We had a few days available before the Peat Bog Faeries gig that we had booked to see at the Universal Hall in Findhorn and we have long wanted to explore the coast as far as Fraserburgh. We had been as far as Bannf on day trisp from Forres but not further. We had 5 days and could get all the way and take our time.

We set out from Forres at 12:45 and our first stop was Lidl to stock up with supplies for the journey into the Banffshire backwoods! From Lidl to see our daughter's in-laws for a breiefing about looking after their very young kittens whilst they are away next week. Kittens are very small and very cute. AS we left the in-laws' house in Kinloss the clouds came up and the rain started - it is mid March after all. After fuel as Asda in Elgin we head for the coast at Portgordon to see the seals.

The rocks just past Portgordon are famous for seal watching as numbers of boath grey seals and common seals haul out on the rocks beside the road. Numbers vary with the tide but there were about 10 to be seen in two groups and included some pups. Good to see and to hear but the wind was cold and it was raining.

Our stop tonight is the car park on the far side of Cullen just past the harbour. Wet, muddy and puddly though it was we could park right beside the sea with wonderful views along the cliffs eastwards.

Our parking spot on the edge of Cullen

The rain stopped and it cleared up that evening and we walked back into town to try and find the way on to the top of the old viaduct which is now part of a long distance path and cycle route 1. Cullen is an interesting little town which is divided in to the fishing village with its tiny houses closely packed by the harbour and the more conventional grid pattern town further up the hill. The railway runs almost between although high up on its viaduct above the Seatown.

Cullen Seatown from the old railway viaduct

Bertie is parked up just out of sight beyond the harbour around the headland. We watched the sun go down from the viaduct and then walked back to the van. This far north the light stays in the sky long after the sun sets and there was plenty of light all the way back.

I woke up in the early hours to the sound of waves crashing just outside the van! I had forgotten that it is very tempting to park right beside the rocks when the tide is out but at high tide those waves are very much closer. So close that they were quite noisy but not enough to keep me awake for long.

The morning was sunny but breezy. Eileen's eye was troubling her and she finds any sort of wind quite trying but even so after breakfast we walked along the shore path to the Pet Cemetery. Quite informal and higgedly piggedly collection of graves of all kinds of pets. There was even a grace for an unamed basking shark that was hit by a boat! There hundreds of pet graves of all kinds. From here we walked on to the Salmon Bothy bay where in years gone by they would have caught salmon by nets from the beach. The circular walk from here led steeply up onto the cliffs but Eileen could not face the wind up there and she headed back the way we had come and I went on alone. It was quite a stiff climb but I loved to be up on top of the cliffs looking down on the bay and then followed the cliffs back to town and thence down to Bertie again. On a finer day in the summer it would be good to follow this poath further along the coast.

Salmon Bothy Bay just east of Cullen
Wildcamping in the Pet Cemetery Car Park in Cullen
Cullen Sea Town and harbour with the famous viaduct in the background

 

From Cullen it wa short hop up to coast to Banff following the coast road. We diverted down to harbour at Portsoy but it was too small and tight to park Bertie for lunch - or at least we could not easily see any way nice and level. Portsoy is one of the most picturesque harbour towns on this coast and were this town in England it would be buzzing with tourists and all the associated paraphenalie but up here it is quiet and lovely. After Portsoy we returned to the main road as far as Whitehills were Google maps suggested a suitabel parking place just past the harbour where we had views across the bay to Banff which was our destination for today. At Whitehills they have made a childrens' playground from the old harbour and there is a small camp site with static caravans and campers. We parked for free in the car park just outside by the harbour.

Whitehills old harbour

After lunch it was on to Banff. We have been here a few times but only really to visit Duff House and enjoy the excellent afternoon tea in the NTS cafe! This time we were to park up in the free car park right beside the sea and the old harbour. Just same sort of sea views as pour Cullen stopover but this time a proper council car park with a paved surface, proper drainage and lighting. We were a few minutes walk from Banff town centre wuth still with the sea almost lapping our tyres at high tide. I love it. We sat in Bertie and just stared at the sea, the birds, the ships. We watched oyster catchers, red shanks, turnstones, a heron, cormorants and gulls of all sorts. It was like having our own mobile bird hide with comfy seats and heating!!

The Quayside car park at Banff. Just on the edge of the town close to the marina and with superb sea views and all for free. Bertie in on the far right.
Coffe time on Bertie watching the waves at Banff

Banff is a great little town. Last year I had got very interested in a house for sale here as it had wonderful views form the hill just above this car park. I could have seen us living in Banff even though it is a long way from some o fthe service we deemed essential such as railways and hospitals etc! We tried out a bakery or too in the interest of our ongoing bun research project and had a good wander around the town. The forecast was talking about highwinds tonight and we were glad to be tucked up in a town with hard standing and a good sea wall. The forecast was not wrong and the van was rocked buffeted all night but came to no harm and we slept despite it. The morning dawned bright and clear but very windy. After breakfast we just sat in the van and gazed at the sea and the waves for awhile before I braved the winds to go in search of more buns for coffee time. Just behind the car park there is the little road that goes to Scotstoun which is a tiny fishing village - like a miniature version of the Seatown at Cullen. Just a row of small fisherman's cottages between the beach and the cliff. We had walked along here as the sun set last night and we though we would have look at it in Bertie this morning as we moved off in case there were some good parking spots for another visit.

