17 Incredibly Awesome Things to Do in Cullen, Moray Firth

cullen moray firth

Cullen is a small village on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland and is best known for the birthplace of famous Scottish dish, Cullen Skink – a creamy soup made of smoked haddock, potato and milk. Bow Fiddle Rock, one of the most dramatic rock formations on the British Coast, lies just a couple of miles away from the village. Plus, Moray Firth being the dwelling of the bottled-nosed dolphins, Cullen is a great place for watching jumpy dolphins.

Not only that, Cullen has a sprawling golden sand beach as well where you can soak up the sun, take a dip and meet the Three Kings – impressive rock stacks. Plus, a photogenic viaduct lies at the heart of the village. The ruins of the historic Findlater Castle is also within walking distance from Cullen village centre.

Clearly, there is plenty of things to do and see in Cullen. Read our guide to 17 awesome things to do in and around Cullen, a hidden gems in Scotland.

Getting in and around Cullen:

By Car:

Cullen is located about 55 miles northwest of Aberdeen. It normally takes about 1.5 hours by car from there. It’s more or less the same distance from Inverness. From Edinburgh and Glasgow, it takes close to 4 hours to drive here.

By public transport:

From Aberdeen:

Stagecoach Bus 35 runs regular bus services a few times a day from Aberdeen. It typically takes 2 hrs 45 minutes to reach Cullen from Aberdeen Union Square Bus Station. Click for timetable.

If you are coming by train, Elgin is about 1.5 hrs by train from Aberdeen. From Elgin, there is no further train line to Cullen. You will have to take the Stagecoach Bus 35 which would take about 1 hr and 15 minutes to reach Cullen. 

So, both the above options would take almost the same time. Aberdeen is well connected with Edinburgh and Glasgow by Citylink, Megabus and Scotrail.

From Inverness:

From the Inverness Bus station, take stagecoach bus 10 and then 35 from East Street in Fochabers. Total journey time is about 3 hrs 15 minutes.

If you are coming by train, Elgin is about 40 minutes from Inverness. From Elgin, take the Stagecoach bus 35 to reach Cullen – takes about 1 hr and 15 minutes.

Citylink, Megabus and Scotrail runs regular bus services from Inverness to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 17 Incredible Things to do in Cullen, Moray Firth

1. Meet the Three Kings on Cullen Beach

Cullen golden beach

The sprawling Cullen beach is located just in front of the Cullen Golf Centre just west of the village. This golden sand beach stretching over a length of around 1 Km is a firm favourite with the locals and the visitors. In summer, this family-friendly beach is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, surfing.

the three kings rock formation in cullen beach

The star attraction of the beach is the Three Kings – impressive rock stacks that stand on the east end of the beach.

2. Visit the iconic Bow Fiddle Rock near Cullen

Portknockie rock

One of the iconic rock formations on the British coast, Bow Fiddle Rock stands off the Moray Firth Coast at Portknockie, a coastal village 2 miles west of Cullen. The arched shaped hole inside the rock resembles a bow. 

You would simply be gobsmacked to see how the waves can sculpt such impressive rockworks. You would also get to see many sea birds bustling around this area. Due to its distinct shape, Bow Fiddle Rock is very popular with landscape photographers.  

3. Take in the view on your Coastal walk to Portknockie

rock formation Portknockie to Cullen walk

Take a ramble along the scenic coastal trail from Cullen to Portknockie – a neighbouring coastal village which lies just  a  couple of miles west of Cullen. You would get a stunning view over the Moray Firth and the golden sands of Cullen Beach. You would also spot many impressive rock formations along the cliff, most notably the Whales Mouth – a cave shaped stunning rock formation.

Plus, if you are lucky, you would be able to spot some jumpy dolphins along the coast. Only word of Caution – it can be too windy sometimes.

4. Enjoy a walk around Portknockie Harbour

Portknockie harbour boats
Portknockie harbour

A short walk from the Bow Fiddle Rock, lies the Portknockie harbour. Looking at the present harbour, it’s hard to believe that in the 1800s, it was a bustling herring port. Over 150 fishing boats were based at that time. But with the fishing industry declining in the north of Scotland in the 20th century, today only a few fishing boats are moored here. You would still see some fisher cottages around the harbour.  

