Scotland on Sunday Travel Wishlist - The Royal Oak, Cullen

Done the NC500? The Moray Coast is waiting to be explored

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 12:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 12:18 pm
The Royal Oak in Cullen, the Aberdeenshire village famous for fish soup (Cullen skink) and ice-cream, is a family-run hotel seeking to make its mark as a foodie destination. Fishing cottages nestled around the hotel and the wide sandy bay make this one of the most picturesque of the villages in the area.



Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Royal Oak, Cullen, Buckie

Subtle tartan drapes in one of the eight bedrooms, some of which are sea-facing while others look onto the Victorian viaduct that used to run the railway line along the coast.

Of the North-east fishing villages, Cullen’s Seatown with its jumble of cottages turning gable end towards the sea to shelter from the spray is perhaps the most picturesque. No wonder Peaky Blinders was heading for the Moray Coast and nearby Portsoy to film the next series, now on hold. Many of the former homes of the fisher folk have been converted and are now available for rent but if you like to settle back and let someone else look after you in comfort, head for The Royal Oak hotel, cosied up under the spectacular viaduct that dominates the village and once ran the railway along the coast.

Originally a temperance establishment in the 1800s, now there are drinks galore and food too, for those who find safe haven in its busy bar, restaurant and beer garden.

Taken over by hotelier Caroline Ronald three years ago, the family-run eight-bedroom hotel is seeking to make its mark as a foodie destination by championing local produce such as seafood so fresh it’s almost still swimming and local farm meat that’s trot to hot.

The 1940s oak-panelled bar with original clock and brick open fireplace has a Brief Encounters feel, while the guest dining room has undergone a sophisticated upgrade. Another dining room serves walk-ins with the same menu which also includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and afternoon tea and a further dining room serves guest breakfasts and is for hire.

Covid precautions include hand sanitisers, cleaning, masks for staff and limited soft furnishings.

Budget or boutique?

Affordable, with singles from £70pp b&b, doubles from £90 and family rooms £135.

Room Service

The hotel’s bedrooms are being redecorated in turn with touches of seaside and tweed, not twee. Ask for one of the sea-facing rooms for the breathtaking views over the wide bay with its golden sands and big skies, or enjoy views of the Victorian viaduct in one direction and Seatown’s hopscotch of grey and red roofs and alleyways in the other. All rooms have ensuite showers, trays for hot drinks and Dean’s Huntly shortbread, complimentary Scottish Fine Soap Company toiletries, hair dryers. flat screen HD TVs with Freeview and free wifi.

Wining and Dining

Caroline and her two chefs are in the kitchen curating the journey from field to fork of beef, lamb and pork from Glenmor and Saulmore Farms, with back-up from Forbes Raeburn of Huntly while the seafood platter is another speciality (a seafood festival is planned). Venison and game birds also feature when in supply.

Cullen Skink is a must round here and The Royal Oak’s steaming bowls of smoked haddock (from Eat Mair Fish in Buckie) and soft cubes of potato floating in creamy milk was runner up in this year’s Cullen Skink World Championships. So satisfying as a starter, I couldn’t manage a main but squeezed in another starter; twice baked applewood cheese souffle with pear chutney that was a puff of perfection. Other popular mains included a rich steak pie with a massive quiff of pastry floating on top.

Wine with eco credentials from Sea Change leaves a pleasant taste with a percentage of the cost going to marine conservation.

Breakfasts are also a highlight, with praise being heaped by oat aficionados on the porridge that preceded cooked options including Speyside Black Pudding and smoked Buckie haddock.

Worth getting out of bed for

Walking,running and cycling, with golf on Cullen’s own course and watersports from Cullen Sea School. If antiques are your weakness, you’ll find everything from library step chairs to coal skuttles and painters love the light.

Sample Cullen’s ice cream then head to Portsoy for theirs. Ditto fish and chips.

Distilleries, dolphins and Deveronvale’s football ground are all worth a look, as are The Northern Lights if you’re lucky.

Little Extras

There is bike and golf club storage, and you can bring your dog by arrangement.

Guestbook comments

For sun, sand and staycations, start in Cullen.

Janet Christie

Rooms start from £70 per night for a single, doubles from £90, with twins and family rooms available.

The Royal Oak, 34 Castle Terrace, Cullen, Buckie AB56 4SD (01542 842762,



A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.