Cullen is, quite literally, a town of two halves. It is split in two by its iconic railway viaduct – a 19th century structure which adorns thousands of postcards – with the old Seatown at the bottom, and the more modern section of the town at the top.
Take a wander around Seatown and the brightly coloured cottages - a delightful, irregular clutter of homes built gable end to the sea and with colourful painted pointing between the bricks. Finding a specific address can be something of a challenge as the numbering does not follow any methodical system – houses were simply numbered as and when they popped up.
Close to Seatown is the shimmering golden sands of Cullen beach where the bathing water here is recognised as being of the highest standard in Europe. The beach also offers up a fantastic photo opportunity at the quirky Three Kings rock stack – said to mark the graves of three Norse kings who died following a bloody battle at nearby Bauds.
The three viaducts which frame the town are Grade-B listed and were constructed after the Countess of Seafield refused to let the railway cross her land when it was built in the late 1800s. The last train rolled along the tracks in 1964 when the line fell victim to the Beeching cuts, but the advantage is that it is now a fantastic walking and cycling route offering a panorama of Cullen Bay.
The upper section of Cullen resembles more of a planned town, with wide streets and town square. There is an array of shops and cafes here where the world famous local soup, Cullen Skink, can be tasted. The delicacy, made from smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk, now appears on menus all over the globe, but the original and the best is still found in its spiritual home – no one should leave without trying it! Many local recipes handed down through generations are put to the test in the annual Cullen Skink World Championships, which take place during the summer.
Cullen Auld Kirk is also in the upper part of Cullen, and is a must-see for history buffs. The organs of Robert The Bruce’s wife, who died while travelling in the area, are interred here and an annual stipend continues to be paid to the minister of the kirk to pray for her soul. Another, more unusual, graveyard lies close to the Thomas Telford-designed harbour – a pet cemetery which is the last resting place of many much-loved pets.
Cullen Golf Club claims to have one of the most remarkable sites for a course in Europe. The outward nine are situated along the cliffs, with the back nine playing at beach level. It has been described in ‘Golf Monthly’ as “a course like no other… the epitome of quirky”. It is possible to buy a Banffshire Coast Golf Pass which entitles golfers to play the courses at Cullen, Royal Tarlair and Turriff at a discounted rate.
For lots more information on Cullen, including the Cullen Skink World Championships, visit the local community website at www.discovercullen.com.