It’s the home of Arbroath smokies… but it’s also worth a visit all on its own. Here’s my complete guide to the coastal town of Arbroath!
Your guide to the best things to do in Arbroath, plus everything you need to know on Arbroath smokies!
I’ve lived on the east coast of Scotland my whole life but it took me until this year to properly visit Arbroath. The first time I went was to randomly pick up a peacock chair that I’d found on Facebook Marketplace, but I didn’t actually spend any time there. In 2021, however, in this new age of making the most out of every single moment, I really wanted to visit it properly and see what Arbroath is all about. And that’s how I got to this post.
Heads up, there are a few rough corners in this town. I wouldn’t want to pretend otherwise. However, it’s also rich with history and packs a suckerpunch when it comes to natural beauty. It also has a unique aesthetic which is characterised by the red sandstone that you’ll find scattered across various landmarks in the town; in the historical Arbroath Abbey, the breath-taking cliffs, and dotted throughout the traditional sandstone buildings.
Discover a beautiful harbour, dramatic natural scenery, and a famous (and fishy) local delicacy…
What is Arbroath famous for?
I’ve already dropped a spoiler in the title – yes, Arbroath is famous for Arbroath smokies!
What is an Arbroath smokie?
Good question. It’s not all the obvious, is it? An Arbroath smokie is actually a kind of fish. A really stinky fish! They first originated in the village of Auchmithie, which is just outside of Arbroath. The fish is hot-smoked over hardwood and it’s this process which gives it its distinctive smoky flavour. Oh, I should also mention that all Arbroath smokies have to be smoked in this traditional way – and within five miles in Arbroath – in order to be sold under that name.
What fish are Arbroath smokies?
Arbroath smokies are made from haddock.
How do you make Arbroath smokies?
There’s a little bit of local legend about Arbroath smokies. One night a store in Arbroath caught fire, which resulted in barrels of preserved haddock being destroyed. But the next morning the locals found the haddock in the barrels had cooked… and it actually tasted really good. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a pretty good story!
What is the difference between an Arbroath smokie and a kipper?
It’s the battle of the stinky fish! However, an Arbroath smokie is a hot smoked haddock, whereas a kipper is a cold-smoked herring. So there you go!
How do you eat Arbroath smokies?
Lots of different ways! You can have smokies in pates or in soups and chowders – if haven’t tried the creamy deliciousness that is cullen skink then you haven’t lived! You can also simply eat an Arbroath smokie as part of a fish supper along with some chips. Yummy!
Where can I buy smokies in Arbroath?
You can also buy vacuum-packed Arbroath smokies from numerous areas in the town. Family business Arbroath Fisheries, located in the Seagate, have been making smokies since 1977. There’s also M&M Spink, which operates from the ‘fit o’ the town’ overlooking the harbour, and has been in business since 1965. Just keep an eye out for the signs!
Now let’s take a deeper dive into the town where the smokies are produced…
Things to do in Arbroath: your complete guide
Where is Arbroath?
Arbroath is located on the north east coast of Scotland. It’s north of Dundee, south of Aberdeen, and just along from Carnoustie, which is a historic golfing destination.
Is Arbroath in the Highlands?
No – it’s located in Angus on the east coast of Scotland.
Is Arbroath worth a visit?
I would say it is! There are historical buildings, a picturesque harbour, stunning views to soak up, and a famous local delicacy that’s definitely worth trying!
What shops are in Arbroath?
There’s a surprisingly busy town centre in Arbroath, but for me the most interesting shops in Arbroath are the local ones – which are also mostly fish-related! Arbroath Fisheries is one, but I also liked the look of homeware shop Rosie’s Boutique and the Bosun’s Cabin.
What restaurants are in Arbroath?
It’s not surprising that most Arbroath restaurants have seafood front and centre. There are numerous places that you can buy smokies in Arbroath. If you want them ready to eat them some of the fish and chip shops serve them as part of a fish supper – as well the Old Brewhouse near the harbour. It gets great reviews so I would recommend it!
Things to do in Arbroath
I was totally charmed by the harbour at Arbroath – I had no idea it was so pretty. I was struck by the stacks of lobster traps piled up on the side of the harbour with the coils of faded blue rope piled atop them, which serve as a reminder that this is a working harbour. It’s beautiful through, and I was pretty envious of the contemporary flats that overlook the shore. If colourful boats and sparkling salt water are your thing then definitely stop by or, better yet, grab some ice cream or fish and chips and grab a seat on one of the benches.
Also make sure you also stop by the Bosun’s Cabin – it’s a cute little shop on the left-hand side of the harbour that sells souvenirs and some really lovely homeware products. Definitely up there as things to do in Arbroath.
