This was a very enjoyable walk and my first walk of a 4 day trip to Scotland. After the success of my last trip I had again booked flights (with FlyBe, since ceased trading) from London City airport to Aberdeen. I had had to make an early start, getting up around 6am so that I could get to London City Airport in time to catch the flight to Aberdeen, which departed at 9:35.
I took the train to London Waterloo, the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, then the DLR to London City Airport. I had trouble at security, as I put my rucksack on top of my clear bag of liquids in the tray so that meant my bag had to get searched too. I always seem to get caught out by these silly rules!
Still once that was done I had about 40 minutes to get breakfast and a welcome cup of tea. Soon we were called to get on the flight which left on time. I had a window seat which was nice so I could enjoy the view, although much of it was cloudy. Last time I flew with this airline (FlyBe) and on this same route, a few months previously, the flight was in fact operated by Loganair under franchise. The drinks were free then but it seems the flight is now operated by Flybe directly, and they charge for tea, which I only found out after ordering one. Oh well, lesson learnt.
Still we head a pleasant if a little bumpy at times flight to Aberdeen, taking around 90 minutes.
Planning wise I had not done that well for this walk. For some reason (baffling, in hindsight) I had booked to stay in the same hotel (Premier Inn Portlethen, also known as Aberdeen South) just south of Aberdeen that I stayed at last time. I am not sure if I got my north and south mixed up when booking or something because it was a daft location to stay really, because all my planned walks were north of Aberdeen and I had booked to stay south of Aberdeen!
Nearer the date of departure, I checked the bus timetables and realised one consequence of this was that I had set myself up for a long journey each day on the bus, and not an especially cheap one, either. I realised an all day ticket for the buses would be £16 each day plus more if I wanted to take the train at any point or use a different companies buses. So it was rather timely that an email popped in my inbox a few days before from Hertz advertising an Autumn sale. I wondered how much it would cost to hire a car from Aberdeen Airport from them instead of take the bus. I was rather surprised. Including VAT, unlimited miles, and mandatory (3rd party) insurance it was only £9.24 a day for the cheapest car. I only had to fill it up with fuel before returning it (the tank was already full on collection). The insurance excess was £900 mind, but I didn’t need to claim on it, so that was OK. So it ended up being considerably cheaper than using the bus!
On arrival at the airport I headed to the car hire desk, expecting to find all manner of not so optional extras I’d have to pay for, but it was not so and within a few minutes I was given the keys to my hire car (a white Vauxhall Corsa). By this time though it was late morning and I still hadn’t reached the coast so I opted to do the shortest of the walks I had planned for this trip, from Newburgh to Cruden Bay, which was also the closest walk of those that I had planned. It took me about 40 minutes to drive to Newburgh. There didn’t seem to be a car park in the village centre, so I parked in a layby on the main road through the village. I stopped to buy lunch at the shop and then set off.
I did not really know what to expect from this walk. The map of the North Sea Trail from the Council website showed that there was a coast path as far north as Slains Castle but nothing then until Whinnyfold, so I suspected it would be more walking on minor roads or trying to stick closer to the coast and climbing over barbed wire fences, as usually seems to be the case.
I started by heading north on the A975 past the housing of the village then some newer housing on the right which then marked the end of the village. I had to get across the River Ythan and the nearest crossing is the road bridge on the A975.
Thankfully the pavement beside the road continues so at least it was relatively safe.
At the end I reached the bridge, Waterside Bridge and crossed it. The tide was low, so it was mostly mud flats and it did not look overly appealing in the dull weather.
Across the other side was another car park and this one was for the Forvie Nature Reserve, which I had now reached. There was a good path south initially, but it soon turned off to the east. This though would cut off the sandy spit at the mouth of the river, which I decided would be cheating. So instead I continued south along the path which after a while became a bit narrower.
This didn’t really matter though because by the time it had, there was sand rather than mud beside the path so I headed down onto the beach.
It was now a very pleasant walk along the sands. As I got nearer the south there were some area where the water obviously heads quite a long way into the dunes at high tide, so I would have to be careful as it was a bit muddy in places and I didn’t want to get cut off.
As I neared the south edge of the river mouth as I was in for another pleasant surprise, on the sands by the waters edge were a number of seals. I didn’t get too close to them, but I did get close enough to get a few photos.
Probably better in fact than the man on the other side of the bank who was trying to zoom into them – he’d be better off walking around!
As I continued round the corner there were even more seals. It was a lovely sight. I stayed far enough away not to disturb them and remembered now that I had seen seals on this side of the river earlier in the year, when I walked there.
Once around the corner I had a beautiful sandy beach to follow, backed by a large dune system and I could see just one other person on the mile or so of beach I could see. Wonderful.
