Round Britain: Carnoustie to Stonehaven

The campsite was quiet when we awoke but the nearby rookery was very noisy. After picking up supplies in Carnoustie we continued on Arbroath Road towards East Haven. The village won a Gold Award in Britain in Bloom 2018 as the best Coastal Village. The coastal path and National Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Shetland pass through. On Sunday morning there was a pop-up café run by a guy originally from Kent/Sussex who had been in the army and married a local woman he had met when she worked at the nearby military base. The café supports the public toilets here which were very nicely decorated. The town dates back to 1214 and is one of the oldest recorded fishing communities in Scotland. The first owner of the Barony of Panmure granted a charter to the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey, providing an acre to build a homestead on and the right to charge a toll on fishing. At that time the village was known as Stinchendehavene which is thought to relate to the smell of rotting seaweed. It has had various names over the centuries. There was a lot of kelp on the beach the day we visited. It became a burgh in 1541 with the right to hold a market. East Haven had a station but lost the railway due to the Beeching cuts.There are local sculptures nearby, the first by Ian Chalmers of Chainsaw Creations on the Black Isle.

The war memorial remembers the role of Airedale Terriers and is sculpted from granite by local sculptor Bruce Walker.

The café guy told us that there were plans to recreate an 1870 photograph of all the villagers.

Continuing north, we reached Arbroath and parked by the shore in Inchcape Park. Wandering into town we passed the Signal Tower Museum, formerly the Signal Shore Station for the Bell Rock Lighthouse which is 11 miles off the coast. However, it is closed on Sundays.

The football stadium is right on the sea-front which must be cold in winter. James recalled going to matches at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen which is in a similar situation and very prone to winter winds off the North Sea. Arbroath FC’s claim to fame is that in 1885 they beat Aberdeen Bon Accord 36-0 which still stands as the world record for the most goals scored in a professional football match. First settled in the 12th century and situated at the mouth of the Brothick Burn it was called Aberbrothick until the mid 19th century. It was known for making sail cloth, including for the Cutty Sark but was always connected with fishing, the first harbour opening in 1394.

Arbroath Abbey sits in the town. It no longer holds the Declaration of Arbroath which is kept with the National Records of Scotland. The abbey was founded by King William I.

The large circular window in the south transept is known as the Round O and was rebuilt in the 1800s by Robert Stevenson who constructed the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

The staff member in the Abbey told us that St Vigeans Pictish Stone Museum was open today (it is usually only open on demand) so we drove over to the outskirts of the town where it is situated. The 32 carved Pictish stones were discovered when the church was being refurbished in the 19th century.

One thing we did not have time to do was to walk out to the sandstone cliffs which have some geological wonders. Later, we passed Lunan Bay and stopped at Montrose Basin. In the 12th and 13th centuries Montrose harbour was the centre of the local salmon export industry, second only to Aberdeen. The salt pans around the basin have been cleared out and made into pools for wildlife and it is now managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Crossing the River South Esk, we passed Montrose Harbour which has both a Lifeboat and International Rescue Boat Station. One mile north of the town, we stayed for the night at a Britstop on a fruit farm.

The next morning, we crossed the River North Esk and entered Kincardineshire. Our first stop was at St Cyrus Nature Reserve which includes grassland between the volcanic cliffs and the dunes and has an extensive beach.

Back on the A92 the road passes through St Cyrus, past Johnshaven and Gourdon before entering Inverbervie where we picked up more supplies. A little further north we encountered the haar: a mist which occurs when cold air from the sea meets warmer air on land an condenses. It occurs during the summer months along much of the east coast of Britain. We looked around Dunottar Castle which we had visited previously a couple of years ago before heading to our campsite in Stonehaven.

Leaving Shetland and exploring coastal Aberdeenshire and Angus

We had our last sunset in Eshaness, packed up and as our ferry was not due to leave until late afternoon the following day, slowly made our way to Lerwick with a stop in Scalloway en route. We were now back on two-lane roads. The castle was built in 1600 and sits in the natural harbour. The adjacent museum is very good and covers the links with Norway as well as local history. In World War 2 the ‘Shetland Bus’ travelled over regularly to support the Norwegians. Linking in with our recent visit to the Titanic Experience in Belfast, the person who first heard the May Day call of the Titanic was in Scalloway.

The ferry left Lerwick Harbour and after a meal and watching Shetland disappear in the mist we tried to sleep but that was difficult as the ferry stopped in Kirkwall on this trip and there was much clanging and banging as the ramp was lowered.

We arrived in Aberdeen harbour very early but as we did not need to meet the friends we were staying with that night until late afternoon, decided to drive slowly down the coast. The first stop was Stonehaven where a guy was trying to surf without much success.

The ducks looked a bit happier.

Just south of Stonehaven we entered the Dunottar Estate and woods. I was very glad to be back amongst trees after being in almost tree-less Shetland for a week. The Dunottar Estate and castle are privately owned, by one of the 500 people who own most of Scotland. It was raining but we looked around the castle and some of the grounds.

Further down the coast we passed the Todhead Lighthouse, Gourdoun, a harbour on Bervie Bay and in Johnshaven found an artwork for the bathroom in the Starfish Studio. It was dry enough for a walk by the time we reached the Nature Reserve at St Cyrus where poles stuck in the beach are the remains of old salmon net structures.
We had a very short walk on Lunan bay before the heavens opened again and we diverted inland to meet up with our friends before returning to four-lane motorways and traffic jams on the way home.