I was curious to see Balmedie Estate, and the damage Donald Trump has caused with his new golf supercourse. (Not much apparently - at least from the beach.) But an Aberdeen-based friend recommended we head instead to Forvie, which he reckoned had the biggest sand dune in Europe (I always thought it was on the coastal side of the Gironde in France?). Balmedie is a lo-o-ong stretch of otherwise unremarkable beach between the estuaries of the Don and Ythan, but Forvie is something quite different: masses of dunes, a sand-engulfed village, loads of seals, and a clifftop walk to a pretty harbour. In the end we only had a couple of hours before dark - but Forvie exceeded expectations.
Just across the Ythan from Newburgh, a car park and information board prepare you for your visit. A short walk through a dark forest leads to a sandy trail, the village of Newburgh opposite, seals watching just offshore in the estuary of the Ythan.
It took a surprisingly long time to traipse through the soft shoreline sands, and well before the tip of the dunes at Newburgh Bar we cut across the desert-like landscape, the sea briefly out of sight.
On the other side the North Sea appeared.
About a dozen boats sat just offshore Aberdeen harbour, waiting their turn to dock.
We walked up the deserted North Sea beach, now in shadow, disturbing a vast gathering of seagulls who had thought they had finally got the beach to themselves for the night. The sea took on an icy blue appearance as the eastern sky lit up with the coastal equivalent of Alpenglow.
I was intrigued to find a church, like St Enodoc's or St Pirin's Oratory in Cornwall, nearly buried in the dunes. Information boards around the site tell you more. In medieval times this was a village called Forvie, but by the 16th century it was frequently "oftimes ourcassin be violent blasts of sandis" and was eventually abandoned.
I loved being here - and next time will walk all the way to St Catherine's Dub. But darkness was falling, and it was time to head back via the now spooky avenue of trees, the crow-mobbed Knockhall Castle silhouetted in the dying light of the western sky.
Aberdeen from Forvie:
Murder at Little Ross Lighthouse.
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