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11 free activities to keep you busy across Aberdeenshire

From parks to sandy beaches, explore what Aberdeenshire has to offer without splashing the cash.

Birdwatching at Loch Strathbeg is among the many free things to do around Aberdeenshire. Photo: RSPB.
Birdwatching at Loch Strathbeg is among the many free things to do around Aberdeenshire. Photo: RSPB.

There are plenty of free activities around Aberdeenshire, so there’s no need to spend big as we head into autumn. From family-friendly parks to beautiful beaches, there’s a number of activities to keep you busy.

See Slains Castle

A dramatic landscape of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire at sunset.
Slains Castle in Cruden Bay is among Scotland’s most striking castles. Image: Shutterstock.

Originally constructed in 1957, the ruins of the infamous Slains Castle lie on Cruden Bay’s coast.

Nearby, visitors can park-up for free before setting off to capture the stunning views from the castle, which sits close to the cliff edge – caution must be taken upon arrival. Travellers are advised to keep to the surrounding paths, avoid the cliff edge and not to climb on the castle structure.

Take in the sights by Loch Muick

Deer are often found nearby Loch Muick. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

This stunning freshwater loch sits on the Balmoral Estate just eight miles south-west of Ballater. The area tends to be quite popular with keen walkers looking to reconnect with nature and take in the serene sights. Some may even be lucky enough to spot the local wildlife such as grouse and deer.

If visitors travel to the western side of the loch, they will come across Glas-allt Shield, a hunting lodge built for Queen Victoria back in 1868 which later became known as the Widow’s House. Following the death of Prince Albert, the monarch retreated here for an escape.

Relax at Collieston Beach

Quiet and quaint. Image: Shutterstock.

This quaint little beach is ideal for anyone looking to escape city life for a few hours. Collieston Beach sits inside a small fishing harbour and is fairly secluded from the rest of the area with golden sand filling the shore and clear, calm waters to dip your toes into.

Visit Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum

This museum located at the town’s harbour is a must-visit attraction. It is full of interesting exhibits including some that hark back to when the building was used as a prison. Other items, such as a hand powered washing machine, show what life was like in past times

The museum is opened from 1.30pm to 4.30pm every day except Tuesday when it is closed.

Take a stroll at Newburgh Beach

people on Newburgh beach
Stroll along the sandy shore. Image Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Wander along the sandy shores of Newburgh Beach before exploring the sand dunes at the Ythan River, or venture out to the Forvie National nature Reserve just one mile from Newburgh to see the eider ducks, diving terns and oyster catchers in action.

One common activity at Newburgh Beach is seal spotting as approximately 400 seals reside along the estuary of the River Ythan. Visitors are welcome to observe the animals lazing around and going about their day-to-day business from the opposite bank.

Visit Lighthouses

Rattray Head Lighthouse, near Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.  Jane Barlow/PA Wire

From Rattray Head to Buchaness, Aberdeenshire has a range of lighthouses worth visiting. Learn all about their history, with some spanning back into the 1800s, and be sure to snap some photographs whilst you’re there to capture a view like no other. Although some lighthouses do not offer interior tours it’s still a great opportunity to get up close to them from the outside.

Cycle along The Deeside Way

Get those bikes ready. Image: Elin Beattie.

Get those bikes out the shed and start pedalling. Whilst the route is approximately 41 miles in total, it can be split into sections for anyone eager to cut down their journey. The Deeside Way takes cyclists out through Ballater and through to the Cairngorms, providing a stunning backdrop for the adventure and gives cyclists a chance to witness the beauty of Aberdeenshire.


The RSPB Scotland Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve is a great place to spot a variety of birdlife.

The site at Starnafin, Crimond, is Britain’s largest dune loch. As well as being a wintering ground for pink-footed geese, terns, tree sparrows and whooper swans can also be seen depending on the time of year.

Go and see a stone circle

The north-east has a wealth of ancient standing stones and circles, and it doesn’t cost to see them.

Among them is the Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle, just outside Inverurie.

Consisting on nine stones, it is thought to be one of the best-preserved recumbent stone circles in Scotland.

Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle near Inverurie.

See the Linn o Dee waterfall

Peaceful bliss. Image: Sally Wallis

Count how many salmon you can see preparing to leap over the waterfall at Linn o Dee? Explore the banks of the River Dee into the Caledonian pinewood for a magical view across the Cairngorms, and don’t forget to stop by the waterfall.

Hang out at Aden Country Park

Take the kids to the park. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

This massive children’s playground is a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon or two with the family.

Aden Country Park has been recognised as one of Scotland’s best green spaces with a Green Flag award for its facilities and all-round high quality standard with plenty space for activities.