Friday 20 December 2013

Sandend and Portsoy

We stayed the night at the campsite in Sandend, a highly attractive sandy bay on the Buchan coast. The morning was cold and clear, and we went for a walk. A 19th century fishing hamlet hunkers down against the west side of the bay, and there are tank traps and pill boxes hiding in the dunes. As one of the few easily accessible beaches along this rocky coast, sleepy Sandend could have been on the front line in the event of a German invasion from Norway in 1940s.


Surfers say this beach is 'like Cornwall without the crowds'. The fishing villages of the Buchan coast are slightly less picturesque than their West Country counterparts, but there are no traffic jams or parking charges here.

Sandend's defences:

Not far from Sandend is Findlater Castle. Like Fast Castle in Berwickshire, there is no longer much to see of the fortress clinging to its precipitous headland. The reconstruction below (© Andrew Spratt at gives a better idea of what the castle would have looked like on its steep-sided little headland.

Findlater Castle: source:

It isn't known exactly when it was built, but an idea of its age can be gained from the fact that it had already fallen into disrepair when it was rebuilt in 1260 on the orders of Alexander III to guard against Norweigan attack. It was abandoned in the 17th century, according to an apocryphal story, because a nurse accidentally dropped the infant Ogilvie heir out a window into the sea below.

Back at Sandend, a pleasant coastal path leads to the next village along the coast, Portsoy. We had the misfortune to visit the harbour just as an intense and uncommunicative gaggle of photographers from a camera club descended, putting me off taking photos myself!

Portsoy rocks:

The town was chartered in 1550, its harbour built in the 17th century by Jacobite Patrick Ogilvie of Boyne to ship out the local stone, a green serpentine which was sold under the name 'Portsoy Marble'. You can still buy it today from the shop on the harbour. Its most famous use was in the making of Versailles Palace.

Portsoy harbour:

Portsoy flourished on herring in the 19th century as did many Scottish fishing ports, but today it is a sleepy haven for pleasure boats, houses on steep north-facing slopes tumbling down to crowd around the small harbour. Each June it hosts the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival - definitely the time to visit!



Ian Johnston said...

Hi Robert, travelling around from Craigievar to Portsoy you must have just about passed my house! Great to see others posting about Sandend; my favourite local sea kayaking is a trip from here to either Portsoy or Cullen

Kind regards

Robert Craig said...

Hi Ian - Craigievar and Portsoy were two different trips, and we usually pass through friends near Inverurie when in that part of the world. Haven't done anything for two months, so these were trips from April and May. Would love to walk the whole Buchan coast, the bits I've seen have been good, with interesting villages!

Plenty kayakers out when we visited in April, was cracking weather for it. Who knows, maybe you were one of them!

blueskyscotland said...

Cant beat the east coast for good weather. A new area for me and it looks an interesting one.