Cullen Sea School

Written by Chris Thornton | 1st of January 2024
Cullen Sea School

My daughter Olivia was lucky enough to get a space at Cullen Sea School this summer as part of the Active Schools initiative through her primary school. Active schools are brilliant, offering free activities to children all over Moray and Scotland.

Let's look at Cullen Sea School and then Olivia's session at this brilliant watersports centre.

What is Cullen Sea School?

The Cullen Sea School is a watersports centre on Scotland's Moray Firth coast. It is owned and run by the Three Harbours Association, a registered Scottish Charity. It offers a wide range of water-based activities such as coastal rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing. The school accommodates individuals of all skill levels, from beginners to experienced participants, with the help of skilled and experienced instructors.

In addition to watersports, the Cullen Sea School is also a centre for small boat building and training courses, and it works with local communities, schools, youth groups, and partner organizations to maximize the reach and effectiveness of its services. They aim to operate year-round, with activities occurring most days, weather permitting.

The school's social mission is the advancement of education through public participation in sports and related activities. In contrast, its environmental mission focuses on increasing public awareness of the environment, including local flora, fauna, and unique coastal walks. To this end, they are developing more environmental initiatives like monthly beach cleans and coast path litter picks.

Despite their contributions to the community, the Cullen Sea School faces challenges with funding and raising awareness of their existence and aims. Nevertheless, they are determined to make a difference and strive towards becoming financially sustainable.

Olivia's session at Cullen Sea School

Olivia had been lucky enough to have a session at the sea school in 2022 as part of a school trip, so she was super excited to return this year and have another go at paddleboarding.

I had never been to the sea school, but Olivia kept me right, guiding me past Cullen's historic harbour and the actual sea school building a short distance away. We received a warm welcome at the centre and answered a few quick questions, i.e. had we been before, had any experience etc.

Exciting watersports activities
Cullen Sea School signage at the harbour.
Cullen Harbour
A wide-angle view of Cullen Harbour, where today's session was to occur.
Finding Cullen Sea School.
A glimpse of the sea school building.
Cullen Sea School building.
The building of the sea school.
Moray Coast
The vibrant Moray Coast and Bay of Cullen.

Luckily Olivia already had her own wet suit (a must in the cold Scottish waters!), so all she needed to be fitted with was a buoyancy aid; we then retraced our steps back to the harbour where the paddleboarding session would take place.

It was nice to see this group was mainly made up of girls; when I was young, girls didn't do active sports as boys did. They were straight out on the water after a quick talk with the instructors.

Olivia Thornton
My middle daughter Olivia was excited for today's session.

Skilled and experienced instructors

The sea school staff were great with the kids and had the patience of saints, with a lot of the kids drifting too close to boats in the harbour or the mouth of the harbour to the open sea. The staff skillfully ensured that all the kids were ushered back into the central area of the harbour.

In addition to keeping them safe, they would periodically go to each child and advise on the best way of handling the board, paddling techniques and how to stand up.

The session lasted about 45 minutes, Olivia was the last to come back off the water, but the instructors were very patient and didn't shout to hurry her up or anything like that.

Investigating their current skillset.
A quick primer from the instructor.
Amazing activities at Cullen Bay
Cullen Harbour is perfect for water-based activities.
Coastal rowing kayaking stand
The instructors kept a watchful eye on all the kids.
Sailing sessions
The instructors were always giving helpful tips.
Water activity
Olivia paddleboarding.

How to get to Cullen Sea School

Cullen Sea School is easy to get to and found just past Cullen Harbour.

From the west:

  1. Enter Cullen from the west on the A98.

  2. As you pass under the viaduct, turn left and pass the Royal Oak Hotel.

  3. Follow this road straight ahead and come to the harbour wall.

  4. Follow the wall, and you will eventually come to the main harbour area where the sessions will occur.

  5. Pass the harbour and arc around to the left.

  6. Go straight ahead at the junction, do not go up the hairpin bend.

  7. Follow the single-track road, and you should see a building with a white gable with a painted dolphin and a Scottish saltire flag.

