An Aberdeenshire adventure: Dunnottar, Catterline, and Stonehaven

Dunnottar Castle

On one of the days of our Easter break in Angus we ventured over the border into Aberdeenshire, visiting Dunnottar Castle, the tiny fishing village of Catterline, and the pretty harbour town of Stonehaven.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar was our first stop – it is possibly one of the two most iconic castles in Scotland, the kind that many people have seen images of and would recognise, even if they didn’t know where it was. (The other is Eilean Donan which we visited a few years ago.) Because it is perched on a rocky headland 160 feet high, there’s a steep climb down almost to sea level, then back up again to the gatehouse. On the way, we could glimpse in the distance the war memorial at Stonehaven which we would visit later in the day.

The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Soon we were in amongst them (still with views to the war memorial, just visible on the horizon in the first picture below).

Some of the highlights include the Marischal Suite with its interesting carvings. Enlarging the first image will tell you more about them.

The drawing room, restored in the 1920s, is the most intact room – absolutely magnificent. Again, enlarge for details.

Most poignant is the Whigs’ Vault where 167 Covenanters (Presbyterian rebels against acknowledging the King as head of the church) were imprisoned for 6 weeks in 1685 – a tragic tale. As the older plaque below says, the names of them all are recorded in the Castle Museum. I was interested to find two named “Annabell”, Annabell Gordone and Annabell Jacksone, a spelling I have only come across once before on Edgar’s Page. It was also interesting to see those surnames spelled with a final e.

After exiting the castle we had a final walk around outside before heading to our next destination: Catterline.


There were two reasons for visiting Catterline. One, we were told the Creel Inn would be a very good lunch stop – it was. Two, you might spot a plaque above the red bench in the above image – it commemorates the painter, Joan Eardley (1921-1963), long one of my favourites. Joan had two main, contrasting, subjects – depictions of children in 1950s Glasgow and the landscapes and seascapes around the village of Catterline where she spent much of her time.

Another memorial has recently been erected because 2021 was the centenary of Joan’s birth.

We have also visited several Eardley exhibitions over the last couple of years, including one in May at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Art Gallery. I found we had inadvertently replicated some of the paintings. Here’s the clearest example: Winter Sea III, shown with our photograph taken from the top of the village looking down to the harbour.

The rows of white cottages are probably much the same as when Joan lived there.

Unlike the sandy beaches we had visited earlier in the week, here there are rocky conglomerates.

And, oh, the sea, the sea! I can see why Joan was so fascinated.

It wasn’t just the look of it I loved, but the sound – the noise of the waves pulling back over the pebbles.

I could have listened to it for hours, but instead we made our way to our final destination of the day Stonehaven.


After parking in Stonehaven’s Market Square we strolled along to the harbour along the beachside boardwalk with its quirky selection of sculptures, including one of a WW2 Norwegian seaplane.

We liked the way that Phil has joined in with his own contributions!

At the harbour is the Tolbooth Museum, the oldest building in Stonehaven.

The harbour itself is lovely.

After looking round it, we climbed the path above the harbour heading for the war memorial we had seen from Dunnottar that morning.

We got another good view of the castle – had we not wanted to go to Catterline for lunch, the sensible thing would have been to leave the car at Dunnottar and walk the coastal path to Stonehaven.

As it was, we descended back into town via more garden art and some quaint looking shops.

This was a fabulous day out, and I would go back to any of these places in a heartbeat. It also marks the last of my posts about our Easter break and leaves me with only four months to catch up on. I sigh, and remind myself that I am doing this for fun! What will come next, I wonder?


  1. That’s a tick list of some of the best highlights of the Scottish East Coast.
    Like the quirky Stonehaven sculptures as well and that vault. Love tunnels of any kind.


  2. Your post today has conjured up many childhood memories for me. My Dad is Aberdonian so we spent many years driving up and down to visit my grandparents there and we usually stopped off at Dunnottar Castle and had fish and chips while sitting at the harbour at Stonehaven. I also chose Joan Eardley as the subject of an essay when studying Art at High School and the painting for my final art exam was inspired by her portraits of children. So thank you very much not only for another interesting post filled with lovely photos but also a pleasing dose of nostalgia.


  3. I always stuck to chronological order, Anabel, but I’m very tempted to meander with my latest UK collection, and I’m totally lost with the Algarve stuff. Catterline and Stonehaven look wonderful 🤗💗


  4. What a great day out! The castle is beautiful but for me the coastal scenery would be the biggest draw. Like you I love the sound of the sea on pebbles 🌊 Your photos capture it so well – I love the details of the pebbles etc. and the small white hut with the red door!


  5. Lovely photos. I had a feeling I’d been to a castle near Stonehaven, but I’d have remembered that drawing room. Must have been another one, visited on a Deeside holiday.
    Glad to see an artist had her centenary recognised.


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