Day 84 Moray Fishing Towns

Sunday 28 June 2015

Macduff to Cullen

17.5 miles

Cullen Harbour Hostel

What a great day – I felt like I was due one. It was an inauspicious start as it was pouring with rain when I got up so, having requested an early breakfast (8 am) I promptly then hung around until the rain stopped at 10 am. I was glad to leave as the place stank of dogs (the owners had 9) and there were hairs everywhere in my room. 

It was a short walk around Banff Bay on the road, crossing the River Deveron. Whereas Macduff harbour had fishing boats in it, Banff harbour had small yachts. There didn’t look to be a great difference in the 2 towns but I bet there is a huge rivalry. Both towns are built on hills that seem to guard the exit of the river into the sea. At Banff there was a spring that the Romans had built a structure over and it was known as the Red Well (pronounced Reed Wall up here!). A bit like Stonehenge, the light is apparently different at dawn on the summer solstice and, if looking out from inside, the sun rises over the sea up to 21 June and then over the land (at Troup Head) from 21 June. Perhaps it was a farming calendar?  

The Red Well, Banff
 The walk from Banff to Whitehills was on a cycle path so easy going. For the first time in a while I saw sand bags propped up against the seafront houses. It is interesting how many of the houses on the sea front are built sideways on with only one small window facing the sea, very practical and will probably also keep them safe from 2nd home owners! 

Fishermen’s cottages built side-on to the sea
I stopped at a shop and noticed the headline in the local paper was all about a stand off between wildlife activists and the Scottish Wild Salmon Company (whose shed I’d noticed yesterday in Gardenstown). The activists were trying to stop the Salmon Company from shooting seals that were presumably feeding on their salmon. An interesting argument this one as I found out later in Portsoy because the salmon numbers have dwindled right down and the seal numbers are huge now that man no longer culls them. 

In Whitehills I stopped for a coffee and was considering getting the bus as the next section was along a road; however, the waitress convinced me that it was a nice walk along a very minor road and she was right. I had good views to the see as the road was higher than the cliff edge.  

Great place to sit and admire the view back to Whitehills
 It also meant I got to cross the pretty wee valley that the Burn of Boyne flows through. 

Watermill in Boyne Valley – complete with plastic duck in the river!
  Unfortunately Boyne Castle was hidden from my view and I wasn’t about to walk across the fields to look for it, although I was told this is possible. The sun was shining again but there was a big black cloud approaching and I was hoping to make it over the hill and into Portsoy before it hit. I didn’t make it and got a good soaking. It didn’t matter though because I treated myself to an ice cream from the Portsoy post office, where they make their own, and then the sun came out again. (There was no banana flavour ice cream because next weekend is the Portsoy International Traditional Boat Festival and this year bananas have been deemed bad luck!) I wandered down to the Seatown (all the towns here are built on hills around a harbour with the main town at the top and the Seatown down by the harbour) and stopped at The Salmon Bothy.  

The Salmon Bothy at Portsoy
 This is an old, and quite grand, ice house that has been turned into a small museum. Just like in Gourdon a few days ago, I was shown around by a very enthusiastic volunteer. I saw a model of laid out salmon fishing nets, which explained what I had seen in the sea at Lunan Bay, saw photos of the old cobles (similar fishing boats to those in N Yorks) and enquired that, yes, the fishermen did wear ganseys. Nice to see the same traditions linking England and Scotland.  

The community room in the Salmon Bothy complete with knitted fish
 Portsoy had a community spirit and the Salmon Bothy seemed to be a bit of a hub for all sorts of community activities and clubs, not to mention the office for organising the annual Boat Festival. The ladies of the town had built a rowing boat (painted pink) that they raced and the children had built optimist sailing dinghies that they called pessimists because there has been no wind when they tested them.  

 I stopped in the cafe for some tea before the last leg to Cullen. The sun was shining and it was a wonderful walk over the cliffs to Sandend Bay (where I saw 7 people in the sea; 4 without wetsuits). 

The beautiful beach at Sandend Bay
  I crossed the lovely beach and headed up the cliff again, this time on an unmaintained path. Thank goodness for my walking poles as at one point the path fell away but I couldn’t see this through the waist high grass and nearly fell down a steep slope! I suffered a second rain shower and this one didn’t seem to be coming from a cloud as the sun was still shining!  

