This was the 2nd day of my 4-day trip to Aberdeenshire and this time I had not had to reach Scotland from home so I had the whole day in which to do this walk which was just as well because it was another quite long one.
I did not get off to the best of starts this morning. I was staying at the Premier Inn Aberdeen South Portlethen which is on the edge of Portlethen (near the A92). Whilst most Premier Inn hotels are in my experience very good this was one was not so good as the receptionist had uttered the words no traveller likes to hear when I checked in the previous evening “your room is located in the annex”.
So I had to walk across the car park to get from my room to have breakfast. Once finished breakfast I hoped to return to my room in order to clean my teeth and get my (already packed) rucksack to begin this walk. Unfortunately the plastic key-card I had been issued had other ideas. The annex I was in had a card reader on the door before you could even get into the building. My room key was not being recognised and unlike when I arrived last night the door was no longer propped open with a fire-extinguisher! So after a few attempts I had to head back across the car park to reception. The receptionist apologised and gave me a new a card. I walked back across the car park. I tried to get in. Once again, no luck. Back to reception I go. This time the receptionist agrees to come over to see the problem. The lady is shall we say rather large and takes a long while to walk over the car park and is out of breath once she has done so. When she reaches the door she tries and also finds it doesn’t work. Then she takes the card out and sees it is wet, dries it off and then it works. The explanation is apparently that because it had rained over night and the card slot doesn’t have a roof above it, the rain goes into the car slot and then the reader stops working. If you put your card in a few times, dry it off each time it comes out wet, then it gets the water out of the slot and then the card reader works. I was awfully tempted to suggest perhaps they should locate the card reader somewhere that means it doesn’t fill with water whenever it rains – but I didn’t want to waste any more time!
Unfortunately the time this wasted meant I now knew I had missed the train I planned to catch from Portlethen station to Stonehaven because I didn’t have time now to walk to the station before it left. The service is very infrequent (the next one is not for more than 2 hours) so instead I decided to catch one of the far more frequent buses to Aberdeen and start from there instead. This took me on tour around seemingly every street on Portlethen before finally heading in the direction of Aberdeen so I was setting off about 30 minutes later than I had hoped (and in the other direction now!).
It took me a little while to find my way down from the bus stop to the waterfront once in Aberdeen. in the end I resorted to following signs for the railway station because I knew it was near there. On reaching the station I soon found my way and ended up by part of the harbour. It was packed with large boats, i’m sure connected with the oil industry, this being the main industry of Aberdeen.
I walked along the pavement next to the busy road, frustrated that there wasn’t a pavement on the coastal side of the road (but there was a pavement on on side at least). As I neared the River Dee I could see from the map that the main road turned to the right, but I would need to go straight on. so I crossed the road and took the bridge.
I turned left into the first road I came to, running more or less along the north side of the harbour, but with industry between me and the harbour. To be honest it stunk of fish and was an unpleasant, dirty road (I’m not a fan of seafood). It also appeared to be heading straight into the docks ahead, but thankfully there was a road to the right which I could take.
After around 500 metres the industry seemed to be ending and it was feeling that I was leaving the city behind already. The last of the houses ended, I passed a few allotments and then a path went off to the left, which I followed. The path was now alongside a rundown concrete wall close to the road, with green grassy areas on top. It was obviously a popular area and I was pleasantly surprised at how soon I had left the city.
For a while I had a choice of lower or upper paths. I opted for the lower initially, along the bottom of the sea wall, but I was concerned it would soon end or the tide would block my way, so I soon opted for the top path. For a while this was on the road, but in places it looks like the road is falling off the cliffs, as part of the left hand lane was fenced off! I was having problems with my camera again as a few shots were coming out 100% white.
Heading further out I could soon see the sea properly and was surprised at the number of boats moored out to sea. The path I was following soon took me to what was marked as an old battery (Torry Battery). I walked up to this and it was open and free, although there was not a lot left on the inside, so I didn’t linger and being open to the public meant it had beer cans etc all over the place.
Back to the coast I soon reached the mouth of the harbour, where there is a large breakwater.
I turned with the coast to head south, rather than east as I had been so far. Ahead was the lighthouse of Girdle ness and I soon reached it.
According to Wikipedia the lighthouse is still in use, though at the gate was a “Scottish Tourist Board Visitor Accommodation” sign so clearly at least some of it is now a holiday cottage or bed and breakfast too. Sadly the road leading into it said “Private Please Keep Out” so clearly it is not possible to visit the lighthouse.
I continued on the now fairly quiet road around the corner into Nigg Bay. This was a pleasant beach with a mixture of sand and shingle and with the low grassy cliffs just behind the beach quite sheltered too.
Sadly I gather things have changed here dramatically since I did this walk, and not for the better.
I gather this beach has been lost completely now, as the whole area is being developed as part of an expansion of Aberdeen harbour. I did this walk in 2015 and where I found a nice beach, soon there will be industry and docks. I’m glad I did this bit of coast whilst it was still pleasant.
