Places of interest in and around Cullen
North East 250 Touring Route
The ultimate road trip to the heart of Scotland, the North East 250 is Scotland’s newest tourist driving route.
Consisting of a 250 mile circular route, the North East 250 takes you through Speyside, the Cairngorms, Royal Deeside, Aberdeen, the East Coast and the Moray Coast including Cullen.
Through each of these sectors you can explore everything for which Scotland is famous, whether that be whisky, golf, mountains, nature or history and heritage, to name a few.
Whether you’re arriving from near or far, you won’t be disappointed as you explore the castles, wildlife, coastal villages, stunning beaches, golf courses, mountains, forests, distilleries, and everything else the heart of Scotland has to offer.
Castle Hill overlooks Seatown and Cullen Bay and was once the site of a fort around the 11th Century. The view point has recently been given some TLC and is now accessible by footpaths for buggies and wheelchairs. The site has stunning panoramic views across Seatown, Cullen, Cullen Bay, the Bin of Cullen and you can take these all in from newly installed benches and picnic benches.
Cullen's long-standing popularity with holidaymakers is based on its fine long sandy beach, awarded the EU flag in 2003 for clean bathing water. You can enjoy our main beach, Seatown Beach or the two sheltered beaches at Cullen Harbour. There are toilets* located by the harbour beaches and the main beach
*Toilets open April - October.
Fishing has been carried on at Cullen for at least 500 years, and the picturesque Seatown with its colourful painted houses and twisting lanes dates in part from the 17th century. The small harbour was built between 1817 and 1819 by William Minto, to a design by Thomas Telford; alterations and an additional quay were added by William Robertson in 1834.
Robert Southey, the well known poet and friend of Telford, who travelled the Highlands with him, wrote of Cullen: "When I stood upon the pier at low water, seeing the tremendous rocks with which the whole shore is bristled, and the open sea to which the whole place is exposed, it was with a proud feeling that I saw the first talents in the world employed by the British Government in works of such unostentatious, but great, immediate, palpable and permanent utility. Already their excellent effects are felt. The fishing vessels were just coming in having caught about 300 barrels of herring during the night…." The harbour is now mainly used by pleasure craft.
The village specialised in the export of smoked haddock and had at one time three large curing houses. The local delicacy, Cullen Skink, is a delicious fish soup of smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk.
Cullen Auld Kirk
Cullen Auld Kirk is open to the public both for religious services and tours. The existence of a church at Cullen was first recorded in 1236, and again in 1275. It is likely that part of the present building dates back to this time, since the rounded arch window, originally a doorway, in the southwest corner of the church indicates a building of early 13th century. In 1327, Queen Elizabeth de Burgh, second wife of Robert the Bruce, died at Cullen, and her entrails were buried in the church.
The king founded a chaplaincy in that year to pray for her soul - a tradition that continues to this day. The church was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, the patron saint of Cullen. A carving of the Virgin and Child, now much weathered, may still be seen on the old Mercat Cross in Cullen Square. This same cross would once have stood outside the Kirk gates in the middle of the original Burgh of Cullen, which was demolished in the 1820's when the town was removed to its present position. Later additions to the church were St. Anne's Aisle, the present south transept (built in 1536), and the Seafield Loft, an imposing example of a laird's gallery (built in 1602).
The church features a beautiful sacrament house in the north wall and an ornate monument (dated 1554) to Alexander Ogilvie of that Ilk, who, in 1543, raised the church to collegiate status. The churchyard has many interesting and imposing tombs, monuments and gravestones. Cullen Auld Kirk stood in the centre of the original Burgh of Cullen. If you stand at the main gate and look up the avenue, the market cross would have been directly in front, with the main street running north south to the left and the right. Between 1820 and 1830, the new town of Cullen was built, and every trace of the old one demolished, save for the Kirk, to allow the Earl of Seafield to improve his policies.
A place was reserved for a new church in Cullen Square, but it was never built. A booklet describing the church is available, and the church is open during the summer months on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with guided tours available. For more information on the Auld Kirk, please visit www.cullen-deskford-church.org.uk
Cullen House and Grounds
Cullen House was built in 1600 close to the Auld Kirk. In the 17th Century, Cullen's laird became Earl of Findlater, and in the next century, the estates passed to the Earl of Seafield. Cullen House was extended more than once, and has now been converted into luxury homes. The house is not open to the public however the grounds are open to the public every Tuesday and Friday afternoon.
See noticeboard at Grant Street gates.
Fine example of Victorian architecture. The most striking feature of the town is the series of railway viaducts, one of the great achievements of 19th Century railway engineering, which divide the Seatown from the upper town. They were completed in 1886 by the Great North of Scotland Railway.
