285. Peterhead to Fraserburgh

September 2015

This was the third day of this trip to Scotland and a Sunday and I had kept this walk for Sunday as the coast west from Fraserburgh had no bus service on a Sunday. It was a long walk though but looking at the map, one which looked to be fairly flat and easy being mostly along the beach.

I decided to start from Peterhead, since that was closest to where I was staying just south of Aberdeen. I drove to Peterhead, which took a little under an hour after a bit of confusion finding a car park. I followed a sign that said town centre which took me quite literally to the town centre, but with the road ahead becoming pedestrian only, I turned down a narrow side street and soon came across a car park. In fact two, but the first one that I parked in was empty which made me a bit suspicious so I parked in the other one alongside which had a few cars in. I was pleased to see that there was no parking charge on a Sunday, but oddly you still had to print out a ticket from the machine, which insisted on taking a car registration number before it would do so. I didn’t know it (it is a hire care), which added to the frustration. Once parked up I had no idea where I was but I could see the back of an Iceland store, so followed a path next to this and ended up one of the main shopping streets, which was eerily quiet.

Peterhead

Soon I recognised where I was from earlier in the week and headed down the main street to the docks where I finished a previous walk.

Peterhead harbour

I followed the road past the last of the docks on the right. Many towns seem to have suffered a downturn in fishing largely due to a combination of overfishing and EU quotas. Yet here there still seems to be quite a large and healthy fishing community – there were quite a number of boats, many quite large, in the harbour.

Once past the docks I could follow the road along the sea front, with the houses to my left. The coast here was rocky at the shoreline with a sea wall, then grassy bank and then houses. It must be nice to have a view out to sea, although the area felt very quiet and a little run down.

The coast at Peterhead

The coast at Peterhead

As I reached the suburb of Buchanhaven there was a little bit of a harbour and pier sticking out. There were no boats though and indeed very little water too. Presumably the remains of some former industry. What there was lots of was sea weed, piled over all the rocks. But things were about to change.

The coast at Peterhead

I rounded a corner, where there was soon lots of sand to my right.

The coast at Peterhead

The coast was changing now and a look at the map showed me that I had around 10 miles of glorious sandy beach ahead of me. But before I could get there I needed to cross a river, this one the River Ugie, which is an odd name. Thankfully the promenade continued to the rivers mouth where there was a footbridge over the river. The George Birnie Memorial footbridge no less.

The River Ugie

The River Ugie

Once over I immediately turned right on the most coastal path through the dunes and down to the beach. The river crossing marked the end of Peterhead and a transition from where the coast became very rural again, with this dune backed beach spreading north for many miles now.

The coast north of Peterhead

The tide was out I so I had plenty of hard sand to walk on. Ahead there were low sand dune cliffs and some rocks, Craigewan.

The coast north of Peterhead

Here there was a rather awkward path around the back of the beach, but as is so common in Scotland above it was a golf course. And as so often seems to happen in Scotland there were golfers about to tee of, so I headed back down onto the beach and made my way around the rocks. Once around the beach continued as sandy all the way north for miles.

The coast north of Peterhead

Now there were few people about, I could see only around 3 or 4 people at the end of the beach, and that was it! Now ahead was miles and miles of glorious sandy deserted beach.

The coast north of Peterhead

After about a mile there was a small stream to cross but the water over the sands was shallow and only a couple of inches deep at the deepest point. There were some more rocks at Kirkton Head but here there was sand around the back of them, so it was much less of a problem. It was more good walking for the next mile or so Scotstown Head.

The coast north of Peterhead

Rounding the corner the sandy beach continued, but there was a chimney behind the beach. This is part of the large gas works which is behind the beach here and feels so out of place. However the Oil and Gas industry is the main employer in Aberdeenshire, and a large part of the Scottish economy as a whole. Thankfully it doesn’t really intrude much on the coast. There was no noise and no unpleasant smells, just this chimney and a flare stack.

The coast north of Peterhead

As I reached the south edge of the gas works there was a river marked on the map and I was wondering how I might cross it.

The coast north of Peterhead

In fact rather oddly, the water appeared to be pooling into a small lake at the back of the beach and not flowing over the sands at all.

The coast near St Fergus

I presume the sands are quite deep here and the water is simply soaking through them. The dunes were closer to the beach north of here I suspect partly because the tide was coming in, but there was still enough hard sand to make walking easy.

The coast north of St Fergus

Ahead I could now see the Lighthouse at Rattray Head and decided to make this my lunch stop when I was level with it. (You can just see it on the horizon below).

