I could see a three day weather window that would be perfect for a trip to the NE tip of Aberdeenshire. I booked myself into Saltoun Inn in Fraserburgh. The Saltoun is actually a Weatherspoon’s hotel which I booked a large family room at a very good rate.
It was forecast to be dry for all three days of my walks, but today had the added bonus of having the stiff breeze with me as well as being a sunny day with blue skies all around. The daylight hours were still short so I needed to make an early start, this meant driving the 25 miles to Banff, where I parked up. I caught the 06:45 # 35 bus to Findochty. The bus was quite busy with most people going to work. It was still dark when I got off the bus in Findochty, although the sky to the east was quite bright.
I set off along an excellent track that was the Moray Coast Trail. The coast here is very rugged, with the rocks steeply dipping into the Moray Firth. I caught an occasional flash of the Tarbat Ness lighthouse fast receding into the distance. After 2 miles I entered another sleepy old fishing village – Portknockie. Portknockie is famous for the close proximity of the geomorphological feature called the Bow & Fiddle, which is basically a sea stack with an attached sea arch resembling a fiddler’s bow. The path dropped down from the surrounding cliffs to a shoreline and passed a number of caves, now seated above the shoreline on a raised beach. I passed Jenny’s Well, not to sure who Jenny was, but the well was spouting a nice flow of water. The sun was now up but remained low in the sky for most of my walk, which meant I could have really done with a peaked cap to shade the blinding sun. In Portknockie I had spoken to a local resident, a retired gamekeeper from England, he advised me of the footpath situation for the next couple of miles.
My next village was Cullen, famed for its Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup made with Haddock, potatoes and onions. I tried it once but I was not that impressed. Although mid-morning there were few people about. The entrance to Cullen was marked by a large railway viaduct, now disused this used to carry a branch line of the Great North of Scotland line, but closed in 1968. As the excellent shore path passed out of Cullen I came across a pet cemetery on the beach, it was a very sad place to be, especially with all the names of the animals and their photos, toys leads etc..
The path rounded Logie Head and I again dropped down to the shoreline. The path was certainly becoming much fainter now and less trodden. By chance I came across a sign with information about Charlie’s Cave, I thought “here we go again, some cave that Bonnie Prince Charlie dossed down in blah…blah”. But no, this was about a Frenchman, Charles Marioni who jumped ship in Plymouth in 1904 and made his way to North East Aberdeenshire and set up a home against a small niche in the rock. His full story, written by Andrew Saunders, is contained in a photo I took.
I soon came to the ruins of Findlatter Castle, not a great deal to see as the erosion by wind and water over the centuries have left their mark. I then arrived at Sandend Bay and what a beautiful beach it was!
I picked up the coast path at the far end of the beach and climbed up the cliffs again. The path continued around another promontory – Redhythe Point. I was now only a mile from another fishing village – Portsoy. Again this was a very quiet place, either the inhabitants were at work or the place was full of holiday lets. I walked past the harbour and around Links Bay. I could see handmade signs to the coastguard lookout tower. When I reached the “Coastguard Tower?” It was simply four posts knocked into the ground with some tape and a sign advising that this was the site of a former coastguard tower. I was slightly underwhelmed. The bad news was that I was virtually surrounded by thick gorse with no way of beating my way through. I managed to backtrack slightly and drop down to the beach again, where I picked up a feint path which soon fizzled out. I knew from reading other accounts that a working quarry lay ahead and that I needed to make an inland diversion to get around it as well as getting over the River Boyne.
I cut inland for about a kilometre and joined a quiet road where I crossed the River Boyne. As I passed the access road to the quarry I could see that it was still working. I soon got off the road and headed across some freshly ploughed fields back towards the coast.
Back on the coast there was little or no footpath of any sort. The ground was reasonably flat and offered a number of small sandy beaches to walk along. After a couple of miles I entered Whitehills, another small old fishing village. I rounded a headland near the harbour called the Knock. I could now see both Banff and Macduff some three miles away. I set off along the track bed of the old railway route and met a lot more people, nearly all dog walkers. By this time fatigue was beginning to set-in with my feet and legs. It seemed to take an age to cover the last mile and I was really relieved to get back to the car.
This had been a fabulous days walking, which despite the one diversion, I had been able to stick close to the coast. With beautiful scenery, good walking conditions and a bright sunny day, this had been one of the best walking days I had had for some time.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today =21 miles
Total distance = 5,686 miles