As well as being one of the largest dune landscapes in the country, Forvie is one of the best coastal heathland sites in Scotland. This important landscape is managed for conservation as a National Nature Reserve (an area managed for protection of species and habitats which are of national and international significance).
You can learn more about the landscapes and wildlife at Forvie in the informative Forvie Centre, located at the North East end of the reserve. From here you can also pick up maps for walk routes around the reserve.
Forvie contains a wide range of habitats including cliffs, the stunning Tremuda Bay and the Ythan Estuary which recently stared in BBCs Autumnwatch.
The cliffs at the north end of the reserve are great places to look for Whales and Dolphins, in 2011 this was the best place to watch Humpacked Whales which were regularly seen here.
The Ythan Estuary is a great place for everyone.
The South Bank is a short walk from Newburgh and has a great beach combined with huge amounts of wildlife. Over 400 seals can be seen hauled out over on the North Bank, some area even inquisitive and will often come over, especially if you sing to them. Map
This is also the one of the best places to find genuine solitude (see below) with a bit of extra effort taking you out to the edge of the sea where the view stretches all the way to Aberdeen
At the western edge of Newburgh is Inches Road, following this takes you to a headland where in summer Terns and Ospreys can be seen diving for fish, in the winter waders feed on the mud whilst skenes of geese fly overhead.
Further west the main road crosses the estuary with the Waterside car park giving access to the path network
Bus Walk - Forvie
The bus number 63 was there at 8.20am on stance 11 at the Union Square bus station in Aberdeen, just as www.travelinescotland.com had told me the day before. I boarded the bus and took a return ticket to Newburgh, the closest town to the south entrance Waterside into Forvie NNR. Another entrance can be found in the north of the reserve, near Collieston, but the south entrance has recently been refurbished, so worth a try.
When the bus arrived in Newburgh, I asked the driver what would be the closer stop to Forvie, because the Waterside entrance is just north of Newburgh, across the bridge. He told me he could stop just in front of the entrance. That’s what he did, and he told me I could also wait at the same point for the bus back to Aberdeen.
Only two cars were in Waterside car park that morning. A board at the entrance of the Reserve showed me the map of the site, a selection of walks, the different habitats, beach, dunes or moor, the places where to find picnic tables, ruins or point of views. Only one area in the south of the reserve is closed because of the terns nesting.
These little birds are rare and they choose Forvie as breeding place. Terns strangely make their nests on the ground and not in the trees. Nests are hidden in the high grass and are still vulnerable because of foxes and other predators. Terns need to avoid movements and noise to be able to breed, that’s why an area of the reserve is closed to the public to protect the terns from April to August.
I started my walk in Forvie along the path to the Duck nesting area. At the entrance to that area was a carved wood bench showing ducks. From there the path ran along the Ythan river, a bright area of calm water surrounded by sand dunes. Around there, many ducks and eider ducks were making the most of the sunshine, lying on the beach. The path led then me into the dunes. The wind was blowing around the beautiful whitesand giving all sand dunes different shapes, while making waves in the high grass.
I was going from one dune to another when, I saw the beach at my feet. I went down to the sea, which was calmly sending waves to the sandy beach. Empty shellfish and well preserved crab shells could be found there. I took the most beautiful ones I found and kept them in my bag as souvenirs, I continued walking along the beach, going slowly because it was so beautiful and I wanted to make this moment last a long time.
To the North of the beach were rugged cliffs, while to the south was the long beach going to the Ythan Estuary and further. I walked north until I found a little river curved into the sand. I stopped there to make pictures while two women walking with their dogs passed by and went back to the dunes, following the track. I followed them.
The path was going to the remains of a church. On the way there, many signs gave short, clear, information about the way people used to live in Forvie and how archaeologists found proofs of an ancient village in Forvie’s dunes.
After the remains of the church, the path was going to a bay called Hackley. It was formed of rugged cliffs, and lots of seabirds had decided to use these cliffs as their homes. Further north, I came to another bay which was a beautiful, white and totally clean beach surrounded by cliffs. It was a fantastic view and I was the only one with a few ducks and seabirds to enjoy the place!
The path continued along the cliffs, sometimes with view over a sand beach, sometimes going through grass lands, until I arrived at the north entrance of the National Nature Reserve from where I could see the first houses of Collieston. Instead of going to the village (which really is worth a visit as well) I followed the path to the west, along small dune Lochan, where could be found several picnic tables.
Just beyond the Lochan, the path ran over a small hill to go to Forvie’s visitor centre on the other side. It is a little house where facilities can be used and an exhibition can be found explaining the particularities of Forvie NNR, the habitats, the species and all curiosities that can be found on its grounds.
I then retraced my steps back to the start of the walk. When I arrived at the south entrance of the Reserve, I waited near the road and when the bus arrived, it stopped to pick me up despite that there is no concrete bus stop at this place yet. I was happy I avoided the rain and I even browned a bit, I had my shells in my bag as a souvenir and lots of beautiful pictures.
Things to see and do
- Learn about the surrounding landscape and wildlife at the visitors centre
- Follow the trails around the reserve and keep an eye out for wildlife
Scotland’s National Nature Reserves have information on landscapes, management and visiting the reserve, including how to get there.
Ythan Estuary and Forvie Sands, near Newburgh (5.75km/3.5 miles)
Forvie Sands, Collieston (8.5km/5.25 miles)
Forvie Sands to Collieston (11.75km/7.3 miles)