The coast north of Peterhead

The coast north of Peterhead

St Fergus gas terminal

It was a lovely walk along the deserted sands.

Approaching Rattray Head

The weather had been gradually improving during this walk and now the sun was beginning to burst through the clouds I soon came across another point of interest, the ruins of a boat, the sticking up out of the beach like a skeleton. I wondered how old it was. Obviously an all timber ship so perhaps a good 100 years or so?

Remains of a shipwreck at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

Remains of a shipwreck at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

Soon I was level with the Lighthouse and settled at the back of the beach for my lunch.

Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

The lighthouse is unusual here in that it is built in the sea, presumably on rocks, but there were none visible around it from my viewpoint, but the waves breaking around it suggested they are there and presumably the reason the Lighthouse was deemed necessary.

After lunch I continued north along the beach which continued to be absolutely stunning.

Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

There was quite a bit of seaweed on the beach north of the lighthouse and soon this cleared to make way for a large number of sea gulls.

Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

Near Rattray Head

The coast north of Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

The coast west of Rattray Head

The reason was likely that inland here there was a large loch, Loch of Strathbeg. I didn’t head over the dunes to see it though and continued along the beach north. There was another small river to cross leading out over the sands north of here but again it was simple to wade across and no more than ankle deep.

The coast north of Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire

In a little over another mile I was soon passing houses again on my left, the first for many miles. This is because I had reached the village of St Combs. I stuck to the beach though and did not see a lot of the village. I could keep to the beach though so didn’t really see any more of the village than the tops of the roofs.

St Combs, Aberdeenshire

There was at one point what looked like a bit of harbour wall and then I was back to the glorious sands again.

St Combs, Aberdeenshire

I was also pleased to reach the village – this was a long walk and this was the first place I had come to since leaving Peterhead, and it had a bus service meaning I could end the walk here if I was tired, but in fact had plenty of energy to continue.

It was more lovely walking along the beach.

Whitelinks Bay

As I approached the next village, Inverallochy, there became some rocks ahead, so I went to climb up the dunes to the top only to find myself on a golf course (again) and once more golfers were just teeing off to the green I had come up near. So I had to drop down and wait for them to finish. Once they had I took to the edge of the course for a short distance. This path soon ended at a road. I followed this through the village sticking to the most coastal road.

Like in a lot of Scottish villages, there were wooden posts along the grass in front of the houses which I think the local use to hang their washing up!

Inverallochy

As I was nearing the end of the village an elderly man came out of his house and started taking photos of it with a tablet.

As I got closer I sensed he was going to strike up a conversation, which was exactly what he did. He was painting and had put some of his works in his front window and was taking a photograph of them. They were impressionist works which I’m afraid is not something I’m a fan off so I had to pretend interest. I clearly pretended too well as when he asked me where I was from he suggested I should visit the galleries in London too and added “they are free you know”. I was half wondering if he was going to invite me in to look at his other paintings (he told me he had more than 100) but thankfully not. We then got onto the subject of where I was walking from and to and he then explained he was angry that north of there there was no bridge over the river. I had noticed that too and hoped like the others I could wade it. He told me he had been on at the Council to do something about it and make a nice coastal path, but with no response. It would indeed be nice to have a proper coast path but I asked him if he thought I would be able to wade across. He said at this state of the tide (which to me looked high) I would be fine, but it is sometimes nearly head height. When I reached the river I doubted this last statement!

I was eventually able to make my excuses (I had a bus to catch) and continued on my way. He was a nice man and obviously a bit lonely but he clearly loved living here overlooking the sea and who could blame him?

Nearing the edge of the village there was a small harbour ahead and to my surprise a ship wreck, not a sight you see often these days thankfully.

Ship wreck at Inverallochy

The details I could find were vague but it sounds like the captain had been distracted by a mobile phone, drifted off course and run aground. The shipwreck had been there about 10 years and the boat was now in a sorry state.

Passing this I came to the small harbour itself (presumably where the wrecked boat was heading).

Inverallochy harbour

There were only a half dozen or so boats there but it looked very much a leisure harbour rather than a working one. Beyond it I came to the river the elderly man had told me about, but again it was no more than ankle deep and no problem to get over (it’s the water flowing over the beach in the photo below).

Fraserburgh Bay

Once I did, I was back to fine beach walking again. This is Fraserburgh Bay and so my destination was now in sight.

Fraserburgh Bay

There was now much less in the way of hard sand and looking south I could still make out the lighthouse where I had lunch (right at the very left of the horizon below).

Fraserburgh Bay

The coast near Fraserburgh

The beach got busier as I neared Fraserburgh and was being used mostly by dog walkers.

