St Cyrus NNR - Visiting the reserve
With spectacular flowering grasslands, sand dunes, beaches, butterflies, bugs and birdlife, St Cyrus NNR has something for everyone.
Our reserve leaflet is a good introduction to the reserve.
The visitor centre at St Cyrus is usually open 7 days a week.
- 1 April – 31 October from 10am - 5pm
- 1 November – 31 March 10am - 4pm
There are public toilets next to the visitor centre; two have baby changing tables.
They are usually open daily from April to October, and Monday to Friday from November to March.
Changing Places Toilet / Accessible Toilet
There is a changing places toilet with accessible toilet and hoist. A RADAR key is required for access (Disability Rights UK for information and to purchase RADAR keys).
Staff have a key but are not always available; if you are visiting with a group and require access to the changing places toilet please contact us in advance ([email protected]).
There is a chemical disposal point on the opposite side of the road from the parking. There is no vehicular access so a trolley is advisable.
There is no grey water disposal on site.
By public transport
The nearest bus stop is in St Cyrus village (2.5 kilometres) on the Aberdeen to Montrose route.
The nearest station is at Montrose (8 kilometres) on the Aberdeen to Edinburgh line.
Leave NCN Route 1 (Edinburgh to Aberdeen), on the Montrose to Stonehaven section. Take the minor road east off the A92 just north of Northwater Bridge (approximately 3 kilometres south of St Cyrus village). This is signposted St Cyrus NNR. Follow the single track road for 2.5 kilometres to the car park and visitor centre.
From Montrose, head 8 kilometres north on the A92. St Cyrus NNR is signposted on the right, immediately after the Northwater Bridge over the River Esk. Follow the single track road for 2.5 kilometres to the car park and visitor centre.
DD10 0AQ is the nearest postcode.
The parking includes:
- 4 accessible parking bays for blue badge holders in the car park.
- 5 bays for longer vehicles including campervans or horseboxes. There is no booking or guarantee these will be available if the car park is busy.
- The longer bays are on a slope.
- Trailers should reverse in and unload onto the grass.
Spring and summer are best for plants, butterflies, lizards, invertebrates and breeding birds and winter for wading birds, wildfowl and dramatic views.
The reserve comes to life in spring with the arrival of the many species of migrating breeding birds. These nest side by side with our resident breeding birds and include stonechats, grasshopper warbler, reed buntings and yellowhammer. You can also see fulmars, peregrine falcons, buzzard and raven nesting on the cliffs.
Wildflowers begin to appear, and slender celandine and delicate primroses mix with snowdrops, cowslips and oxlips. Listen out for the first cuckoo and willow warbler!
The dunes are a riot of colour, with yellows, purples and pinks of lady’s bedstraw, rest-harrow and maidenpink. The bright purple clustered bell-flower carpets the dunes, and northern marsh orchids grow in their thousands among the dunes and surrounding grasslands.
Butterflies and moths abound, and the dunes are dotted with the common blue, small copper, meadow brown and ringlet butterflies. Look out for young peregrine falcons and ravens fledging their nests high on the cliffs and learning how to master the air! Visiting humpback whale, minke and bottle nose dolphin all feed in the rich waters offshore.
Autumn storms batter the coastline, with dramatic white horses on the crests of the waves. Migratory geese arrive on the southern end of the reserve in autumn – mostly pinkfooted geese. Fungi are plentiful on the dunes. Look out for the parasol mushrooms with their large caps and the beautifully coloured wax caps that burst into fruit.
Winter is a good time to see the roe deer that live at St Cyrus. You may also spot otters on the southern part of the reserve. Birdwatchers can enjoy the overwintering birds. These include waders, such as redshank, and curlew with its haunting call. You can also see visiting short-eared owl, as well as many species of visiting ducks and geese.
The winter storms wash many interesting items onto the beach, making it a beachcombers paradise. You never know what the tide may bring in – from octopus to hundreds of beautiful delicate brittle stars.
Trails for all
You can explore St Cyrus on one of four waymarked trails or combine them to make a longer walk. If you follow the trail to the beach you can walk the length of the beach to Woodston. From here you can return the way you came along the beach, follow the track through the dune grasslands below the cliffs or use the cliff paths to make a more strenuous circuit.
The southern part of the reserve is not open between April and August. This is to protect breeding birds, which are sensitive to any disturbance. But you can still visit the hide on the River Esk, using the Estuary Trail.
Dogs should be under control at all times.
Please keep dogs on a lead or close to heel until you reach the beach during the bird breeding season – 1 April to 31 August.
Find out more on
A short walk up to a viewpoint in dunes overlooking the beach. Find out about the vanishing river, ancient volcanoes, falling seas and plants on the reserve. Several seats to stop and admire the views.
The trail hosts a range of specialist plants, birds and animals adapted to survive in the salty sea air. There’s a fascinating human history too, from the ancient kirkyard to the recent salmon fishing industry. There is a leaflet to accompany this trail.
A gentle, winding path to the estuary bird hide with the chance to see buzzards, swans and waders. In summer look out for butterflies too.
Floo'ery Meads - Summer Trail
A meadow trail available between May and October. Each fish box describes some of the fantastic flowers on the reserve. Look out for the first fish box from the Beach trail!