SCOTS Heritage Magazine - - Contents -

The Banff­shire coast is a haven for wildlife and per­fect for a Spring break

Sea views take on a whole new mean­ing for any­one liv­ing in, or vis­it­ing, the vil­lage of Crovie found on the north-fac­ing coast­line of Aberdeen­shire. Only a nar­row foot­path sep­a­rates the houses from the sea. In the win­ter it is not un­com­mon for the in­com­ing waves to break over the roofs of the houses.

Strung out like a neck­lace of pearls along the east side of Gam­rie Bay, the cot­tages at Crovie were built to give easy ac­cess to the sea. There is no space for cars in the vil­lage.

The area was first set­tled fol­low­ing the High­land Clear­ances when many fam­i­lies, forced off their land to make way for sheep, moved from in­land es­tates to the coast.

In his book, Con­fes­sions of a Banff­shire Loon, David Ad­di­son de­scribes Crovie as a last re­sort. ‘When you think about it, no-one would de­lib­er­ately choose to live in a place like Crovie, on a strip of land with the sea in your face and rocky cliffs at your back, would they?’

En­cour­aged by land­lords to build their own fish­ing boats, the fish­er­man in Crovie and nearby Gar­den­stown owned 50 boats be­tween them by the end of the 19th cen­tury. But by the first half of the 20th cen­tury as larger, more ef­fec­tive boats op­er­ated from other ports, the fish­ing in­dus­try grad­u­ally de­clined, fi­nally com­ing to an end in 1953.

That same year, hur­ri­cane winds and huge seas washed away a num­ber of houses and sheds, along

with stretches of Crovie’s sea de­fences and the path from the vil­lage to Gar­den­stown, a mile fur­ther along the bay. Af­ter the storm, most of Crovie’s res­i­dents moved to Gar­den­stown.

Gar­den­stown and Pen­nan, slightly larger fish­ing vil­lages flank­ing Crovie, also lie be­tween the sea and the cliffs. Life in th­ese vil­lages was a hard­ship and all along this coast­line ruins of 18th cen­tury croft houses can be found – evidence of the many fam­i­lies who even­tu­ally left to find a bet­ter life else­where, most of­ten in Aus­tralia or North Amer­ica. To­day, many houses in this area are hol­i­day res­i­dences, en­joyed dur­ing the sum­mer months.

Pen­nan gained world­wide fame in the 1980s when it was used as one of the main lo­ca­tions for Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Lo­cal Hero. The vil­lage’s red tele­phone box be­came one of the most fa­mous, and eas­ily recog­nis­able, in the world. It was in fact only a prop for the movie and although ini­tially re­moved, it was brought back by pub­lic de­mand and has re­mained in Pen­nan ever since.

The orig­i­nal har­bour at Pen­nan was es­tab­lished in 1704 and has since been re­built sev­eral times over the cen­turies fol­low­ing storms or dis­re­pair. It is still used to­day by a few fish­ing ves­sels. At one time the fam­i­lies in Pen­nan de­pended on the sea for their liveli­hoods and were a close-knit com­mu­nity – un­til the 1930s ev­ery­one in the vil­lage had one of three sur­names: Watt, Gatt or West.

Gar­den­stown is the largest of the three coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

It takes its name from Alexan­der Gar­den who founded the fish­ing vil­lage in 1720.

The nearby re­mains of the Church of St John the Evan­ge­list are older than Gar­den­stown it­self. Built in 1513 to cel­e­brate the de­feat of the Danes in 1004 af­ter the Bat­tle of the Bloody Pits, the church houses three skulls said to be­long to fallen Dan­ish war­riors. Due to this, it is lo­cally nick­named the Kirk of Skulls.

Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine has named the Banff­shire coast­line, with its abun­dance of nat­u­ral beauty and wildlife, as one of the most out­stand­ing in the world.

In sum­mer, boat trips to the RSPB’s re­serve at Troup Head, aptly called Seabird City, are well worth it. Gan­nets, kit­ti­wakes, guille­mots, ra­zor bills and puffins are aplenty in colonies lo­cated on the im­pres­sive red cliffs which rise 365ft out of the sea.

Some re­fer to this long strip of coast­line as the Dol­phin Coast, due to the large pop­u­la­tion of bot­tlenose dol­phins that in­habit the Mo­ray Firth.

One of the at­trac­tions of the coast­line is the wide open spa­ces where sea meets sky and the hori­zon goes on for­ever

Whales, por­poises and seals are also fre­quently spot­ted from the shore. In the sum­mer or­cas of­ten ven­ture down this coast­line from Ice­land.

To get closer to the abun­dance of aquatic life the North Sea has to of­fer, there is no bet­ter place than the Macduff Marine Aquar­ium. It was been de­scribed by tele­vi­sion wildlife pre­sen­ter Steve Back­shall as ‘the best aquar­ium ever’, and their liv­ing kelp wall is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Sev­eral miles west of Macduff is the pic­turesque har­bour vil­lage of Port­soy, which is known for its ser­pen­tine quarry, which pro­duces Port­soy mar­ble. This green semi-pre­cious stone can be found as far afield as the Palace of Ver­sailles. The quarry is still worked and there are many shops in the vil­lage sell­ing jew­ellery and other mar­ble prod­ucts.

Vis­i­tors to the Banff­shire coast of­ten re­mark upon the wide open space where sea meets sky and the hori­zon seems to go on for­ever.

In Lo­cal Hero, as­tron­omy buff Felix Hap­per, the char­ac­ter played by Burt Lan­caster, vis­its Pen­nan and de­clares that ‘the north­ern sky is a beau­ti­ful thing’. And so it is. The long sum­mer nights and sun­sets are just a few of the things that at­tract peo­ple to this spec­tac­u­lar, un­spoilt part of Scot­land.

Some re­fer to this long strip of coast­line as the Dol­phin Coast

Im­age: Pre­car­i­ously lo­cated on a thin rib­bon of land be­tween cliffs and sea, the un­spoilt vil­lage of Crovie is pop­u­lar for week­end breaks.

Im­age - Paul Butchard / Shutterstock, Inc.

Above: Duff House, Wil­liam Adam’s am­bi­tious man­sion built for Wil­liam Duff. Right: The har­bour at Port­soy hosts the pop­u­lar Scot­tish Tra­di­tional Boat Fes­ti­val in the sum­mer.

Above: Port­soy Har­bour plays host to the an­nual Scot­tish Tra­di­tional Boat Fes­ti­val. Right: The Mo­ray Firth is home to the most northerly res­i­dent bot­tlenose dol­phins in the world.

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