If you enjoy seeing beautiful old buildings up close then definitely pay a visit to Arbroath Abbey. It was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion and is also his final resting space. It’s also a location where Scotland’s independent spirit has been long associated. What do I mean by that? Well, Abroath Abbey is the location from which a letter to the Pope was sent in 1320 in which the Scottish Nobles swore their independence from England. Get that!
Unfortunately, the abbey wasn’t open when I was there which was slightly disappointing – this wasn’t related to Covid and is actually to do with them currently undertaking site inspections. However, even seeing the studded doorways and stunning sandstone arches up close made it worthwhile. Isn’t it a beaut?
Arbroath to Auchmithie coastal path
Looking for a coastal walk with some top dollar scenery? This one has a whole lot of dramatic flair – cliffs, gorgeous countryside, even some amazing sights along the way. How does the Needle’s Eye, the Deil’s Head or the Devi’s Letterbox sound? There are also a number of caves which once meant that the area was popular with smugglers!
It’s a little bit of a walk to get to some of the sights but there’s a super handy map at the start which tells you how far away each of the different sights are on the walk. You can decide to go on anything from a quick 30-minute stroll to one that lasts over an hour and a half. The village of Auchmithie is around three miles north east of Arbroath.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it all the way along to Auchmithie as the battery on my phone battert decided to die half way along. But it’s definitely earmarked for the next time I’m there.
The first word that came out of my mouth when I saw the cliffs at Arbroath was ‘wow’. It was a total involuntary reaction that came out of my mouth before my brain caught up, but I think it illustrates just how stunning the cliffs at Arbroath really are.
Anyway, I’ve mentioned the abundance of red sandstone that you see in the town, and it’s at the Arbroath cliff faces that you can see it in its raw form. Rich, red sandstone sloping down to the turquoise water below really is an incredible sight. It’s up there as one of the must-see things to do in Arbroath.
Lunan Bay beach
Like the beach? Like l-o-o-o-ng, stretching beaches that seem to go on for miles and miles? Well, Lunan Bay near Arbroath might be just the ticket. I can’t promise it’ll always be deserted but it’s certainly big enough to feel like you’ve got plenty of your own space.
It also comes with its own slice of history. The ruins of what is known as the Red Castle look out onto the bay – which is another place where you’ll spot the tell-tale red sandstone. The castle was originally built for King William the Lion to defend against Viking invaders!
If more traditional beach activities are more your bag then this is the perfect spot for watersports, picnics, walking the dog, or just relaxing on the sand and unwinding.
All of that walking will quickly make you hungry! If you just want a snack rather than some fish and chips with a sea view then I would recommend the Harbourview takeaway, which I actually talked about in my street food in Dundee and nearby blog post.
Located on the right-side of the harbour, this takeaway is actually a former public toilet block. It’s now a bustling takeaway that serves up hot food along with coffees, ice cream, and an array of decadent and delicious-sounding milkshakes. Biscoff flavour, anyone?
Other things to do in Arbroath
I didn’t get to do everything on my trip to Arbroath, so here are a few more ideas…
Signal tower museum
Dive into Arbroath’s martime history at this museum, located close to the harbour. It tells the story of the Bell Rock lighthouse and how it was constructed over 200 years ago.
Kerr’s miniature railway
Say hello to Scotland’s oldest miniature railway! It’s a family-run business and has been operating all the way back since 1935. You find it located in West Links Park in Arbroath.
David’s hill alpacas
This is located outside of Arbroath on the St Vigean’s nature trail, but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s well worth a detour! Jayne and Tommy opened up this place after visiting a few alpaca farms. You can do trekking, crafting using alpaca fleece, or simply go and pet them!
What do you get if you bring a funfair indoors…? You get Pleasureland Arbroath! There are waltzers, dodgems, an amusement arcade, and plenty of kid-friendly rides. I’m not sure it matches up to the big theme parks, but it would be perfect thing to do on a rainy day.
I know Hospitalfield House as a place that is known for its exhibitions and artists residences, however, there’s also a rather charming walled garden and café to grab a bite to eat!
How do you get to Arbroath?
The good thing about Arbroath is that it’s located on the main trainline on the east coast, and so it’s really easy to get to if you’re travelling from the north or the south.
How far is Arbroath from Dundee?
It’s 17 miles from Dundee which equates to a 20-minute train journey.
How far is Arbroath from Edinburgh?
It’s 80 miles from Edinburgh, which equates to a train journey of one hour 30 minutes.
How far is Arbroath from Aberdeen?
It’s 55 miles from Aberdeen, which takes around 50 minutes on the train.
If you’re in the area…
If you’re in the area you might want to stop by nearby Dundee or the port town of Broughty Ferry and see what they have to offer. Check out some of my recent posts for a few ideas of what you can do…
- 25 things to do in Dundee
- The best cafes and breakfast spots in Dundee
- The best restaurants in Dundee
- Everything you should do in Broughty Ferry