Macduff Aquarium is a very popular tourist attraction in the town of Macduff, Aberdeenshire. Located on the Moray Firth Coast, the aquarium offers an insight into the North Sea's diverse marine life and teaches about these species' important role in the ecosystem.
We often take the short trip over from Buckie with our three kids, who are enthralled by what the aquarium has to offer. This trip to the aquarium was on a mild day in mid-February, unusually warm for this time of year; we brought a picnic and ate it at the tables located directly outside of the facility.
Getting to the aquarium is a treat in itself, passing the busy Macduff Harbour and the interesting shops that line it. On the left, we spotted a boat name "Andromeda" actively being worked on.
Pulling into the car park, the aquarium is an interesting-looking, sixteen-sided circular building with a mock reef rising up from the central space.
Upon our visit, we noticed one of the fifty "Light The North" lighthouse art installations directly outside the main entrance.
Car park at Macduff Aquarium
The car park at the aquarium is quite spacious, offering around thirty car spaces, four disabled spaces and two bus bays for visitors. Two electric car charge points are available on the west side of the car park, just on the left as you enter. There is no fee to park at the aquarium.
Admission prices and opening times
Child aged 3-4: £3.25
(under 3s are free, max 2 per adult)
Child aged 5-15: £4.90
Family Ticket: £23.50 (2 adults, 2 children)
We purchased a family ticket and a single children's ticket at the cost of £28.40. Fairly expensive, but the aquarium is more than worth the money.
The receptionist supplied us with a double-sided A4 sheet with information on the aquarium, including a floor plan with a description of all the different zones. On the flip side is a "fish finders" chart where you can identify different species and cross them off as you go; great for the kids!
Winter (1st of November to 31st March 2023).
Saturday - Wednesday: 11 am - 4 pm.
Closed: Thursday and Friday.
Summer (1st of April to 31st October 2023).
Monday - Friday: 10 am - 5 pm.
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm.
Moray Firth Habitats
After purchasing our tickets from the enthusiastic staff, we made our way around the aquarium in an anti-clockwise direction. Toilets are immediately available before you enter the first exhibit.
The first exhibit, "The Estuary", is a great start to your visit. Immediately on your left, you can see a porthole that gives your first look into the large central tank with some of the largest fish in the aquarium.
Also in this first section is the first of the interactive wall displays and a fish tank containing smaller fishes.
The secondary area here is dedicated to seals, dolphins and birds. There are so many interesting informational wall panels and displays with shells and skulls. A full-size dolphin skull is on display, found nearby in Cullen.
The Shallow Waters exhibit is a rock pool-style zone. Here you can see starfish, anemones and hermit crabs
This is one of my favourite sections of the aquarium. It's just a single display with a circular window, but inside are moon jellyfish. They are very graceful and ideal subjects for photography.
Kelp Reed Aquarium
The star of the show is the kelp reef aquarium in the centre of the building. This tank is 10 metres in diameter and 5 metres deep and contains over 400,000 litres of seawater. Due to the tank being open to the sky, this kelp aquarium is the only successful example in Britain.
As you walk around the aquarium, port holes give a glimpse into the central tank, but you don't experience its true grandeur until you reach the main auditorium/theatre. A curved glass window gives a view of the central tank from the floor to the full height of the building.
The largest fish in the aquarium are visible here; they are very impressive, and looking up through the kelp to the surface is quite an experience.
There are projectors showing displays on the walls on either side of the main viewing window, showing interesting facts about the inhabitants of the tank. Staff talks occur at regular intervals in the theatre, and tiered seating ensures no-ones view is spoiled on busier days.
If you are very lucky, you can see a diver carrying out tasks in the main tank; give them a wave!
Sea Lab and Touch Pools
This area is highly educational. When we visited, there was a live microscope set up to a TV screen, showing live plankton; my daughter Olivia was fascinated.
Across the room is a touch pool area with seashore critters you can reach in and touch; hand-washing facilities are nearby. The final area of this room is the octopus tank; unfortunately, we weren't able to see it on our visit.
Deep Reef and Seafloor
The final exhibit is the deep reef and seafloor. This is a very large tank with a variety of viewing angles, including a raised stair to look down into the tank, glass sides and mirrors on the ceiling.
