VisitScotland has designated next year as Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters, which will see a programme of events and activites. With this in mind I took the opportunity to explore the east coast, in particular Angus. Here are my 13 highlights from the trip

Arbroath Abbey, Arbroath

Next year sees the 700th anniversary of The Declaration of Arbroath, which asserted Scotland's independence from England. Founded by William the Lion in 1178, in memory of martyr Thomas Becket, the abbey remained one of the nation’s grandest monasteries for almost 400 years. Much later, the Stone of Destiny had a starring role in Arbroath Abbey’s story.

Adrian Cox, an archaeologist in the cultural and natural resources team from Historic Scotland was our guide for the day. He accompanied us through the abbey and its domestic buildings that remain, notably the gatehouse range and the abbot's house.

Gravel paths and grassed areas allow access to most of the ground level of the abbey (except the sacristy), and interpretation boards in the nave. There are displays on abbey life in the ground floor of the Abbot's House, and on the declaration of Arbroath in the Gatehouse. The visitor centre provides a walk through audio-visual with a sound loop system.

Harbour Nights B&B, Arbroath

This 4-star guest house overlooks the harbour at Arbroath. Owners Bill and Sunita will offer you a warm welcome. Our room over-looked the harbour, and lucky for us the sun shone every day. The guest house is in one of the quietest parts of Arbroath, but has everything on your doorstep within walking distance. I would recommend the famous Arbroath Smokies for breakfast, one of Bill's specialities or the French toast with cheese & chillies.

Rooms start from £65 per night and includes breakfast.

Lunan Bay, Montrose

This stunning east-facing beach is backed by sand dunes and framed by low cliffs to the north and south. Three miles south of Montrose, Lunan Bay extends two miles south to Ethie Haven. The crumbling ruin of Red Castle overlooks the bay and dates from the the 12th century. We took a stroll along the beach and explored some of the caves before the tide came in. The beach is a popular destination for surfers and horse riders, and traditional fishing is still practised here with nets strung on poles dug into the sand to trap fish in the receding tide. After a walk on the beach, we had lunch in the Lunan Bay cafe next to the beach car park.

Montrose Basin Visitor Centre

The centre is home to over 80,000 migratory birds – including pink-footed geese, arctic terns, knots and sedge warblers. If bird watching is your thing, there are telescopes and binoculars ready to use.

You can get the children involved with interactive toys and games, including microscopes and puzzles. They also host regular wildlife events, guided walks, children’s activities.

But 'n' Ben restaurant, Auchmithie

A great restaurant, known to many for its seafood dishes and traditional country cooking and baking. On the menu you will find Arbroath Smokies, as well as fresh mussels and oysters from Shetland and the west coast along with crab and lobster from local waters. They also buy seasonal fruit and vegetables from the surrounding farms. If you have space, finish off your meal with a treat from their dessert cart. The restaurant itself has a cosy feel. Bookings required.

Tel: 01241 877223

Arbroath Signal Tower Museum

Two hundred years after Robert Stevenson oversaw construction, the Bell Rock Lighthouse stands as Britain's oldest surviving rock lighthouse, still warning shipping of the jagged Bell Rock. Onshore, the museum exhibitions tell the tales of the lighthouse, and of the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families, using models, audio-visual and computer displays and historic objects. Arbroath's fishing industry and maritime trade are also explored. It is a great insight to the lighthouse and its history, plus it is free.

The Old Brewhouse, Arbroath

Opposite Arbroath Harbour, The Old Brewhouse Restaurant & Bar offers delicious Scottish cuisine. The building is steeped in history and dates back to the 1600s. It also offers hotel accommodation. The family-owned restaurant and bar has a great selection of food, beer, wine and spirits. The portion sizes are big, we had a main meal each and struggled to finish them. The menus change frequently and seasonally, and cater for gluten and dairy free as well as several vegan options.

Arbroath Smokies

Arbroath is, of course, famous for its smokies. We visited Martin Spink, from M&M Spink, a small, family-run business that originally started in 1965, to see the smoking process. Martin's father, grandparents and great grandparents made traditional Smokies in the fishing village of Auchmithie which lies just outside Arbroath. Martin now carries on the family tradition. We went along to see the smoking process, the smokies were tied in pairs and hung on rods to dry. Once dry, they are smoked over beach or oak hard wood for 30 minutes. As the haddock is hot smoked over hardwood chips the smokie is ready to eat, unlike cold smoked fish which requires further cooking. Visit the shop to take some home with you, you can buy them vacuum packed.

The Gin Bothy, Glamis

Gin sales have soared in the last few years, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), sales have broken the £2bn mark, almost doubling in the space of two years, between 2016-2018. Kim Cameron, owner of Gin Bothy, launched in 2014 has since expanded and opened a new visitor centre in the grounds of Glamis Castle. The visitor centre is free to visit and follows this journey from traditional home-made jams to creating small batch gins, spirits and ciders using traditional techniques. There is a tasting room which can be booked for events with Kim even penning her own song for visitors to enjoy. Their is also a shop.

Glamis Castle, by Forfar

Glamis Castle has been the home of the Lyon family since the 14th century, though the present building dates largely from the 17th century. It is the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and is open to the public.

We took a guided tour of the castle. It was interesting to see hand-written notes from the Queen when she was a child, and I found out that Princess Margaret was born there. You can take a walk in the formal gardens and explore nature walks in the grounds, or grab lunch in the Castle restaurant.

Ogilvy Farm, Glamis

The Jarron family has farmed the land at Hatton of Ogilvy farm since 1910. Graeme Jarron heads up Ogilvy’s operations, alongside his wife Caroline. Keeping it in the family, Graeme’s father Eric still harvests the potatoes. Fed up of wasting mis-shaped potatoes, Graeme decided to use them to make vodka and partnered with Heriot-Watt University to start producing potato vodka, launching in 2015. In March this year the couple opened a new £150,000 visitor centre at the farm: offering people the chance to learn more about Scotland’s first potato vodka. Tours start with a tractor ride through the fields, before heading into the distillery to see how the vodka is cooked, fermented, bottled and labelled. Of course, you get to try some before you go. Tours are £15 per person.

Newton of Fothringham Farm, Inverarity

Ever fancied staying on a working farm? Enjoy the peace of rural Angus in this four-star farmhouse near the village of Inverarity, six miles south of Forfar. Owner Louise Nicoll offers a farm tour for guests to meet her animals including cows, lambs, alpacas, goats and Lucy the micropig. She introduced the tours to help support the farm and they have been a huge success and also has a cottage for rent.

Forbes of Kingennie Country Resort

The resort offers a great spot for golf, fishing, dining, weddings, plus it also has luxury self-catering lodges. The Waterside restaurant where we dined looks out onto the fishing pond and resort grounds. During the day you can watch the fishermen fish for the produce they use in the restaurant. They have a children's corner with chalkboard walls to keep children entertained. The food was great and not over-priced either considering the setting.

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