I dropped down onto the beach for a while and then continued on the coast road around Nigg Bay. At the far end there was then a proper coast path which I could join. The path climbed onto the low cliffs and soon offered a fine view back to Nigg Bay.
Rounding the little headland of Greg Ness I soon came across this pleasant rocky little bay.
The coast path continued right around the cliff top and the coast was becoming spectacular now. I had left Aberdeen behind now and was pleased to find the coast through the city had been more pleasant than I expected and it had not taken me long to get out of the city and into countryside.
I soon came to a spectacular narrow rocky inlet, marked as Doonies Yawns according to my map, it was rather spectacular and the path took me right inland to the railway in order to get it around it.
This turned out to be the first of several of these impressive rocky inlets that I was now walking around. Presumably formed where there were areas of softer rock, more quickly eroded by the sea.
The path too was excellent running right along the cliff top on a pleasant area of undeveloped land between the cliff top and the railway line.
Behind the railway line is the vast Altens Industrial Estate (it runs for about a mile) but I did not really notice it on the coastal side of the tracks.
The weather had improved since I set off too and now the coast was bathed sunlight under mostly blue skies. This was a beautiful and quite spectacular stretch of coast which I very much enjoyed.
At a place marked as Easter Croft I came across this ruined house. It seems the croft is no more.
The view back where I had come was impressive with the rocky rugged coast making for a wonderful site for me, though perhaps less so if navigating a boat along here, heading for the safety of Aberdeen harbour ahead.
The coast path continued past Souter Head but near Neither Loirston it turned inland to cross the railway line and head inland. However a path of sorts continued along the coast, albeit it a little rougher now. I decided to stick to the coast instead and exercise the right to roam.
Ahead a very small stream was easy to cross and I continued behind the glass-houses of Cove Bay nursery to emerge onto the road heading for Cove Bay harbour.
This is a pretty spot and clearly still used by small (fishing?) boats with the little trolleys used to haul them onto the beach away from the waves. It was a pretty little spot and I decided to stop here for lunch as it was around midday and I knew I had some road walking ahead.
Sadly the road to the harbour is a dead-end Ahead the coast had some private houses in amongst the old industry whose gardens went right up to the railway line and then with a steep bay going right to the railway line beyond it. There was no way through along the coast here so I was going to have to head inland of the railway for a time.
So I re-traced my steps back up the road from the harbour to cross the railway in Cove Road. I continued on this road for around 1 mile (it did have a pavement) to the turn off for Findon (also the route of cycle network path 1). This soon passed the entrance to Black Hill quarry on my right.
After another mile or so this minor road cross back over the railway line. This took me past another quarry, (Findon Quarry) and then past Middleton Farm. Just passed this I ignored the road off to the right and continued still on this minor road that was now marked as “Unsuitable for Long Vehicles”, except that little of the road I had been following up to now had seemed suitable, either!
The road soon took me into the small village of Findon. The map I had downloaded from the Aberdeenshire Council website suggested I could follow the track to St Ternan’s Well (as marked on the map) where I’d find a path down to the beach and over the stream (confirmed by the presence of “FB” (short for footbridge) on the OS map) so I decided to go this way.
The road soon became a track which headed downhill and what I saw ahead was not something I had expected to come across at all! Submarines. Lots of little bright orange submarines!
This turns out to be the base of a company that services (and perhaps make) these survival craft designed for under water exploration I think! The track went right past them and there must be a hundred or so of them all piled on the cliffs!
Thankfully at the end the path went between fences and then down steps as hoped to the little rocky beach. It was nice to be back at the coast after all that road walking inland.
The promised bridge existed and took me over Burn of Findon and up to the cliffs on the other side where I had a view back to all those little old submarines, a strange sight!
Now there was a proper coast path again for a while that took me right around the cliff tops to reach the small harbour at Portlethen.
Again there was a small fleet of beach-launched boats at the back of the pebble beach.
From here I then followed the road into Portlethen Village which is a separate place from Portlethen itself, which is the other side of the railway line. From here the map I got from the Council website showed me I could continue on a road (Old Coast Road) that soon became a private track. This took me to the village of Downies.
Here I turned right along the road (Downies Road) and then I could turn left along to Burn of Daff. A footbridge crosses the burn here and then continues ahead to reach another track I could turn left along towards Newton Hill and back towards the coast.
In fact I soon came across another unexpected path, because it isn’t marked on the Core Paths map from the Council. This was signed, somewhat ridiculousness as “Footpath to Dangerous Cliffs”.
I mean really is that the best description someone could come up with?! Anyway I followed this path to the “Dangerous” cliffs. They were lovely and an area marked as Coble Boards according to the map. They were clearly very popular with sea birds anyway.
Sadly the path to these “dangerous cliffs” turned out to be a dead-end so I headed back to the main path and followed this south around the outer edge of Cran Hill.
