehaven Land Train has two carriages and is also available for private hires such as weddings, birthdays, group trips etc.
The Stoney Express Ticket Cost
Adult – £5
Child – £3
Family (2+2) – £14
The Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum is located on the harbour front and holds many artefacts relating to not only the history of Stonehaven but from the days that this red sandstone building was a courthouse and prison. You can even view one of the original cell doors, stocks and a crank that was used on the prisoners.
This is one of my favourite buildings in Stonehaven, and the oldest in town, with beautiful views over the harbour water and full to the brim with fun things to see for the whole family. The Tolbooth Museum is a real step back in time and a reminder of days long gone, with many items from the home and kitchen stoves to old creels and boating history that are sure to evoke memories and interest for many.
Entry to the Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum is free
Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum Opening Times
Saturday – 12.30 – 15.30
Sunday – 12.30 – 15.30
You can also find the popular Tolbooth Seafood restaurant upstairs.
If you are looking for an activity to entertain all the family, consider a trip to Dunnottar Woods.
On the Southside of Stonehaven, Dunnottar Woods is not your typical woodland. Once owned by the Kennedy family it is now there for the community to enjoy.
Make sure to look out for interesting structures such as the Shell House, Ice House, Lady Kennedy’s bath and Gallow Hill. You may also spot from Fairy doors hidden in the woodland which add a nice touch for those young at heart.
There is a car park at Glasslaw, otherwise, you can walk from the town centre.
RSPB Fowlsheugh Reserve
Just South of Stonehaven, the cliffs at Fowlsheugh are home to over 100,000 seabirds during the summer months.
The cliffs range from 30-60 metres and host seabirds such as guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins. If lucky, you may also see seals and dolphins offshore.
The RSPB Fowlsheugh Reserve is the largest seabird colony here on the East Coast of Scotland and birds can be seen between May and August.
And finally, the last offering I want to share with you today is probably the most unique of all and falls only on New Year. It is, of course, the Stonehaven Fireballs.
Ok, if you haven’t heard of them before you are probably wondering what on earth I am on about. Is it food? A meteor shower? Some form of bizarre Mario appreciation?
No, it probably sounds far more strange. The Stonehaven Fireballs are part of a unique ceremony held in the town to bring in the New Year. As the bells ring at midnight there is a parade on the high street with men and women swinging great big balls of fire around their heads.
Surrounded by the sound of bagpipes and street performers they make their way towards the harbour water where they eventually cast off the fireballs and finish with a grand firework display over the water. Cool, right?
As you can imagine, this draws in BIG crowds. We’re talking 10,000+ people, but what an amazing experience!
There are no tickets or costs involved to attend but I do think they appreciate donations to continue the event for the future.
Places To Eat In Stonehaven
There are a lot of fantastic Stonehaven restaurants that deserve to be mentioned and I have no doubt that we will in future posts but let’s start with two of the most popular. As you can see, both are queuing out the door which is always a good sign in my eyes.
Those of us in Aberdeen (and I’m sure from other places) will take a day trip to Stonehaven specifically to visit these two eateries.
The Bay fish and chips have gained somewhat of a cult status throughout Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and there is nothing quite like visiting a seaside town and getting fish and chips. The Bay has won so many awards that I wouldn’t even know where to begin, so let’s just say that numerous awards and daily queues out the door should be enough of an accolade as to why they are a top spot to visit for your Stonehaven fish and chips fix.
Conveniently, for another popular seaside treat, Aunty Betty’s is right next door to The Bay. Well known for its extravagant ice creams covered in sweets, there are always queues waiting, no matter the weather.
Aunty Betty’s provide an array of flavours from your iron brew, Scottish tablet and Turkish delight to the more conventional mint choc chip and raspberry ripple. Topped with sweets, flakes and wafers they are perfect for that Insta picture against the water backdrop.
But let’s not forget our four-legged friends as they also provide ice creams for dogs! Which just melts (aha..) my heart.
So there we have it, a beginners guide of things to do in Stonehaven Scotland. Make sure to let us know your favourite thing to do.