5. Step back in past in the historic Cullen Viaduct

Cullen village Scotland

Built in the late 1800s, this eight-arched railway viaduct lies on the Moray Coast Railway which used to connect the North Coast villages of Scotland with the Aberdeen to Elgin line. Just image, how beautiful the train ride would have been along the Moray Firth. After the ‘Beeching cuts’- a major railway network remodelling event in British history, the Moray Coast line ceased its operation in 1968. Today, this Victorian viaduct is a Grade-B listed structure and a very photogenic landmark of the village. 

6. Take a stroll around the Cullen Harbour

Once a major fishing port, today mostly the recreational boats and a few fishing boats are moored in the Cullen harbour. This tidal harbour dries out completely in low tide. So, if you planning to sail here, you will have to contact the harbour master in advance. Cullen Sea school conducts a number of lessons in the harbour. you can learn a lot of water sports activities – even boat building.

7. Taste the famous dish of Cullen, Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink

Cullen is most famous for the birthplace of Cullen skink – a creamy fish soup made of potato, smoked haddock, milk and onions. There are quite a number of local restaurants that serve this delicious dish. Rockpool Café and the Cullen Bay Hotel would be a good place to try this out. Cullen Skink World championship takes place in this village annually. So, if you know some secret twist to this recipe, this is your chance to shine.

8. Hike up to Findlater Castle

Findlater Castle

Located about 3 miles east of Cullen, Findlater Castle is perched on a 50 ft headland that sticks out into the Moray Firth. The original castle was raided by the Vikings (in fact the name of the caste has Norse influence) in the 13th century and they occupied it for some time. The ruins, that remain today, date back to the 14th-century castle that was remodelled by Sri Walter Ogilvy based on Roslyn Castle, a stronghold of the Sinclair family.

It was abandoned by the Ogilvy family when they relocated to a modern residence, Cullen House in the early 17th century. The path near the castle is very narrow and a bit dangerous. So, better to enjoy the view from a bit distance.

The coastal walk from Cullen to Findlater Castle is very popular with the walkers. It takes about 3.5 hours to complete the full circuit. The walk is moderately easy but at places, it can be a bit steep. A sturdy walking shoe is definitely recommended.

9. Take a walk along the secluded Sunnyside Beach

Cullen sunnyside beach

On the way to Findlater Castle from Cullen along the coast, you would come across a secluded stretch of sand beneath the cliffs. That’s Sunnyside Beach – a very nice spot to spend some time in peace with a stunning view. The coastal path onto the beach is a bit steep and rough at places. So, a sturdy shoe is definitely recommended.

10. Pay a visit to the Cullen Pet Cemetery

Cullen Pet Cemetery
Cullen pet cemetery

On your way to the Findlater Castle along the coast, you would come across a pet cemetery looked after by a local volunteer. This well-maintained cemetery on the Moray Firth is really a great resting place for pets. Reading through the epitaphs would make you feel emotional if you own a pet.

11. Watch the jumpy dolphins

The entire stretch of Moray Firth is famous for the bottle-nosed dolphins. On our trip there, we couldn’t spot any dolphin though, but people see them very frequently. So, whenever you are near the coast, just keep your eyes peeled out for the pod of dolphins. If you want to take a dolphin cruise, head to the nearby village, Buckie – which lies just 6 miles west of Cullen. From the harbour, take the Scottish Marine Safari on Orlik – a traditional wooden trawler.

12. Pop into the vintage shops and cafes in Cullen centre

streets of Cullen

There are quite a few quirky vintage shops along the Seafield Street in Cullen. Cullen Antique Centre is the largest antique shop in North East Scotland. You will get to see a wide range of collectables and vintage items from jewellery to furniture, clocks to ceramics, old maps to first edition books. Also, The Cullen Collectibles, Bits ‘N’ Bobs, Cullen Architectural Salvage Yard are worth a visit if you are into antique shopping.