Ahead I could see the next village, Newtonhill whose houses I could see on the cliffs ahead.
Another path (nor marked on the OS map) turns off this just after it turns inland to head south to Newtonhill Bay where a footbridge crosses the Burn of Elsick where I reach Newtonhill Bay, which has a few fishing shacks on it. (The page of Core Path maps on the Council website is useful for planning here).
I followed the path up from this beach to reach the road in Newtonhill.
Here I followed Hillhead Road heading inland and took the next road off to the left (Villagelands Road). This turned to the right and became Anderson Drive. At the end here I could follow a path up to Greystone Place and then turn left to reach the library.
Here though not marked on the maps I found a path running beside the building and then alongside the railway line on the coastal side of the tracks, clearly used by the farmer.
I soon reached a bridge over the railway which joined this track to the farm house (Mains of Monduff). I turned inland here because I had a burn to cross just ahead and wasn’t sure I’d be able to do so on the coast.
I passed Mains of Monduff and here was able to pick up a footpath that goes behind it and crosses the burn on a footbridge.
The path then continued into the village of Muchalls. Here I followed the road through this small village (Marine Terrace) to then reach a path that took me under the railway and then back to the shore near Muchalls Beach.
It was a spectacular stretch of coast here with wonderful views of the rocky and rugged coast.
I was able to make my way along a rough path as far as East Muchalls where there was a ruined house on the cliff top.
I managed to get past this and then down to the Burn of Muchalls which I was able to cross on rocks just before it dropped down a waterfall.
Once over I was able to follow a rough path along the cliff tops again around Doonie Point to soon reach the pleasant little bay beyond (seemingly un-named). This is a mixture of sand and shingle backed by grass that has grown at the back of the beach.
Rounding the back of this bay I was able to continue just outside the field fence around the edge of the cliffs to reach an odd man-made pool of water at Hall Heugh. I went the landward side of this. I don’t know what it was built for but whatever it was has long gone.
I continued on the side of the field nearest the railway line where another bridge crossed the tracks, connected the fields to the farm the other side of the tracks. The track also crossed another burn and I now followed the field edge round to the cliff top again.
Ahead is the wide beach of Long Meg, another sand and shingle beach. I followed the cliff tops above the beach on fields (there wasn’t a proper path) crossing another small burn and then reaching a 2nd bridge over the railway line.
I had another steeper burn to cross ahead (this one had made a bit of a valley) and it was rather overgrown so made it harder to cross over. Once over I continued on the field edge and again this field had it’s own bridge over the railway to the farm house beyond.
Finally I emerged over the fence onto Stonehaven Golf course. Here I walked across the golf course to reach a proper path again. This took me under the railway line which crosses Dean of Cowie and once over the stream the path headed along the other side of the valley back to the shore.
I made my way down to the beach and followed it, soon being lit up by the low early-evening sun.
At the far end of the bay the path climbed back up to the cliff tops where I could see Stonehaven ahead of me.
Now back on the golf course I followed the edge of the course around to a ruined chapel (Chapel of St Mary and St Nathalan).
The chapel had obviously been long abandoned (I don’t know why) as graves had subsequently been built within the remains of the walls after the roof had gone.
I did wonder about the history of it because the graveyard beside the ruined chapel is large with many graves.
Beyond the chapel I headed inland towards the railway line again in order to get around another small burn and now followed a rough path along the cliff top.
Soon I was looking down on the roofs of Stonehaven itself.
I continued around the field edge to reach the road and here I turned left and followed the road into a layby and then a path down into Amy Row and back along this road to the beach. I then followed the promenade south alongside the lido to the point where Cowie Water flows out to the sea, where I started my last walk from.
I was exhausted as this had turned into a harder walk than expected due to finding my own way along the tufty grass of all those cliff tops. It was now around 6:30pm so I headed inland to the main road and got the bus from there back to my hotel near Portlethen (I could take the bus directly, which was nice).
When I got back to the hotel I found the door to the annex in which my room was had been propped open with the fire extinguisher again – clearly I was not the only one that had had problems with the door again!
This had been a long walk but a lovely one. The walk south out of Aberdeen had been more pleasant than expected and the stretch of coast down to Cove Bay was lovely and it was nice to have a proper coast path for most of it. Sadly the next stretch of road walking was a bit dull but the coast south from there had been spectacular and the scenery really stunning. I hadn’t expected it to be so good and despite the sometimes tough terrain it had been a very enjoyable walk and I was pleased I had managed to avoid walking on the A90!
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Trains run regularly between Stonehaven and Aberdeen, generally around 3 an hour Monday – Saturday and take around 20 minutes. On Sundays trains run approximately hourly. The majority of trains are operated by Scotrail but long distance trains also run through from London via York, Newcastle and Edinburgh operated by LNER. CrossCountry also runs services between Stonehaven and Aberdeen from the south west, Birmingham and Manchester. As well as trains there are also regular buses operated by Stagecoach Bluebird.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.