The Coast Road from Aberdeen
The third main route stretching north from Aberdeen is the A92, becoming the A952 to follow the coast. It is part of the Coastal Trail leading to Peterhead, Fraserburgh and the host of coastal villages along the Moray Coast.
One of the most distinctive golf courses perhaps in the world is Cruden Bay golf course, some 25 miles (40km) further north. Overlooking the course and jutting out on a headland is Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is at Cruden Bay that the vampire waded ashore to give his blood-lusting attentions to Lucy. Bram Stoker frequented this area on holiday and finally retired in the nearby village of Whinnyfold.
Peterhead is a further 5 miles (8km), famous for its harbour, fish-market and prison. This is the busiest whitefish port in Europe. The harbour is worth a glance, although there is nothing picturesque about it unless you have a liking for fishing trawlers.
The Ugie Salmon Fishings in Golf Road is the oldest working fish house in Scotland, smoking salmon and trout by traditional methods.
Peterhead Maritime Heritage on South Road is an entertaining vision of the rich maritime history of the people of this district conveyed by the usual audio-visual and computer touch screen methods. Also in town is the Arbuthnott Museum and Art Gallery which gives information about fishing and whaling as well as displaying a collection of Arctic artefacts from the collector, Adam Arbuthnott. Fish suppers, need we say, are particularly good here.
Travel west on the A950 to Aden Heritage Centre and Country Park near Mintlaw. Its centrepiece is Home Farm; an early nineteenth century steading which has been reconstructed and evokes the sights, sounds and smells of farm life of that era. Also nearby is Deer Abbey, an enclosed ruin that was founded in 1218 by William Cowyn, Earl of Buchan, for a Cistercian Order.
Fraserburgh, like Peterhead, has made its wealth from the fishing industry and, judging by the standard of the homes and cars in town, it has done well from the 'silver darlings'. During the herring boom days of the late 1800s, over 1,000 sailed fishing boats would cram the harbour to offload their catch.
Fraserburgh today is not a noted holiday destination but for those that decide to visit or stay, it is very friendly and likeable with several good restaurants such as Findlay's Bar and Uptown Restaurant (Tel 01346 519547) located in the modern suburbs.
There are long stretches of beach where the North Sea meets the Moray Firth, and these are known for their cleanliness. There are two good golf courses nearby, Fraserburgh and Inverallochy, both difficult links layouts. There are also plentiful opportunities for sea angling.
The coastline improves further west following the B9031 with charming little cottages and villages such as Pennan where some scenes from the movie, Local Hero, were filmed. For those seeking an undiscovered retreat, this area is ideal.
Striding west into the Banff and Buchan District, MacDuff is a quaint little town with a bright outlook across the Moray Firth. This former spa town is still active in the fishing and boat building industry, and construction of small yachts or boats can be seen in the local yards. The Seaway Net Company supplies nets to the trawlers in Fraserburgh and Peterhead as well as other parts of the country, and you can look in on the process.
Macduff Marine Aquarium, easy to spot at the west end of High Shore, offers one of Europe's deepest viewing windows while the main tank allows for the creation of a living kelp reef. There is a modest charge for entry with the family ticket representing the best value.
Across the seven arched bridge of the River Deveron is the town of Banff, a Mecca for golfers with Duff House Royal Golf Club being the most noted course in the area, its greens created by the same designer as those of Augusta National in Georgia, USA.
Set amidst the fairways is Duff House, a Georgian Baroque home of some architectural distinction that has been put to use successively as a hotel, prisoner of war camp and hospital. Constructed between 1735 and 1737 by architect William Adam for William Duff of Braco, it has been refurbished and opened as a country house art gallery.
Amongst its treasures are tapestries, paintings and some furniture. There is also a tea-room of some splendour and the obligatory souvenir shop. There are some fine walks around the old estate and along the banks of the River Deveron. A map provided indicates where and to what purpose many of the old buildings were put to.
Further on along this pleasant coast, its hinterland rich in agriculture, is the fishing town of Portsoy built around a seventeenth century harbour which is its central attraction. Many of the old buildings around the harbour and town square are also worth noting.
Portsoy Marble Workshop is set on the west side of the harbour and sells products made from local Portsoy marble which was once sent to Versailles. This ranges from brooches and rings to paperweights. Inland a mile or two from the A98 is the village of Fordyce with its ancient castle and pleasant Englified lanes.
Back on the coast, the village of Cullen was begun in 1817 as a purpose-built community and, soon after, its small harbour was busy with herring fishing boats. The village specialised in the export of smoked haddock. 'Cullen Skink', a fish soup recipe, has since become famous world-wide.
The town is distinguished by the series of impressive railway viaducts, which divide the older Seatown from the more agrarian upper town. The viaducts were built because the Countess of Seafield would not allow the railway line to cross the grounds of Cullen House.
Taking a detour on the A942, along the coast, you
will fine several Moray coast villages such as Portknockie, Findochty and Buckie,
distinctive communities once given over to fishing but increasingly sprucing themselves
up for the tourist trade. For a real culinary treat, book a table at The Old Monastery,
Tel 01542 832660. The A98 continues west to Fochabers described earlier in this chapter.
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