It was easy walking until a place called Rockend, which for me at least, should have been called Rockstart!
There was then a good coast path around the edge of the fairly low cliffs north.
After around half a mile of fairly easy walking, I reached the next beach, this one Hackley Bay.
This was really beautiful – and totally deserted. A wonderful place. The path headed round the back of the beach and all too soon I was passed it.
Not far beyond that there was another rocky beach, North Broad Haven. It was pretty, but not as good as Hackley Bay.
The path once again continued around the top of the low mostly grassy cliffs which I suspect were formed mostly from a large dune system. The path had gained a bit of height now as I passed the next beach at Perthudden. This too was mostly rocky.
Once around that I had reached the village of Collieston, with the roofs of the houses and the harbour ahead.
I followed a track which joined to the road and followed it down to the harbour.
I liked Collieston, it had a lovely sandy beach, a small harbour and a small cluster of houses behind both. I headed down the path onto the beach and walked to the north end of the beach where there was the harbour wall.
There was then a path close to the base of the low cliffs to another small rocky beach. There was a little car park here and a viewing platform where you could get a good view back to Colieston.
I was however more pleased with what I saw ahead – a sign saying “Path to Whinnyfold”.
This didn’t match what the Council’s official map said so I don’t know if the path had been extended or their website was simply wrong, but I suspect it is the former, as some of the posts and gates on the path looked quite new. Admittedly, the path did have the warning “Steep and Narrow Sections – take care”, but I didn’t mind that, at least it would mean no climbing fences today!
The path headed up steps from the cliff and rocks and I was disappointed to see looking back a local tradesmen had disposed of his unused paint and tins by simply chucking the pots onto the rocks, splattering paint everywhere. What a mess.
Still the view once I was at the top was lovely. Looking back a group of pensioners were now occupying the viewing platform.
Ahead the coast was becoming more rocky with chunks of what I think are limestone heading out into the sea from the otherwise grassy cliffs.
I passed a small headland, now almost an island and ahead there were numerous rocks sticking above the water forming tiny islands. A lovely stretch of coast.
The path I was following had started out well, but was getting narrower and I suspected was mostly now a track used by the sheep – there were lots of them on the cliffs. The way they seemed to stay still then run off in a panic only when you right behind them did make me worry about one was going to fall over the cliffs, but happily they didn’t.
There was another rocky beach at Hummel Craig with a rocky island in the middle, spectacular. Rounding this I could see the ruins of Slains Castle ahead.
I have to say I was a bit a disappointed here. Having seen some other spectacular ruins on the Aberdeenshire coast, I was hoping for something similar, but there was only a part of one wall remaining and an ugly 1970s house built beyond it on the headland, which looked so out of place.
The path continued to undulate, past many more sheep until I reached the beach just south of the castle, which seems to be unamed. I continued north soon crossing the road leading to the castle and more modern house and ahead had a fine view, this is Broad Haven.
The coast path was getting rougher now, but I was pleased to spot this sign on a new looking post.
There seemed to have been some rather half-hearted attempt to create a coastal path, the North Sea Trail I think it was called back in about 2007 as a pan-European walk, but it rather feels like it got about half done and then stopped, leaving stretches of the coast with a path and others without and numerous odd dead-end paths. I had seen a few now faded signs for this, so it was a surprise to see this was marked with Aberdeenshire Coastal Path. Perhaps the project has been revived, and the council is going to make a full coast path along Aberdeenshire? We can only hope. (Though a google search doesn’t bring anything up, only the driving route instead).
This was a lovely stretch and once behind the beach I had view back to the castle and what turned out to be a small cluster of houses around it.
Soon I had reached the far side of the bay and had a last look back to the castle – it looks better from this angle.
Onwards the coast was continuing to become more rocky and rugged, with numerous rocks and inlets along the coast.
I soon had a fairly steep valley to descend, but there was a bridge at the bottom. Back up I was on the cliff tops again.
The coast path had now deteriorated to the point it was barely even visible and in truth all it really meant now was that when I came to a fence or stream there was a stile or bridge, but not much more, although it was all I needed and made a pleasant change from scaling fences.
I soon reached Radel Haven, where there was even a small waterfall going down the cliff face. There was a rocky beach and another valley to cross at Fawn Pot which was a lovely remote beach.
Ahead things got even more spectacular, as I reached Bruce’s Haven where there was a rock stack.
The rough coast path continued along the cliff top to the next rocky beach, Green Craig. Perhaps the green-covered rock in the centre of the bay is Green Craig (I was trying to guess why the beach might be called that).
The “path” was hard going now as it was through rough grass and not really a path at all, but it least it went outside of the fields.
Rounding the corner I now reached the rocky bay of The Veshels where I spotted some shags on the top of a flatter part of the cliff at the shore.
