Ever-changing scenery, plants and wildlife galore on hidden coastline

Slains Castle.
Slains Castle.

Early on a sunny July morning at Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire we left our bicycles safely chained before setting off to explore the coastline and what delights were in store.

We watched a yellowhammer busy in the shrubs clinging onto an abandoned railway bridge parapet and also spotted nearby were song thrush, redpoll and skylark.

The hedgerows were covered in a beautiful orange raspberry type fruit. This was the salmon berry, related to the bramble and very destructive. It was introduced in Victorian times and there is an attempt being made to try and manage this invasive non-native plant here in the north. 

What a pretty picture on the pathway to visit the ruinous remains of atmospheric Slains Castle passing pink granite cliffs and deep ravines lined with so many colourful wild flowers. All along the headland in abundance were harebells, speedwell, ivy leaf toadflax, orange and yellow hawkweed, buttercups, spotted orchids, yarrow, burnet rose and many more.

Slains Castle must have been a magnificent buildiing in its day, perched right on the edge of the cliffs, with high towers, a maze of small rooms and long passageways. It was erected in 1597, replacing an earlier castle and in 1895 was said to be the inspiration for Count Dracula’s castle. Lived in until the early 1920’s, its present restoration plans have been put on hold due to lack of funding.

We sat on some rocks for a break, enjoying this quiet corner watching oystercatchers and cormorants far below us - then some noisy herring gulls flew in, changing the scene! 

Further along this superb coastline we came to the Bullers of Buchan - Wow! We were not prepared for the spectacular sight ahead with sea arches, jutting headlands, hidden caves and so many noisy seabirds at close range on the steep cliffsides - kittiwake, razorbill, guillemot and puffins.

Enthralled, we spent ages with binoculars watching, then walked further along but sadly had to turn back before reaching the SWT Reserve at Longhaven.

We walked back through the remnants of the old quarry workings with some beautiful wildflowers carpeting our path - roseroot, sea campion, ladies bedstraw, birds foot trefoil, eyebright, wild thyme, grass of Parnassus and unusual looking bearberry with numerous six-spot burnet moths fluttering by.

So back to pick up our bikes as we still wanted to have a quick look around the SNH nature reserve and Sand Loch at Forvie, a short distance to the south and then managed to find the Collieston Community Centre’s busy wee tearoom for a lovely cuppa – only open on a Sunday, so we were lucky.

Around almost every corner of this hidden coastline there was an ever-changing scene not far from the busy A90 – we will be back for another visit.