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.

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.

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?

44 Comments »

  1. How, in the first picture of that famous castle, does one get up to the castle? I see people near the bottom…is there an elevator or stairs hidden from view? I would have loved to gave been around where you went to. I love the art you saw and the villages.

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  2. Hi Anabel – so much history and what an amazing area to visit – I too would love to see that area. The video of the sea – reflects its power … I’ve always loved it and can’t be far away from the sea. Joan Eardley’s self-portrait is beautiful … I can see the draw of her art. Sad she died so young. Fabulous visits you’ve had – thanks for recording them for us … and for you! Cheers Hilary

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  3. The castle setting is so stunning! And all so green. Those old rows of tidy, white cottages do make me wonder what they look like on the inside. Compact little boxes.
    All the sculptures are delightful, too.

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