THE SHIRE // Stonehaven: A Castle and Ice-Cream Mountains

12.5.14

I've had this post sitting here for weeks now.. I'm not quite sure why I haven't published it sooner. Hey ho.

Stonehaven harbour
On a bright and sunshiney day back in April, Lesley and I hopped in the car and headed down the coast  towards Stonehaven for a little adventure..

Considering how easy it is to reach, Stonehaven's not a place where I've spent a lot of time. As a young child it was the destination of occasional adventures on the train with my grandparents, but I have no real recollection of those visits (though my scarred knees still bear the memory of one particular accident with a swing!) and I've only ever visited the town once in recent years.

I think it's the kind of place that suffers from being too far from home to just drop in for a quick browse around the shops, but not far enough away to make it a logical stop on a journey further south. It's unfortunate, really, because it's a pretty little town with lots to offer, from its quaint gift shops and restaurants, to its attractive coast and heated seawater pool.

On this occasion, however, we had one particular attraction in mind in the form of Dunnottar Castle.

Lesley was gripped by both my company and the surroundings.. ha.
Perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff overlooking the North Sea, the castle is a familiar sight from many a photograph, but not one I'd actually seen in person before now.  Originating from the Pictish word "Dun", meaning "place of strength", Dunnottar's name couldn't be more apt, standing proud and strong on its rocky headland for hundreds of years. These days it's a ruined shell of its former self, but it still paints quite the picture of romantic Scottish pride. 

Truth be told, the walk to the castle was nowhere near as dramatic as I'd envisaged. I was preparing myself for a bit of a scramble along jagged cliff tops, but the path is so well beaten by visitors that it's little more than a smooth amble up hill.

We parked the car in the centre of town, walked alongside the beach and the harbour, then followed the signposts leading to the track. From there it'd take quite a 'talent' (or a lot of fog) to go astray -- a single footpath runs the entire route, leading past pretty isolated beaches low down on one side and fields of brilliant green expanse on the other, all the way to the entrance of the castle itself.

C'est moi, by Lesley.

For a small entrance fee you can explore the inside of the ruins, but we were short of time on this visit so it wasn't really an option. Besides, as fascinating as I'm sure it'd be, the cheapskate within me knows there are multiple castle ruins closer to home that I can explore for free -- just one of the advantages of living in Scotland! 

On the way up (and back down) we passed the Stonehaven War Memorial, seated on the top of Black Hill, and had to go for a closer look. It's an intriguing monument with a feel of ancient Greece and I love that it was deliberately left looking incomplete or ruined as a representation of the lives lost too soon by acts of war. Very clever!

The daffodils were in full bloom, as you can see, and it was a pleasant place to pause for a while and to achieve our only successful Geocache of the afternoon.

War memorial on Black Hill.
Compulsory spot of Geocaching!

The sun was still shining by the time we'd wandered back down the hill and into town, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to check out an ice-cream parlour we'd been hearing lots about.

A tiny shop on the promenade, Aunty Betty's ice-cream and sweetie shop offers "a hundred thousand welcomes" and more sugary treats than Willy Wonka. It really deserves a post of its own, but the combination of sunshine and school holidays meant that it was too busy to admire properly as the queue stretched off down the road. This, of course, just means I'll have to force myself to return!

For now all I'll say is that when we finally got inside in the little store and opted for a two-scoop cone each (salted caramel and white chocolate for me) "with everything on top, please!" we hadn't quite anticipated the mammoth feasts about to be handed over to us. The ice-cream - made by Simpson's of Buckie - was absolutely delicious, but practically a meal in itself. And to think they offer a three scoop option as well!

Well worth a visit, but I'd probably go with a single scoop unless you have a particularly bottomless belly.. 

Ice-cream mountain the size of my face!

All in all it was a very enjoyable wee adventure down the coast that's left me eager to return and see what else Stonehaven has to offer.
If there's anything I should see, eat or do next time I'm in town please feel free to pop me a recommendation below!

3 comments:

  1. Even though I've lived in Aberdeen for most of my life and been to Stonehaven umpteen times, I have never been to Dunnotter Castle. I suppose as it's up a hill you and a bit out of the way you don't think on going there. Those ice creams look mahoosive but they look delicious :)

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  2. Oh I am very fond of Stonehaven. Thanks for that post! I can recommend going into Dunottar Castle whenever you have the time. The stone patterns on the walkways that take you under the gate, and the views from the windows out to the sea are what I remember most. It's definitely an impressive place to take any visitors. Next time you're in "Stoney" I can recommend going to the Carron Restaurant, which is in an Art Deco time warp. The walk along the River Carron is very nice. And of course the harbour is fun to visit. My Dad really enjoyed it, and we also went into a little museum that's down there (I presume it's still there). I think the fish and chips at the pub at the harbour (the Ship Inn?) are supposed to be good. Lastly, there's a nice Christian coffee shop between the market square and the River Carron.

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  3. This is really handy, I've been talking about going to Stonehaven for ages, especially for those massive Aunty Betty's ice creams!

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