Where in Scotland can you see seals?
Newburgh, a tiny little town on the east coast of Scotland, just 15 minutes north of Aberdeen, is holding on to a BIG secret. One so big that it almost threw my favouritism for Scotland’s west coast. An enormous colony of 400+ seals, just chilling along the sands of Newburgh Beach.
Whilst St Abb’s Head on the east coast, alongside the isles of Mull and Iona on the west, are well-know for their blubbery visitors, I’ve never seen them show up in the numbers that we witness at Newburgh.
Seals in Aberdeenshire: Newburgh Seal Beach
Although a quick Google search throws up a couple of great info pieces about the seals at Newburgh, it’s not something we’d seen widely documented. In fact, we weren’t even aware that the colony was there until we arrived at our accommodation in Newburgh. Our little vacation huts had left a guide to the area and the seals were the top attraction.
On learning about them, we did a quick Google Maps search of the area (to see if any of them had made it to camera). I don’t think we were ready for what we found; the group is so enormous that they swamp the satellite photos!
How to find the seals at Newburgh
Newburgh Beach has a relatively easy-to-find car park that sits above the dunes, just down from the town’s coastal golf course.
From the car park, the sandy path down to the beach is clearly marked, starting with an info board that gives visitors a little bit of background about the seals. I was excited.
Where the path meets the beach, you’ll see small shipwreck off to the right. We arrived at low tide and were able to get a good (but somewhat sludgy) look at the boat’s carcass.
You can’t cross to where the seals have made base, the River Ythan divides the banks. Your best bet is to follow the sandy estuary around the bay. At this point, we’d slightly lost our optimism for a seal sighting. The shore was busy with bird life picking through the sands for breakfast and seeing seals felt unlikely; we’d walked so far around without already spotting at least one lonely straggler.
But, we were wrong! As we rounded the very tip of the beach, a little head bobbed up from the waters. And then another. And another. And then we saw them, hundreds of seals making their way in and out of the waters as they clumisly flopped amongst the colony.
Best places to see seals in Scotland
My Google Pixel 3 captured a number of grainy shots and videos of the large seals as they headed over to investigate their new coastal visitors. Although curious, they’re careful not to get too close, and I recommend you don’t head too close to the waters (I had a slightly alarming encounter with a hidden strip of quicksand).
That being said, the colony is so enormous that it’s (in my opinion) the best place to see seals in Scotland. The sheer size of the group was like nothing I’d ever seen before and their (somewhat comical) mannerisms had us glued to the beach for ages. I’d recommend you take warm clothing; despite our early summer visit, the 8am chill eventually forced us back along to the warmth of the car.
Getting photographs of Scotland’s seals
There’s a lot of irresponsible drone flyers out there. I’d like to think I’m not one of them. We had a lengthy conversation about disturbing the seals, before agreeing that we’d take the drone up to its max 120m height to try and capture a few images of the colony from above.
The photos on this blog were taken with the zoom feature. We’d agreed that if there was even a flinch from just one of the 400 seals, we’d bring it back. However, the height (and winds) meant that they weren’t remotely disturbed by its humming, and I’m delighted with these wildlife-friendly shots. I encourage other visitors to respect that this is home to these big animals.
Are Scottish seals friendly?
However friendly the Scottish wildlife may seem, we’re regularly reminded that these are wild animals, not pets! Many adult seals come on land to raise their pups, rest, or avoid predators. Alarming them can prompt a stampede back to the waters, which can lead to injury and can be fatal for young pups. Visitors to seal-populated areas should observe a respectful distance and take note of The Scottish Marine Wildlife watching Code.
Accommodation near Seal Beach
We stayed at Newburgh Tahuna Bothies, with beautiful views across the east coast and an easy 15-min walk down to Scotland’s Seal Beach. You can find more information about Tahuna Bothies, alongside photos of their interiors in my blog post, Tahuna Bothies: modern log cabin accommodation in Aberdeenshire.
Animal experiences in Scotland
If you’re looking to get up close with some of Scotland’s animals, please consider a trip to Ananda Animal Sanctuary. My blog post about their rescue center covers everything you need to know about their happy (animal-friendly) visitor days: How to visit Ananda Animal Sanctuary in Scotland.