Stonehaven is a small harbour town in Aberdeenshire, only a 28 (ish) minute drive from Aberdeen. Stonehaven has become famous for the spectacular New Years Eve celebrations they put on, they perform an ancient fireball ceremony where people swing fire blazing balls above their heads to ward off evil spirits, and as with any New Years celebrations, there is also a lot of alcohol consumed making it a great experience.
Although great in all weather, Stonehaven is best when you get a lovely sunny day because it has an open air pool and the seaside to explore. There are a range of different ice cream shops and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and a drink. I highly recommend fitting in some time in your schedule to visit Stonehaven because it’s a really cute little town which has more than meets the eye.
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I spent a lot of time in Stonehaven as a child, but have since abandoned it as an adult. There isn’t a reason for this other than busy lives get in the way, but I visited recently to see if it was how I remembered it to be, it was. I thought it would be difficult to fill in a whole day in Stonehaven, but when it got time for us to leave we left wanting to stay. I couldn’t find any guided to Stonehaven online, so thought I’d write my own one to help others find hidden gems and make the most of their day.
I’d aim to get in to Stonehaven for around 11-11:30ish (am) so you can get the best of the day. 6 hours is probably enough depending on what you want to do.
This isn’t a hidden gem. It’s, in many cases, the reason people visit Stonehaven in the first place. They are open from 12:00 – 22:00 every single day and if you don’t get there early you will be queuing to get in. In fact even if you get their early you’ll probably end up queuing so be prepared for that, but trust me – it’s worth it. They even go the extra mile offering wedding, party and events catering. So get yourself some award winning fish at The Bay.
Imagine being a child in a candy store. That’s what Aunty Bettys feels like. You can buy a selection of sweets from Aunty Bettys, but they are more famous for their ice cream and ice cream toppings. They are situated next door to The Bay and also always have a queue outside, so once again be prepared to queue, but it is worth it. You don’t just get ice cream, you get massive scoops and inventive toppings, but take my word for it if it’s a sunny day and if you get 2 scoops be prepared to eat your ice cream very very quickly because it will melt quickly. It is the best ice cream shop ever.
Stonehaven has a stony beach which gets sandier on the southern side of the beach. This is great for walks and relaxing whilst eating your fish and chips or your ice cream. If you’re in to watersports Stonehaven beach is really great for it and is quite popular among watersport enthusiasts. It stretches for roughly 1.1km so can be a relaxing walk on a nice day, or the perfect place to take your dogs for a walk.
Located at the harbour front in Stonehaven, the Tolbooth Museum is an absolute must visit when you’re in the small harbour town. They are open from 13:30 – 16:30 every day except Tuesdays. Find out about the history of the building, it used to serve as a prison, and more about the history of Stonehaven in general. It’s a family friendly establishment and they even run a “Dinosaur Hunt” where youngsters can find hidden dinosaurs to receive a token lucky dip.
Sitting around 3 kilometers south of Stonehaven you can find the ruins of a medieval fortress on a rocky headland, this is Dunnottar Castle. Once the home of the Earls Marischal which was one of the most powerful families in Scotland the castle is steeped in history. Check the website for seasonal times when entry to the castle is available before heading there just in case you get there and it’s closed.
Not far from the beach sits Stonehaven’s harbour. Great for boat and people watching, there are also a number of bars and restaurants surrounding the harbour, one of which even holds Six Degrees North beers. There is a little sandy area where kids can play, and a wall where you often see people sitting on.
The Harbour boasts both leisure and business activities with plenty of surrounding bars, cafes, museums etc. for the public to head over to. The sunny days are the best at the harbour when everyone is out and and you can sit and chill watching the day go by with a pint in hand at the outdoors area of one of the bars.
Those are my recommendations for the best things to do in Stonehaven. Have any others? Comment below and let me know ☺
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