325. St. Fergus to Cruden Bay

It seemed like an eternity since I last walked in Scotland, January 2020 in fact. So the news from Nicola Spud-gun that tourism would be opening up from the 15th July had me pouring over accommodation availability in the Aberdeen area. I managed to book three nights cheap accommodation in Aberdeen, so I set off from Shropshire to begin the long drive north.

I made a very early start from my B&B in Aberdeen, mainly due to the fact there would be fewer passengers on the bus services I would need to catch to St Fergus. But first I had to drive to Cruden Bay where I would finish today’s walk. I parked in the car park in Harbour Street and walked back to the main road. I caught the 6:38 #61 bus to Peterhead, which had a few people on board. Some chaps who sat behind me obviously did not bother with the face mask rule and spent most of the time ‘effing and blinding’ about this and that. I got off the bus in a deserted Peterhead and found a Co-Op where I got a welcome cup of coffee. I then caught the #69B bus for the short journey to St Fergus.

It was a beautiful sunny summer morning when I set off back down the coastal access road, that I had last walked along over 6 months before. I was able to put my PPE stuff (mask, gloves & sanitiser) away for today, but knowing that this would be a regular part of my coast-walking kit from now on. Although warm, the weather was muggy and some rain showers were forecast. I arrived at the beach and made my way along the shoreline, where the tide was out and I had excellent firm sand to walk along. I could make out the houses of Peterhead in the distance, as the clouds began to darken. Just after crossing the Birnie Memorial Bridge across the River Ugie, the first of a number of heavy showers opened up. I did not put my jacket on, as I thought the shower would not last long, after 5 minutes I was soaked and within 10 minutes the sun was out again. I continued along a road through the town and past the very busy port area. Peterhead is still an important fish landing town as well as serving the offshore oil fields.

Looking back to Rattray Head
Looking south towards Peterhead
Grey Heron near the River Ugie
Heading towards the Birnie Bridge across The River Ugie into Peterhead
Fishing Trawler leaving Peterhead Harbour
Andy Scott’s (Kelpies, Arria) Fisher Jessie Statue in Peterhead

I walked around Peterhead Bay and came to a marina. I followed a very overgrown path up to Peterhead Prison, where I could see a Core Path disappearing into a mass of wet waist high grass. I backtracked slightly and opted to walk around the prison via the road. As I passed around the prison I was surprised to see that the prison that I had been looking at, with its high rusted barbed wire fences was in fact the old prison and was now a museum! The newly-built (2014) prison, HMP Grampian, was now visible and looked quite a size having replaced the older Peterhead and Aberdeen Prisons.

 

 

 

I could see quite a bit of industry ahead blocking my way, including a rather large power station. Fortunately, I had consulted with the Aberdeenshire Council’s Core Footpath files and could see a route along the coast virtually all the way to Cruden Bay. This meant I was able to pass on the shore-side of the large oil/gas fired Peterhead Power Station. By the time I passed a large fish processing factory I had reached the small village of Boddam. On the outskirts of Boddam, I managed to pick up a path that followed the line of the old Boddam branch line that last carried passenger back in 1932 but fell out of use and having had its track pulled up in 1950. The busy A90 road was now encroaching close to the cliff-line, which meant the path I was following through deep grass became sandwiched between the road and the sea. As the coast became increasingly rugged, with high granite cliffs, the road diverged away.

The old Peterhead Prison, now a museum

 

The outfall from Peterherad Power Station
Buchan Ness Lighthouse at Boddam
The distinctive Red Shed Post Office at Boddam

A second heavy rain shower hit me as I struggled through long grass that bordered fenced in fields. I passed along Longhaven Cliffs where I could see birds nesting in their tens of thousands. Besides the noise that greeted me, was the stench of stinking rotten fish. The noise and smell was me for the next 3 miles and together with the amazing cliff scenery was the highlight of the walk. By the time I reached the Bullers of Buchan, I began to meet other walkers that were utilising the nearby Car park. Almost a kilometre from the Bullers, I came upon a spectacular sight – a sea stack that was covered in birds of all types – Kittiwakes, Cormorants, Shags, Guillemots, gulls etc. The Dunbuy Sea Stack almost appeared as two separate stacks and its top was worn down almost to bare rock with the nesting birds. The stack also had another surprise, a huge arch, much bigger than any other Sea arch I had seen, with huge rock-fall present.

I continued onto towards the ruins of New Slains Castle, which had been visible in the distance for some time. The ruins were quite busy with walkers out from Cruden Bay. Although, recently rebuilt (around early 19th Century), the castle has a long and complex history. It was used by Bram Stoker in his book Dracula and you can see why. Most of the buildings were still intact with just the roof and floors missing. Plans to turn the place into apartments back in 2005 fell through.

I followed an excellent path into Cruden Bay and was pleased to find that my legs had stood up well to today’s walk after the prolonged absence of coastline walking.

Looking towards Longhaven Cliffs
Numerous stacks with nesting birds near Bullers of Buchan
Granite quarries near Bullers of Buchan
Looking back north at the dramatic cliff-line
Nesting Kittiwakes with chicks (the ones without the yellow bill) at Bullers of Buchan
The sea arch at Bullers of Buchan
Dunbuy Sea Stack
The Dunbuy sea arch….amazing!
New Slains Castle
Inside Slains Castle

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25060

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,963 miles

 

2 thoughts on “325. St. Fergus to Cruden Bay”

  1. So good to see you back on the path. That arch is staggering! I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy the rotting fish smell 😄 I’m still nervous about getting back up to Scotland, mainly for reasons of fitness. Did you meet with any hostility from the locals?

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  2. Hi Ruth, re; the smell I think it may depend if you pass through during the breeding season, but it did stink though! I was a bit apprehensive after lockdown, but the two recent walks in Kent and the one in Cornwall, meant I could probably take on 3 days in Scotland.
    With many English and other nationalities living and working around Aberdeen I don’t think this an issue. I think the press has exageratted this somewhat, particularly the reports of placard waving SNP activities at the border.My advice is go and continue you walk, the longer you leave it the more difficult it becomes. The North West of Scotland is probably the safest place to be. My main advice would be to avoid pubs and cafe’s. Cheers Alan

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