While staying at Thornton Castle, we visited Dunnottar Castle—which is a ruin and is my absolutely favourite castle in the whole world. We visited on a day full of sunshine and wind, and as we left the car park we could see a wind farm which looked as if it was floating above the horizon due to the mist. The castle was reached via steps which drop down from the cliff and then rise steeply to the spit of land housing the castle. The cliff edges are pitted, with large pebbles held by rock, which we were told is called ‘pudding rock.’ It is gradually eroding, so visit the castle quickly, before it tumbles into the sea.
Dunnottar is a complete ruin, the skeleton of the castle reaching towards the sky. Some of the towers still have several storeys, some walls have almost completely disappeared. There are helpful information signs, and we saw the hole where William Wallace (Braveheart) is said to have attacked the British. The dark cavern of the old brewery is said to be haunted by a woman in green who is searching for her children (she has my sympathy, losing children in large buildings like castles/supermarkets is easily done). Seagull cries mingled with tourist’s comments: Mind your head, these guides are beautifully produced for the money, let’s sit here for a bit…
There was a lion’s den in the castle, dating back to Earl Marischal. Apparently his Coat of Arms had a lion, so he thought it would be a good idea to keep a real one in the castle. However, the roaring kept the Countess awake at night, so they got rid of it. Poor thing. The lion, not the Countess.
The surprises of the castle were the well, which is a large pool of fresh water right in the centre of the castle, and the public loos (also right in the centre, and very clean) and the sheer size of the place. It really is the best castle ever.
After visiting the castle, we walked along the cliffs. There is a great walk from Stonehaven, along the cliff top towards the castle. In a couple of places you can climb down to the beach.
Just outside the town, on a hill, is a war memorial. After the first world war, over 200 men from Stonehaven never came home. That would have been a huge percentage of the young men. The memorial looks like a ruined Greek temple, to represent the lives ruined by the war. It also fits very well with the view of the castle, and is very in keeping with the atmosphere of the area. As we walked past, there were several people walking up to look at the memorial, and people running with a dog in tow—it is clearly a dominant feature of the town.
Stonehaven is a fishing town, with a big harbour and some interesting sculptures along the sea front. It is also the home of the deep-fried mars bar, so I insisted that we try it. It was pretty revolting! I think our order was unexpected as it wasn’t tourist season, and so I am guessing that they simply dipped a mars bar into the batter they were using for fish and then fried it in the same vat of oil. It tasted very fishy anyway. Imagine biting into a piece of deep-fried fish, and then finding a melted mars bar inside. The flavours clashed horribly—maybe it would be better with fresh batter, more of a mars bar pancake perhaps.
Although I cannot recommend the mars bar, Stonehaven is worth a visit. They were busy building sea defences when we were there, so it was quite noisy, but I expect it’s rather lovely most of the time. We found a great bakers to buy lunch from, and then we sat, watching the boats bob on the water and listening to the gulls. A lovely way to finish our holiday.
Thank you for reading about our road trip through Scotland. There are so many places that we didn’t have time to visit, and so many that I hope to return to one day. To be honest, I’m not sure why we spend so much time in Italy and France, when Scotland is easily as beautiful. I guess you just have to be lucky with the weather (and the midges, which were a nuisance when they appeared). But if you have never been, go soon…before the rest of the world realises what a treasure it is.
Love, Anne x
Don’t forget, my travel book, The sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary, is available from an Amazon near you. It’s a fun read, and makes a great gift.