A rainbow over the cliffs
 Fortunately the path improved and there were stunning views of the cliffs and of Findlater Castle, built in 1455 by Sir Walter Ogilvy and abandoned in the mid 1600s. It was in a good place to withstand attacks!  

Findlater Castle
 Soon the path dropped down the cliff into Sunnyside Bay, a secluded bay that is a decent trek from the nearest car park. Suddenly the path was through head height grasses and I couldn’t even see the beach!  

Head height grasses and I’m on Sunnyside Beach!
 I did find Charlie’s Cave, a rock with a dome shape in it (not even a proper cave) where Frenchman called Charlie made a home for himself and lived for 13 years with 2 cats and a vegetable patch. He deserted from the French Navy in WW1 and stopped here until eventually a landowner complained and he was moved on. Incredible story and what a harsh place to live.  

Charlie’s cave – no more than a hollow in a rock
 For the first time the coastal path actually skirted around the cliffs at Logie Head and at one point I had to climb the Giant’s Steps, which were hand cut and placed by one man in 1987 to improve the path. The locals have made a memorial to Tony Hetherington.  

The Giant’s steps – the only exit from Sunnyside Beach
A proper cliff path!
Finally I was within sight of Cullen. Just the pet cemetery to walk past, which was being tended by an old man who I subsequently found out built it as a labour of love. He wrote to the Queen for permission when the council refused his request and he meticulously keeps it tidy, thoroughly cleaning all the stones and brushing the sand away (it is by the seaside!). Sounds like a bit of an eccentric who doesn’t like his wife! I did see one gravestone that read Sammy the Seal.  

The beautifully kept Cullen Pet Cemetary, right on the shore
 I was staying right on the harbour front in a really well appointed hostel, which I had all to myself. It was quite late so I headed straight up the hill to the pub I’d been recommended for some dinner.  

Cullen Bay
 Had a lovely seafood platter and a pint at the Three Kings and then I got chatting to the locals and it all went horribly wrong. 

A fishy dinner fit for a king!
  A few pints and a whisky later I staggered back down the hill well after closing and forgetting to pay my tab! It had been a good night. Thanks to Campbell the landlord, and Michael and Peter for the conversation and the drinks.  

Looking through the railway arches at the sun setting over Cullen Bay

8 thoughts on “Day 84 Moray Fishing Towns

  1. Chris Frazer July 1, 2015 / 4:53 pm

    Awesome…lovely pictures showing some beautiful scenery and skies…..good to hear you are also enjoying the local hostelries and hospitality…… question if I may can you confirm how far the Romans advanced because I don’t think they ever went beyond the Firth of Forth?


    • Lucy July 1, 2015 / 7:24 pm

      According to the blurb I read the Romans definitely were behind the design of this well because it was all metric. I get what you’re saying though.


  2. Val K July 1, 2015 / 5:10 pm

    What a lovely long blog. Tell me is Cullen Bay where Cullen Skink originates from, a really lovely sort of thick creamy fish soup? Your antics at the local sounds like fun. Hope you didn’t have a
    sore ‘heed’ the next day. Val x


    • Lucy July 1, 2015 / 7:23 pm

      Yes it is! I’ve eaten it twice now and love it!!! Got away with only a slight headache, I was lucky.


  3. Gareth bryant July 1, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    The old ‘I forgot to pay my tab’ routine. You will get yourself a UK-wide reputation!! Glad to hear you had such a good day. Less walking the next day I am guessing?!


    • Lucy July 1, 2015 / 8:11 pm

      I went back the next day and paid it! Can’t have them thinking bad of the RAF. I’m behind on the blog but I managed a full day on Monday, after a lot of water!


  4. salmunday July 2, 2015 / 9:42 am

    this sounds like such a wonderful day – I am so jealous!
    Did you actually go and pay the bar tab???


  5. Charlie July 3, 2015 / 4:46 am

    Hey luc. Is Charlie’s cave still available to hire you reckon? Having seen that fish supper (for a king) I reckon I cld give it a go! x


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