Rays and flatfish are the main attractions here, but the dogfish kept popping its head out of the water; it reminded me of a sausage dog in some ways.
In addition to this seafloor pool, there is also a bubble viewing area for the main tank, which is even more immersive than the theatre room
Hidden away to one side is also the seahorses exhibit; they are absolutely beautiful.
Daily Talks and Feeding Shows
It's worth asking at reception when the talks and feeding sessions will begin, as this is the best time to learn about the aquarium's inhabitants. Divers feeding the fish is one of the most impressive sights at the aquarium.
After the final exhibit, you are taken to the gift shop and reception. There are many lovely items here, and after vowing not to buy anything, we ended up purchasing a soft toy and a couple of pretty necklaces. I bought a smart-looking nugget of fool's gold.
Outside the Aquarium
Just a short distance from the aquarium, you can see the shore. There is no pretty beach here, but there are impressive rock formations behind the facility looking over to east Macduff. The aquarium has provided boards here to tell you about local species you might see from the shore.
UK Government Levelling Up Fund
Macduff Aquarium is currently in the process of bidding for additional funding for modernisation and an extension to the existing building.
How to get to Macduff Aquarium
Here are directions to get to Macduff Aquarium from the Banff side and Aberdeen City direction.
Follow the A98 from the west.
Cross the bridge spanning the River Deveron and then turn left.
Continue along the A98, passing the harbour area.
Turn left down Laing St. You should see A Tang Chinese on the corner.
Cross the road to Bankhead and follow the road as it curves to the right.
You will see Macduff Marine Aquarium directly ahead on your left.
Take a left turn into the car park.
Travel north out of Aberdeen on the A92, then A90 to Ellon.
From Ellon, take the A948 to New Deer, then B9170.
Exit B9170 and head to New Byth, eventually connecting with the A98.
Follow the A98 into Macduff.
Take a right turn down Market Street.
At the bottom of this street, you should see the car park directly ahead.
Follow the road left and then turn right into the car park.
Macduff Marine Aquarium FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about the aquarium.
Do you have to book the Macduff aquarium?
No, you can just turn up without booking, but at very busy times, there could be a maximum capacity allowed in the building. We have always gained access each time we have visited without issue.
Does Macduff aquarium have sharks?
We didn't see any sharks on our February visit to the aquarium. I'm not sure if this changes throughout the year, but there have been baby sharks in the shark hatchery/shark nursery in the past.
Are there toilets at Macduff Aquarium?
Yes, there are toilets at reception, including a large disabled bathroom.
Is Macduff Aquarium disabled-friendly?
Yes, the entire facility is on one level; there are no steps or obstacles for wheelchairs. There is a large disabled bathroom too. Many of the fish pools have glass sides, so it's still possible to see the fish from a lower viewpoint.
Is there an aquarium in Aberdeen?
No, Macduff Marine Aquarium is the only one available in Aberdeenshire. Just keep in mind that Macduff is a substantial distance from Aberdeen City (at least a one-hour drive).
What species can be seen at Macduff Aquarium?
There are too many species to list them all, but our particular favourites were:
What is Scotland's biggest aquarium?
Deep Sea World in North Queensferry is the largest aquarium in Scotland.
Are there any other places to visit before or after Macduff Aquarium?
Here are some of my favourite places near Macduff:
Banff Links Caravan Park Playpark.
Discover the standing stones of Aberdeenshire.
Macduff Aquarium Videos
Here are a few videos from our last visit to Macduff Aquarium, please excuse the poor quality it is quite dark within the facility.
Key information on Macduff Aquarium
Macduff Aquarium opened to its first visitors on the 18th of April, 1997.
The official opening was on the 29th of May 1997 by the Princess Royal.
The car park is free and has disabled spaces and electric car charge points.
The Macduff Marine Aquarium sits on the Moray Firth, Scotland's largest bay.
The aquarium only contains local sea creatures found in the North Sea.
Conclusion - Macduff Marine Aquarium
Macduff Aquarium is a unique and fascinating destination for visitors of all ages, offering a chance to get up close and personal with the diverse and captivating wildlife inhabiting the Moray Firth waters. Whether you are a seasoned marine enthusiast or simply curious about the creatures of the North Sea, this aquarium is brilliant, providing educational and entertaining experiences. A must-visit in west Aberdeenshire or east Moray.
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