  8. There is a long strip where you can park.

From the east:

  1. Enter Cullen from the east via the A98.

  2. Pass through the majority of Cullen, but when you pass below the viaduct, turn right down Seafield Street.

  3. Follow this road; it will curve down to the right.

  4. Follow step 7 above.

Where is the best place to park for Cullen Sea School?

Cullen can be a very busy place when the weather is nice, and the car park outside the sea school can often be packed with campervans. I recommend parking at the harbour wall; this long straight section does not have double yellow lines.

If that area is taken, you can park at the main beach area, but this is often the busiest place in Cullen, and it will be a longer walk to reach the sea school.

Cullen Sea School car park.
The parking area for the sea school can be busy. Consider the harbour wall as an alternative.

FAQs on Cullen Sea School

Here are a few frequently asked questions about Cullen Sea School.

Is Cullen Sea School expensive?

It is moderately expensive, but for such a great experience and excellent instructors, I think it is well worth the cost. Kayaking or paddleboarding is around £22 per person for a 45-minute session.

Will it be cold in the water?

Yes, the water can be pretty cold in Scotland. In June, the water will be about 12 to 15°C (54 to 59°F). A wet suit is recommended.

Are there toilets at Cullen Harbour?

Yes, a fantastic new facility is directly next to the harbour, maintained by locals and the sea school.

What is the minimum age for activities at Cullen Sea School?

They are quite open to most ages, but younger children will likely have to be accompanied by an adult.

What is provided at a sea school session?

For my daughter Olivia, the sea school provided a buoyancy vest and the paddle board she used. There was an option to use a wetsuit provided by the school, but luckily Olivia had her own!

The stunning backdrop of Cullen.
Cullen is such a beautiful town. Note Castle Hill on the hill with the flag.

What activities can be enjoyed at Cullen Sea School?

In addition to the stand-up paddleboards that Olivia enjoyed, you can also try the following:

  • Kayaking

  • Sailing

  • Coastal Rowing

  • Cullen Photographic Tours

  • Beach Cleans & Coast Path Litter Picks

Is Cullen Sea School accessible?

Yes, the actual sea school building is accessible for disabled visitors, and Cullen Harbour is accessible via a slope/slipway onto soft sand.

What else is there to do in the Cullen area?

Cullen has so much to offer that I can't write about it all here, but the main things are:

Cullen Sea School video clips

Here are a few short video clips from Olivia's session.

Setting out onto the water.
Olivia was able to stand on the board towards the end of the session.
Overview of Cullen Harbour.

Visitor information

Website: Cullen Sea School Website
Telephone: 01542 840830

1 Portlong Road
Cullen, Moray
AB56 4AG

What3words: ///toward.orbited.postage

Key information on Cullen Sea School

  • Cullen Sea School is a watersports centre on Scotland's Moray Firth coast, owned and run by the Three Harbours Association, a registered Scottish Charity.

  • The school offers a variety of water-based activities, including coastal rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing, and caters to individuals of all skill levels with experienced instructors.

  • In addition to watersports, the school is also a centre for small boat building and training courses.

  • Additional parking can be found at the harbour wall, but it can be busy during peak times.

  • A new bathroom facility is available directly next to the harbour, maintained by locals and the sea school.

  • The school provides the necessary equipment for the activities, including buoyancy vests, wet suits and paddle boards.

  • The sea school building and Cullen Harbour are accessible to disabled visitors.

Paddleboard instructor. Free access.
An instructor guided Olivia away from the harbour wall.


Cullen Sea School is a great facility and a massive bonus for Cullen. Olivia enjoyed her session and is eager to return; we are mulling over getting her a membership so she can visit more frequently!

If you have a child in Moray, it is worth taking advantage of the free sessions provided by Moray Active Schools. If you are a tourist, then Cullen Sea School is a fantastic way to spend the day with your family.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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