Seafield Street houses many yummy shops as well – Rockpool Cafe, Linda’s Fish and Chips, Lilly’s Kitchen Cafe. The Ice Cream Shop near the Rockpool Cafe is super popular with the locals and the tourists. They have a get range of tasty flavours. On a sunny day at the seaside, nothing beats a scoop of ice cream.

More Places to Visit from Cullen:

If you would like to extend your trip by a few days, we would highly recommend to visit the following places. We did the whole trip in public transport. Bit of a planning would be required, but it’s completely doable.

13. Take a distillery tour in Strathisla

Strathisla Distillery

Located in Keith – just 13 miles south of Cullen, Strathisla Distillery is the home of world-famous whiskey, Chivas Regal. Built in the late 18th century, Strathisla is the oldest functional distillery in the Scottish Highlands. It’s one of the prettiest distilleries in Scotland with its impressive pagodas and the water wheel.

Once here, take one of their distillery tours and learn about the craft of distilling whiskey. That usually includes tasting a few drams depending upon the tour you are taking.

14. Visit the ruins of Elgin Cathedral

Often called the ‘Lantern of the North’, Elgin Cathedral lies about 20 miles west of Cullen. Built in the 1200s, Elgin Cathedral served as the seat of the bishop of Moray. After the Scottish reformation, this cathedral church fell into disrepair. If you are passing through Elgin, visit this ruined medieval cathedral and explore the octagonal chapterhouse, chess tomb, 5m high gravestone – the tallest one in Scotland.

15. Take a ramble around the coastal village, Crovie

village Crovie in Scotland

Lies about 23 miles east of Cullen, the cute little village of Crovie is one of the well-preserved fishing hamlets, perched on the north coast of Scotland in Aberdeenshire. With just a row of whitewashed cottages tucked away beneath the cliffs, Crovie has a very rustic setting. Very frequently, the sea sprays lash against the narrow ledge in front of them. Some of those cottages offer holiday accommodation if you fancy a stay.

This village is only accessible via the steps that descend down the cliff to the seafront. So, if you are coming by car, you can’t simply drive through the village – you’ll have to leave your car at the clifftop and then walk down the steps – can’t complain when you are blessed with such a smashing view.

16. Admire the clifftop houses and the harbour in Gardenstown

Gardenstown harbour pier

Just 10 minutes walk from its sister village, Crovie, Gardenstown is a picturesque village dotted on the north coast of Aberdeenshire. The village has a really pretty harbour and from there you would get an amazing view of the layer of houses clinging over the cliffs.

A short walk from the harbour in the opposite direction of Crovie, there is a nice beach. You would also love the walk to St John’s Church, an 800-year-old ruined church perched on the cliffs.

17. Admire the artworks in Duff House

duff house Banff

Designed by the famous architect, William Adam, Duff House is located in Banff – just about 14 miles east of Cullen. Due to a long conflict between the architect and the owner, William Duff, this Georgian mansion was never completed to the owner’s liking. Finally, this house was gifted to the town of Macduff and Banff in the early 1900s. In the last century, it was turned into a hotel; even it served as a prisoner of war camp.

This A-listed house now displays some great collection of paintings and contemporary art. Once here, admire the artworks, learn about its history and enjoy the walk surrounding the house. 

Planing a Trip to Scotland?

For further reading on other SCOTLAND destinations:

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Where to Stay in Cullen:

If you fancy a bit of luxury stay, book with The Seafield Arms Hotel or Cullen Bay Hotel. There are a number of budget hotels and B&Bs available as well. Booking well in advance is recommended particularly in summer when it can be very busy.

Where to Eat in Cullen:

A few of the recommended restaurants:

  • Rockpool Café 
  • Lily’s Kitchen Café 
  • Cullen Bay Hotel
  • Linda’s Fish and Chip shop (takeaway)

4 thoughts on “17 Incredibly Awesome Things to Do in Cullen, Moray Firth”

  1. John Hollingworth

    Thank you for all the information about and around Cullen. Really looking forward to staying there in july next year .

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