North East 250: Day three
I took four days to drive the new North East 250 circular route. Here are the details of day three.
Banff to Maryculter
Distance: Around 85 miles
The tiny fishing village of Pennan was made famous as the fictional settlement of Ferness in the film Local Hero. Noticing that the campsite was only a few miles form Pennan, I agreed to meet Kay in the morning for another coastal run.
First though, I had to negotiate the narrow, winding and very steep road to Pennan. As I drove closer to the sea, the road became narrower and steeper and I wondered if I would be able to drive the van out again.
There is a final turn between a closely packed line of harbour houses where many obvious car metal scrapes could be seen. Thankfully, I negotiated this without a problem. I was obviously becoming more familiar with the size of the campervan.
Pennan is as picturesque as I had imagined. A small pebble beach and tiny harbour is surrounded by high steep cliffs. We had decided to run east to see if we could reach Aberdour Bay. The Walk Highlands route reckoned 4.5 miles each way, although I think it was less than this. We did the run there and back.
Again we were lucky with the weather. Sunshine and only a breeze allowed us to run in shorts and t-shirts and we enjoyed more fantastic views.
The route travelled further inland, rather than hugging the coast, and as we climbed up over headland and farmland we were afforded dramatic coastline vistas. I imagine Kay ended up a bit tired of all my oohs and ahhs but I really did enjoy the sights.
Note, this is not a flat route but heads up and down at many intervals.
After taking the obvious photo of the telephone box (I have to say I was a little underwhelmed by it!) we headed back up the steep road. I was nervous to start with but, in fact, the van coped admirably. The engine seemed powerful and I was son back on the main road along the north coast.
Lunch & beach at Fraserburgh
Driving further east to Fraserburgh, where we had lunch, I drank in the bucolic setting. The farmland is obviously very fertile and between newly ploughed fields was a rolling landscape of green pastures where sheep and cattle grazed. I spotted newborn lambs and calves and felt fortunate to be visiting the region at such a fresh time of year.
Fraserburgh has grown up around the fishing industry and today remains the biggest shellfish port in Scotland (according to on-line research) and one of the largest in Europe. It had a more down-at-heel vibe in places although the beach at the signposted Esplanade was truly stunning. It is a wide expanse of yellow sand with fabulous dunes. It you keep you eyes on the sand and not slightly to the left where some of the industry spills over you would feel as though you had walked in a picture postcard.
It’s worth visiting the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Fraserburgh, located close to a beach. Kinnaird Head lighthouse sits behind the museum and is interesting to wander around.
Fraserburgh to Aberdeen
After saying my goodbyes to Kay – and promising to see her again soon – I headed south from Fraserburgh towards Aberdeen. I had been told that the road would be busier here. It was, when compared to the west and north, but it was not as busy as central Scotland.
In any case, as soon as I could, I left he main road to follow brown signposts telling me of various attractions. I was tempted to drive down every small road towards the sea but I knew I was booked into campsite near Aberdeen for the night.
At one sign, near the village of St Fergus, north of Peterhead, I spotted “beach” on a sign. I diverted along a straight but narrow road to discover a car park and a sandy path over a large sand dune. As I topped out, the view of sand and sea beneath a blue sky was spectacular. It is called Scotston if you fancy taking a look.
Next on my whistle-stop tour of the East Coast I visited Bullers of Buchan (a place I had read about but never visited). The name refers to a collapsed sea cave, located adjacent to a tiny hamlet that was once a place were fishing boats were launched on a small slipway.
The area is filled with the noise and flight of nesting sea birds. I walked a high cliff path for a better view of the stunning rocks and coast. I could have stayed for hours listening, watching and taking photos but I had more to see.
Further along the road to Bullers of Buchan was the site of Slains Castle. It is an imposing ruin high on cliffs and reach by a sandy road. It is single track so you need to drive carefully and be prepared to pass other vehicles with caution.
The castle is commonly claimed to have been the inspiration for the author of the 1897 novel Dracula.
Cruden Bay itself is also well worth a visit. The sandy beach and dunes are both beautiful and atmospheric.
I had not travelled this coastline for many years and I was taken by how remote feeling it is, yet so close to the city of Aberdeen. Another beach to mention is Balmedie, with its famous sands and dunes.
A wee bit lost
It was as I skirted around Aberdeen to reach Maryculter that I made my first major errors of this NE250 route. For some reason, and perhaps due to the building of new roads to the southwest of the city, I ended up driving around in circles for 45 minutes. The Google map kept saying “re-route”, “re-route” but didn;t offer a good alternative option.
By the time I finally worked out how to get to Deeside Holiday Park I had lost my sense of humour. Luckily I had food and wine in the van and as soon as I had parked up and plugged in the electric hook up I was able to sit down to a nice glass of red and a simple salad and fish.
The campervan was a great place to sit back and relax.
As the sun set (much later than the night before due to daylight saving) I enjoyed another glass of wine and a film downloaded on to my iPad.
Deeside Holiday Park
Deeside Holiday Park, Maryculter, is a modern park with a new shower, toilet and laundry block. It’s a very well kept site with a mix of motorhomes, campervans, static caravans and tents. Being so close to Aberdeen I can imagine this being a popular site all-year-round.
Dinner was bought from a local Tesco (well, I think it was local although I did spend three-quarters of an hour trying to find the holiday park after shopping. I expect it was my poor navigation added to my phone’s inability to cope with the new road system.)
What else can I see?
Peterhead Prison Museum was closed by the time I passed by but I have been told it’s an excellent attraction. I did take a look at the outside though.
See North East 250.
Also checkout Introduction to North East 250.