Fraserburgh Bay

Fraserburgh Bay

There was a little stream as the dunes ended, but I was able to wade over this again. Beyond this I could pick up a little promenade for a while before the industry took over.

Fraserburgh Bay

Fraserburgh Bay

I headed along the rather run down streets around the south edge of the harbour until I reached the harbour itself.

Fraserburgh Harbour

Fraserburgh Harbour

It was a large harbour packed with large fishing boats – I think fishing is still a big industry in this area.

Fraserburgh Harbour

I followed the road behind the various parts of the harbour with the boats looking attractive in the early evening sunshine.

Fraserburgh Harbour

Fraserburgh Harbour

At the northern edge of the harbour I headed left along the roads into the town centre, passing the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses (closed at this time of day) as I did so.

Fraserburgh Lighthouse museum

Fraserburgh

I was looking for the bus station and soon found it. Station was a bit of a grand word really, there were about 4 bus stops along the road and a small building with a waiting room (closed at the weekends). Still in the end I had made it with about 15 minutes to spare, so I could sit down for a rest. I was pleased to find that the bus arrived a few minutes early so I could get on and sit in more warmth and comfort. It was a little mini bus and I wondered it this would have enough seats, but it did, it was never full.

It took around 45 minutes to reach Peterhead and I found myself drifting in and out of sleep on the way. Whilst I hadn’t felt tired whilst walking the chance for a rest had made me realised I was more tired than I had realised. We soon reached a part of Peterhead I recognised and then the bus ended at the edge of the pedestrianised part of the town. I headed down the main street until I saw Iceland and then found the path to the back of the shop behind which was the car park where I had parked earlier.

I then got back to the car and drove south back to my Hotel near Aberdeen, taking around 45 minutes. It had been a really lovely walk along glorious beaches for miles and miles in fine weather with few people about. It had been a very memorable and enjoyable walk. I was also pleased to have done the distance because it meant I wouldn’t leave any awkward gaps on the coast path to fill, this being a walk I needed to do on Sunday because it had a bus service.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Stagecoach buses route 69 : Fraserburgh – St Combs – Crimond – St Fergus – Peterhead. The bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and 6 times per day on Sundays. It takes around 50 minutes to travel between Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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7 Responses to 285. Peterhead to Fraserburgh

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, this is the ppoint where we pass over each other, figuratively speaking. Unfortunately i had a more inland route with high tide meaning I could not get around the two rivers you managed to ford. Its nice to know there are few obstacles after St Fergus.
    BTW the house and garden is top notch, with all of this stay at home, but really frustrating with all the extended days and sunshine. Stay safe. Alan

    • jcombe says:

      Yes I remember you finished last in Fraserburgh and stayed at the Whetherspoon. Perhaps I was lucky with the weather and conditions on this walk as I had expected problems but didn’t really encounter any. And yes it’s another fine weekend coming up where we can’t go anywhere!

  2. Lots of lovely beaches again, and I do love that little lighthouse in the sea.

  3. 5000milewalk says:

    Hi Jon, did you ever get a bit bored of the long, long beach? I’m a bit embarrassed to say when I was doing the stretch from Formby to Southport that I found it a bit tedious, mile after mile along the sand. And of course because you’re not passing things close up, progress seems to be painfully slow! Maybe it was just the mood I was in that day, it’s the only day I’ve done 8 miles of sandy beach so I’m not very experienced at it yet!

    • jcombe says:

      No I don’t really get bored on beaches actually though I can also understand what you are saying in that a long beach is perhaps not all that varied. But I enjoy walking next to the sea where you can hear and smell it and perhaps walk in the edge of the water if it’s not too cold (or deep). It also makes for an easy walk if there is some firm sand which is a bonus (though it can be horrible if there is only soft sand!). Though it can be hard to judge progress when there are few landmarks. I do remember that being a problem when walking Chesil beach (which is hard work as it’s all pebbles). Apparently fisherman landing on that beach at night can tell where they are by the size of the stones (they get smaller as you go west) I certainly didn’t know enough to be able to work that out though.

      Though a lot of people seem to think walking the coast is all about walking on beaches for miles and miles it actually mostly isn’t. There aren’t that many coastal walks I’ve done that have been entirely or mostly on beaches so perhaps it’s just that – it makes a nice change to have a long beach walk. If every walk was like that, perhaps I’d think differently about it!

      • 5000milewalk says:

        I’ve only done one long sandy beach so far, at Formby, and the sea was so far out I could hardly see it. I guess it’s nicer when it’s lapping near your feet 😊

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