Portsoy is a charming coastal village dating back to the 17th century. The old harbour is unusually well preserved, and every summer hosts the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival. The remake of 'Whisky Galore' was filmed here last year.
From grand captains' houses to tiny fishermen's cottages, much of the original Portsoy has been preserved and there is plenty of interest to be explored in the maze of streets radiating out from the harbour. The Salmon Bothy has a fascinating museum and hosts a varied calendar of events.
Thanks to its position on the Moray Firth, Portsoy enjoys warmer temperatures, lower rainfall and sunnier days than much of Scotland. At certain times you may see the Northern Lights.
What guests like best!
My guests in 2016 enjoyed the "peace and quiet" of the village, the people who are "so very friendly", and the chippie! The coastal walks and "quiet beaches" nearby have also been popular, as has the lack of midgies (we aren't too bothered by them on the east coast!). One guest remarked that staying in Portsoy was "like stepping back in time" to when children played outside and people stopped to talk to you in the street, and the "friendly community feel" also made an impression with another guest.
See the Visitors' Comments page for more guests' impressions.
For a small village, Portsoy has a great range of shops and places to eat. The Portsoy Marble shop at the harbour sells local crafts, pottery, fossils and much more in addition to marble, and on the main street there are antique shops, the Portsoy Ice Cream Shop (selling their award-winning homemade ice cream and other local produce, and incorporating the Post Office and a café), two bakeries, a hotel, a chemist, a chip shop, a Co-op (fantastic shop selling everything you will need foodwise) a cash point, and at the entrance to the village there is a garage.
At the harbour, you can buy delicious traditionally smoked salmon, kippers, mackerel and haddock at the fish shop of Sutherland's of Portsoy. A large range of fresh fish and shellfish is also available at Downie's fish shop in the neighbouring village of Whitehills.
The Shore Inn, just a few yards from Harbour Loft, is a traditional pub with an open fire and incorporates a restaurant offering lunches and dinners. Across the harbour is Beggars Belief Coffee Cove, a quirky café with free Wifi. Elsewhere in Portsoy there are the Station Hotel, the Boyne Hotel, Durn House, the Portsoy Coffee Shop & Bistro and the café in the Portsoy Ice Cream Shop, so eating out within walking distance is covered, whether you are looking for fine dining, a bar lunch, afternoon tea or a snack.
Walks and cycling
Portsoy is an excellent base if you prefer to leave the car at home, as it is well served by buses and, with coastal paths in either direction and quiet roads, offers great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Go east along the coastal path to explore the wild shore. Or follow the old single-track coast road to discover the hidden ruin of Boyne Castle. Rejoin the coastal path to watch seals on a remote beach, and eventually you will reach the neighbouring village of Whitehills where you can find refreshments in the friendly hotel, café or chip shop.
Go west along the cliff to the sandy beach at the tiny old fishing village of Sandend, and then beyond to the vertiginous ruin of Findlater Castle perched on the cliff and the lovely quiet beach at Sunnyside, and continue along the path eventually to Cullen, one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland with its dramatic viaducts, Georgian 'new' town and fishertown below, and long sandy beach.
The old railway line offers a lovely gentle walk inland through fields and trees and wild areas.
The quiet roads around Portsoy and inland, many of them single track, are ideal for cycling.
Flora and fauna
In summer you will find a wide range of native plants blooming along the coastal path, such as wild orchids, heathers, thyme, tormentil, thrift and harebells.
In rockpools (for instance at Sunnyside beach) there are sea anemones, 'buckies' (winkles), butterfish, hermit crabs and starfish.
Just outside Portsoy, the coastal path takes you past several seabird colonies which are home to kittiwakes, cormorants, shags and gulls. You can enjoy good views of these birds from the path, so those without a head for heights needn't worry! (Watching the young birds running about on the clifftops and ledges is enough to give anyone vertigo, though...) Birds of prey can also be seen hunting along the shore, using the thermals to soar above the cliffs. Other birds to look out for include eider ducks, terns, oystercatchers, stonechats and curlews.
The Moray Firth is also home to an interesting variety of molluscs, butterflies, moths and other insect life. I once saw a hummingbird hawkmoth in Whitehills - very exciting!
If the sea is calm, you are quite likely to spot dolphins from the shore - a pair of binoculars is a must on your walks. If you are lucky, they sometimes come close in to the shore. You will also see seals in several places along this section of coast, particularly to the east of Portsoy.