Published on 21/06/2017
I’VE ALWAYS FOUND the sea soothing and on those days when life becomes a little overwhelming, time spent watching or walking beside the vast, unrelenting swirl of salt water helps calm a busy mind. Whether it's a glorious blue sky day perfect for paddling and sand castles or dark and brooding skies with the promise of a winter storm, there's nothing quite like the sights and sounds of crashing waves and the feel of sand beneath my feet.
With a network of imposing dunes, Balmedie beach is hugely popular with thrill seeking sand surfers and the miles of sandy beach attracts kite surfers too. For those in search of a more serene seaside experience, the long stretches of unspoilt sand allow plenty room to roam and you can always find a quiet spot to sit and watch the waves. There are numerous ways to access the beach (some quite challenging although rewarding with dune top vistas) along with an easy access path that leads from the boardwalk straight on to the sand. Car parking is plentiful, there's a great play park and the village fish and chip shop is well worth a visit on your way home too!
Nearby Newburgh beach spans either side of the River Ythan and is easily accessible from the main car park beside the golf club taking either the low level path that meets the beach by the boathouse or following the various pathways up through the dunes. Arguably one of the main attractions here is the large seal colony and you can walk along the beach while inquisitive seals swim alongside. The long abandoned wooden boat wreck can be seen in all its crustacean covered glory at low tide and the river running between the sandbanks is reduced to a low level divide with sleepy seals hauled up on the opposite bank. At the river mouth the beach heads south along the shore towards Balmedie; last summer this stretch of the coast attracted huge interest when two humpback whales were spotted repeatedly feeding in the area. The north side of the beach can be reached from the Waterside car park by the Ythan Estuary although access is restricted to the area surrounding the seal colony and from April to August, the tern nesting sites are closed to the public too.
The former fishing village of Collieston is truly picturesque and the beach is a family favourite. Sheltered by the pier, this harbour beach has plenty rock pools to be explored, soft sand and a seasonal beachside ice cream shop, Smugglers Cone, that comes highly recommended. There are handy public toilets and parking is right on the pier wall making it a perfect choice if you have small children and armfuls of blankets, picnics, buckets and fishing nets that all need to make their way to the sand. Look out for the path that takes you up and over to the viewpoint for stunning views across the bay and beyond.
For a secluded and totally unspoilt sandy beach, Hackley Bay is well worth the effort to get there. The main car park is at the Forvie Nature Reserve visitor centre by Collieston (you can walk from the Waterside car park by Newburgh too) and there are way-marked paths with a choice of routes. Low tide is particularly breathtaking as the expanse of the bay is unveiled. The walk itself is beautiful although it's worth noting the track is uneven and can be quite wet underfoot with a series of stone steps by the bay which are fairly steep in places and not suitable for prams or wheelchairs. The view over the bay is breathtaking and access to the beach is from the south side as the previous pathways have been closed in an attempt to stabilise the cliff and prevent erosion. The bay remains less well known than most and so this is a beach you could well have all to yourself.
Walking across the wooden bridge to the beach at Cruden Bay reminds me of my childhood beach haunt where I spent many happy summer days and this beach is where my own children first learned the delightful art of wave jumping. Fine white sand starts from the end of the bridge and sweeps round the dune side before opening out to a vast sandy playground with views to Slains Castle ahead. The river beneath the bridge rises and falls with the tide and is a great spot to paddle when the sun warms the shallow pools. The children particularly enjoy making the very fine, dry sand at the foot of the dunes squeak as they scuff their feet and it comes as no surprise that this beach has been awarded a Scotland's Beach Award 2017 by Keep Scotland Beautiful, an accolade also awarded to Balmedie and Collieston for being clean, sustainable and well managed.
As the summer stretches out ahead of us, what could be better than feeling the sand between your toes, a warm sea breeze on your face and the sounds of the seaside to capture your heart and soothe your soul.