Northeast Coast of Scotland.
Wowza gotta love this place. A beautiful much photographed harbour town lying on the Northeast Coast and is a joy to visit. Once a thriving fishing port, now more of a tourist destination. The sheltered working harbour, with gorgeous views across the water, originally dates back to 1607, has been destroyed several times over the years by the force of the North Sea and now busy with sailing yachts and water activities. Take a stroll along the seafront, pop into the towns oldest building, the Tolbooth Museum, a former prison with stocks. Throughout the town and along the boardwalk are various metal sculptures, intricately and beautifully sculpted. You will find a seafront art deco heated open air swimming pool, built in 1934, a park and leisure centre with picnic areas and outdoor play park and many great eateries, not forgetting The Bay with their award-winning fish and chips. Towards the end of the boardwalk make sure you pop into Aunty Bettys ice cream parlour, they boast maximum deliciousness, and I have to agree with them. They also sell doggie ice cream and treats, celebration ice cream cakes, coffee, sundries and puddings. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time I was in the shop. Very yummy.
There is an 18-hole golf course, a railway station which runs from London to Aberdeen and built in 1849. Summer witnesses yacht regattas and races, pleasure cruises and marine wildlife, what is not to love. In the market square you will find farmers markets, shops and clubs amongst further sculptures.
Various walks for all ages and abilities including the tranquil Dunnottar Woods, covering 82 acres of rich diversity of wild flowers and historical features such as Lady Kennedy’s Bath House, an ice house and the Shell House not forgetting Dunnottar Church, all found in the heart of the woods.
If this hasn’t whet your appetite, then perhaps the Stonehaven Fireballs ancient winter fire ceremony will. These New Year festivals have taken place since 1908 and herald in the New Year Hogmanay celebrations.
A mile down the road brings you to the famous ancient stronghold of Dunnottar Castle. Perched atop a 160ft rock and surrounded on all sides by the North Sea. This once impregnable fortress is steeped in earlier times and holds many rich secrets, it’s a history lover’s dream and a photographer’s paradise. I get goose bumps just taking in its beauty. In 1593 a pet lion was brought to the castle and kept in a den (poor thing), but its life was rumoured to be short lived due to its roaring which kept the countess awake at night (poor thing ‘tongue in cheek’).
Many films have been captured here including Hamlet. These evocative ruins famously withstood an eight-month siege by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, who was intent on destroying this symbol of Kingship. The Scottish Crown Jewels had previously been taken to Dunnottar for safe keeping, but when the small garrison surrendered, the Jewels were missing with credit going to the local minister’s wife who hid them in the manse for a night, at the bottom of her bed, before burying them in the nave of the church where they remained hidden until 1660 when the King returned to his Throne. The Keep was built by Robert the Bruce’s grandson and there have been many ghostly sightings including a young woman in green plaid in the bakery. The grand ballroom was 35metres long with an elaborate oak ceiling and wood panelled walls and would have been decorated with tapestries and paintings, such opulence with many grand celebrations. Sadly, the Castle was sold and plundered in 1717 and left just a shell, but in 1919 the stronghold was purchased and extensively conserved and restored, remaining in the same family today and lucky for us, open to the public.
Beware, the steps are not for the feint-hearted. Having visited previously, I seriously considered taking a de-fib with me! There are toilets and a welcoming burger/coffee van with limited benches, and plenty of parking along the road side should the small car park be full.
A short walk – back towards town – takes you to the War Memorial, which looks down on the harbour. Built on Black Hill and gifted to the community, the structure is an incomplete round temple, intentionally designed as a reminder of the lives lost during the wars. While quietly reflecting, take in the panoramic views that surround you.
Check out websites for up-to-date entry times and prices. Have a great day and enjoy as much as hubby and I did.