The Countess of Seafield would not allow the line to cross the policies of Cullen House. The arches of the viaducts frame some of the best views of the town and its surroundings - the Seatown, the Cullen Burn, the 19th Century Temple of Pomona (a garden teahouse in the shape of a classical temple) and, most magnificent of all, Cullen Bay with the isolated rock strata known as "The Three Kings".
The railway line was closed in 1968 and is now incorporated in a coastal footpath to Portknockie. It also forms part of the SUSTRANS national cycle path (www.sustrans.org.uk) and of the North Sea Cycle Route (www.northsea-cycle.com).
Deskford Auld Kirk
There is a record of an ancient chapel at Skeith, Deskford, dedicated to Our Lady of Pity, in which her wooden image was once preserved. For many centuries, however, the Parish Kirk dedicated to St. John the Evangelist was situated at Kirktown of Deskford within its churchyard. Now a roofless ruin in the care of Historic Scotland (signposted from the main Keith road), it is of considerable historic interest, and is well worth a visit, particularly on account of its Sacrament House (as mentioned above) - installed in 1551 by Alexander Ogilvy of Findlater and Deskford, with an inscription in English as well as the usual Latin. With its prominent position on the Keith road, the "new" church (in private ownership) is a listed building, of Victorian Gothic style. For more information, please visit www.cullen-deskford-church.org.uk
3 miles from Cullen on Keith road
Ruined stronghold on coastal crag between Cullen and Sandend.
A prominent family of the time, the Ogilvies, lived at Findlater Castle, perched on a rocky promontory, east of Cullen. In 1600, however, they built Cullen House close to the church and village and Findlater Castle fell into ruin. In the 17th Century, Cullen's laird became Earl of Findlater, and in the next century, the estates passed to the Earl of Seafield. Cullen House was extended more than once, and has now been converted into luxury homes.
Findlater Castle can be accessed by road (A98 2 miles east of Cullen) or by foot on the coast path accessible either from Cullen to the west or Sandend from the east.
On the coastal footpath between Cullen and Sunnyside Beach (see Local Walks), this flight of steps was rebuilt single-handedly by local man Tony Hetherington using only two basic tools and muscle power. During the six months taken to complete this task, Tony observed a vow of silence. A cairn in Tony's memory (tragically killed in a canoeing accident in 1993) has been erected close to the steps.
Logie Head is a headland at the eastern end of Cullen Bay. At it's tallest point Logie Head reaches 195ft. Popular with rock climbers there is a series of walls facing east along one side of a ridge running north out to sea, with a few climbs also scattered along the west side. The routes at the landward end of the ridge are above a grassy landing (unique for a NE Outcrops seacliff) while the far end is tidal. You can reach Logie Head only by foot along the coast path. See our Local Walks for how to walk to it.
Situated on the east side of Cullen Square, adjacent to the War Memorial, the Millennium Garden was created to commemorate the year 2000.
Nelson's Seat Viewpoint
Nelson's Seat and Viewpoint is on the coastpath near to Cullen Bay Holiday Park. There is an orientation map to show you what you can see from the viewpoint including Logie Hear and Mount Morven which is 55 miles away across the Moray Firth. You can find it by following our Local Walks.
Located to the east of Cullen, Sunnyside Beach can be accessed from Findlater Castle car park - a short walk from there to the beach. It can also be reached by walking the coastal path east from Cullen Harbour (see Local Walks).
The picturesque Seatown with its colourful painted houses and twisting lanes dates in part from the 17th Century. The village specialised in the export of smoked haddock and, at one time, had three large curing houses.
The Pet Cemetery
On the coastal path east from Cullen Harbour, you will find the Pet Cemetery nestling in the shelter of the brae - a scenic resting place for cherished pets, cared for by a local man.
The Temple of Fame
Constructed in 1822, the Temple of Fame is visible from the viaduct, but is not reachable on foot. In the lower part of the building is a wood-panelled room used by the Seafield family as a changing room when they bathed on Cullen beach. When the present road was constructed, a tunnel was created below the road to create private access.
Three Kings Rocks
Near Golf Clubhouse And let's not forget that the Moray Firth between Cullen and Findhorn is home to one of only two resident populations of bottle-nosed dolphins in Britain. The estimated number is about 129. On a sunny summer day, walkers on the cliff tops can be almost sure to see a group of dolphins leaping and playing, sometimes quite near to the shore. They are a protected species and sensitive to disturbance, so enjoy these beautiful creatures, but respect them.