Scotstoun at low tide

As the wind was still strong and we did not have far to go today we decided to go and see the Macduff Aquarium which was open and looked interesting. We had lunch in Bertie in their car park and then spent most of the afternoon in the Aquarium - much longer than I had expected. There were a series of talks given by the staff at some of the tankls and these were fascintaing - not least because the whole aquarium was dedicated to the species of  fish and small animals from the Moray Firth. There were big tanks and little tanks and each recreating a particular habitat.

A Shanny in the Rockpools tank at Macduff Marine Aquarium

What was really fascinating here was to see just how rich the waters of the Moray Firth are and the range of fish and sea life that live there.

From Macduff we drove west hoping to follow the coast road past Crovie (a famous fishing village that is one row houses deep squeezed between the cliff and the beach) but there were several signs warning that the road was closed near Pennan and so we played safe and stuck to the main road. Our destination tonight is a Certificated Site on a farm about 10 miles south of Fraserburgh. We needed water and to empty the loo and for that we need a campsite - few free stopovers offer these facilities. On arrival we were warmly met by John who said we were welcome to stay on the field but given the strong winds blowing and forecast to worse overnight he suggested we actually park in the lee of his farm buildings to get some shelter. Even then the van rocked all night! John and his wife Sharon are motorhomers themselves and proudly showed us around their luxurious Rapido A-Class. Very nice indeed but too big for me!

Parked up out of the wind at North Cairnchina CS campsite

 

The morning was fair and dry but still breezy as we said goodbye to John and Sharon and drive the few miles in to Fraserburgh. By noiw it was threatening rain and quite cold and windy. Time for an indoors day - at The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses which is located next door to Kinnaird Head Lighthouse the first lighthouse built on mainland Scotland in 1787. The museum was quite interesting with a big display of mirrors and lenses and lighthouse paraphenalia but it could have done with more information and a better narrative.

Lighthouse lenses in the Scottish National Museum of Lighthouses

What was first class was the guided tour of  the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. We were lucky enough to be the only people on the tour so had the guide all to ourselves. We went right up into the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse and even out on to the gallery around the outside.

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse - the only lighthouse built into a castle! Now part of the Scottish National Museum of Lighthouses.

We spent most of the afternoon here and left at 4pm having had a rather late lunch on Bertie in the car park. We decided against touring Fraserburgh given the cold wind and set a course westwards to our chosen wild camping spot at New Aberdour Beach. This time we did follow the coast road (still blocked at Pennan) as our destination was this side of closure point. At first the coast was quite gentle and sandy but west of Rosehearty the cliffs began and it started to much more "Cornish". This far east the north facingcoast of Aberdeenshire is exposed to the harsh northerly winds coming straight from Arctic in winter and it is beautiful and rugged. The roads got narrower and steeper the closer we got to our beachside car park - had we not read about this car park on Searchforsites.co.uk and knew other vans had got down here before us we might have wondered if this was wise. Once we arrived we knew this perfect. A wonderful sheltered cove with beach and rocks and sea caves, a good but almost empty car park and views on all dirtections. We fould the flattest pitch we could beside the sea and parked up facing the beach just behind the tide line.

Solitary splendour - Bertie parked up beside the sea at New Aberdour Beach

This is probably our best ever wildcamping stopover so far and we will be back. It is about three hours drive along the coast from Forres so an easy destination for a few nights in the summer.  A few other cars arrived later and a few stayed over - one person in a car pitched a small tent in the grass. We went for a short walk along the beach to visit the sea caves at the eastern end of the bay.

Eileen in the sea caves at New Aberdour Beach

After our walk we sat in the front of Bertie watching the birds on the sea. We were especially intrigued by the ducks which seemed to be diving every few minutes. In the end we identified these as goldeneye ducks and we watched the four of them for quite a while from the comfort of our "mobile bird hide". We were also interested to watch a heron hunting in the rock pools. We have seen many many herons on the canals but we had not realised that they could be shore birds too.

The morning was lovely and sunny and we walked the other way (west) along the beach path to see the memorial to the braver crofter, Jane Whyte,  who lived in here in 1884 and saved 15 men from the wreck of the William Hope by struggling through "a raging sea" to bring a lifeline ashore. The plaque was fixed to what was once the wall of her croft house.

We left beach at 11am and had we not had to get back for the Peatbog Faeries gig at Universal Hall tonight we might well have stayed another night here. We followed tehcoast raod as far as we could but eventually we met the roadworks as promised just east of Pennan and had to turn around and go back in to New Aberdour and loop inland via Cowbog (honestly!) to join thecoast road the other side of the blockage. Sadly time was nbow pressing and we had to save Crovie and Gardenstoun for another visit.

We stopped for luch in Bertie at the far end of the little through Scotstoun on the edge of Banff. A perfect parking spot just above the rocks.

Back to Forres at 3:30.

Trip Statistics

Mileage reading on arrival: 125004 kms
Mileage reading at start: 124743 kms
Mileage this trip: 261 kms
Nights away this trip 5
Total Nights in Bertie so far 73

 

Trip Map

Banffshire Coast
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