Coastal castle trail

By James Carron

Launch an assault on the battle-scarred ruins of Dunnottar Castle, an impressive coastal fortress to the south of the Aberdeenshire harbour town of Stonehaven.

The dramatic remains of the historic structure are just one of the highlights of this circular walk. Built on a craggy lump of rock lashed by North Sea waves, cliffs below the walls drop straight into the bubbling tidal cauldron.

Over the years it has been the setting for angry sieges and bloody battles. In 1297 William Wallace burned an English garrison of soldiers alive within its walls and in 1685 160 Covenanters - men and women - were imprisoned and tortured here.

In more recent years, film director Franco Zeffirelli selected the castle as the setting for his movie Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close.

Enjoy this walk at any time of the year. A hot summer's day may tempt you onto the beach at Stonehaven while a stiff sea breeze on an autumn or winter afternoon will make for a bracing few hours out of doors.

From the car park, Beach Road leads east to the sea and once on the front, turn right and follow the wide pavement above the shore south. Pass an amusement arcade and cafe and, a short way on, the local bowling green. Beyond this, the way crosses the Cowie Water on a concrete footbridge. Herons have been spotted fishing the watery channel here.

A concrete walkway runs south with the beach on the left and the houses of Stonehaven to the right. The sand and pebble strip is popular with sunbathers in the summer. The next river to be crossed is the Carron Water and a wooden footbridge spans the flow. Once over, the path curves left round the top of the beach to the harbour.

Just before you reach the public car park here, a pend on the right leads through to the harbourside, emerging on to the Old Pier. A few yards left is Stonehaven's oldest building, the Tolbooth. This was once a store for the castle and it now houses a fascinating little museum. Walk anti-clockwise round the harbour, admiring the fishing boats and yachts that moor within its calm confines, then pass by the Marine Hotel and Ship Inn and look for Wallace Wynd on the right. Walk through this narrow pend to meet Castle Street. Then turn left and follow it to a steep path at the end. This climbs up the hillside to a minor road running above the houses.

Enjoy the excellent views over Stonehaven and the harbour and make use of the public benches by the road for a well earned breather. Then follow the road up to a tight corner a few yards on. As the tarmac banks right, a path branches off to the left. Take this up towards a prominent memorial on the hillside. Sited just off the main path, it was erected in memory of those who died during the first world war. After making the short detour to the monument, follow the path along the coast, passing through open fields. Dogs must by on the lead here.

The impressive ruin of Dunnottar Castle comes into view long before your reach it. The rugged walls cling precariously to steep cliffs high above the clear sea water. The castle is open daily (9am to 6pm Mon-Sat and 2pm to 5pm Sun) and is well worth a visit. There is an admission charge.

From the castle, walk up the gravel driveway to a car park. Turn right and follow the minor road north. A pavement runs beside open fields, offering views out to sea. The road passes to the left of the war memorial before curving right and then left. Continue on it down to the main A957. Follow the road into the heart of Stonehaven. At the square in the town centre go straight ahead along the B979 to finish at the Beach Road car park.


Distance 5 miles/8km. ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 45. ;
Start/parking Public car park on Beach Road at north end of Stonehaven (opposite Commodore Hotel), grid ref NO 875865. ;
Grading An easy walk following seafront walkway, coastal path and pavement. Suitable for all. Dogs on lead over coastal path between Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle.

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