I continued around the coast, passing a gully and then the bay of Harrol with another rocky islet just off the beach.
A short distance ahead I was now approaching the small village of Whinnyfold, a fishing village.
The village doesn’t have a harbour so instead the beaches are launched from the single beach below and there was a few there, now catching the late afternoon sunshine, that had broken through the cloud.
The beach is accessed via a steep zig-zag path down the cliff face.
As I reached the village the coast path joined the minor road through this small village, passing the pebble-dashed cottages. At the end of the road, I was pleased to find the sign “Path to Cruden Bay” so I would have a coast path again for the rest of the way.
The path rounded the corner into the beach of Broad Haven a rock and sandy beach with another rock stack in it, this one with an arch cut through it by the sea, it was quite spectacular.
From the cliff top at the far side, I could now see my destination of Cruden Bay ahead. However first I had to round the next beach, Sandy Haven. Despite the name it was rocks and pebbles not sand, which were a sort of pinky-grey colour.
Rounding this bay I now had the spectacular sandy beach of Cruden Bay ahead, which stretches for over a mile to the village of the same name, at the north end of the bay.
Initially, the beach was stone and rocks but soon I could get across this onto the sand and just had to follow the sandy beach the rest of the way.
A long walk along a sandy beach is a lovely way to finish a coast walk. The tide was quite high so in places there was not as much hard sand as I’d like (and what there was had dried out a bit during the day so was now quite soft) but it was still much easier going than the thick grass of earlier in the walk.
It was beautiful in the early evening sunshine.
Part way along the beach a stream marked on the map had entirely dried up, or at least the water had gone under the sand.
Soon I was nearing the village of Cruden Bay and there is a small river, Water of Cruden that flows out over the beach.
This one had not dried up but that didn’t matter because this one had a handy bridge, called Ladies Bridge. I assume, despite the name, men are allowed to use it because I crossed it too!
Downstream I could see the remains of some old World War II tank-traps in the water.
Unfortunately for me I had about a 45 minute wait for the next bus back to Newburgh once I reached Cruden Bay. Rather than waste the time sitting at the bus stop I decided to explore the little headland at the north end of the bay, where there is the village of Port Errol, the harbour of Newburgh. I headed up on the path to the end of the headland where I could see the impressive ruins of Slains Castle ahead, which I’d pass next time.
(In case you are thinking I’ve gone mad because I’d already passed Slains Castle, you’d be right, in fact there are two, both ruined, and the one I passed earlier is sometimes called Old Slains Castle whilst this one is New Slains Castle).
It was rather an impressive ruin and reminded me a bit of Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast.
Between me and that though was another rocky inlet so I headed back passing the rather un-inspring harbour, a concrete square backed by a few sheds – not very pretty.
Now it was time to head back to Cruden Bay for the bus back to Newburgh. This came on time and it did not take me long to get back to Newburgh.
Here I picked up my hire car and drove back to Portlethen. I set off on the A975 in the direction of Aberdeen. It was dusk now and of course, being a man, when picking up the hire car earlier I had only bothered to work out where the indicators were and not read the insturctions. However as I left Newburgh it started to rain and whilst driving along I couldn’t see how to turn on the windscreen wipers. I just seemed to be able to get them to wipe once, but not stay on. It also meant it was now getting dark and I should put the headlights on, but I couldn’t find the switch to do that, either. I pulled over to a handy lay-by where I found a photocopied sheet in the glove box showing where the controls were. The wind screen wipers you just had to push away from you (I think) instead of up. The control for the lights however was a dial mounted on the dash board near my right knee! I have never driven a car where the lights are not on a stalk around the steering wheel so that was a surprise (but I gather this is usually the case with Vauxhall cars). Once I’d got the windscreen wipers working as I wanted and the lights on I had an uneventful journey the rest of the way back to Aberdeen, as I was late enough in the day I had missed the “rush hour”.
Checking into the hotel I was once again placed in “the annex” and they were now building another annex since my previous visit. I had dinner at the hotel.
This was a lovely walk, passing spectacular scenery of rocky bays and beaches, littered with rock stacks. I also passed the pleasant little village of Whinnyford and the last mile or so along the sandy beach of Cruden Bay in the late evening sunshine was a lovely end to the walk. It was good to that there was a “sort of” path the whole way so I wasn’t having to keep climbing over fences.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Stagecoach route 63: Peterhead – Longhaven – Cruden Bay – Newburgh – Balmedie – Aberdeen. Hourly seven days a week (this is under normal conditions – at the moment because of Covid/Coronoa Virus it is much less frequent). It takes around 20 minutes to travel between Cruden Bay and Newburgh.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk: Main Link