Saturday, June 7
Our waitress from the night before advised us to catch a train to Stonehaven, a coastal village with, that’s right, a castle! We received this suggestion with relief, since our only alternatives at that point involved either paying a taxi or daring to maneuver on the opposite side of the road.
The same train station that welcomed us to Aberdeen. The tracks run alongside a breathtaking coast of rocks, waves, and sheeps!
The little town of Stonehaven boasts a beach along with its castle. “Mostly people come for the castle,” the information center attendant shrugged.
Providentially and with no planning on our part, we arrived on the day when the town also offered its local fair. The girls’ performance reminded me of our Highland Dancers, of course.
After munching on shortbread and admiring the dancers at the fair, we embarked on the 2 mi trek to Castle Dunnottar.
I could have stopped for a photo at every curve in the road.
In case you were wondering, I did indeed purchase those pants in Turkey.
Castle Dunnottar: famed for visitors including Mary, Queen of Scots, and (according to legend) William Wallace. We reached it by way of a concrete staircase, which left us pondering how people had scaled the cliffs in the Middle Ages. An information center inside suggested the answer with this factoid: Ponies would carry supplies up the hillside to stock the cellars and furnish the dinner table of the owner (Earl Marischal)’s powerful family.
Stephanie and I poked our heads into almost every nook and cranny. Deep shadows cloaked surprisingly small rooms; one regarded the lonely fireplaces and imagined sleeping there in winter.
The chapel. In a dungeon nearby, the castle imprisoned almost 200 religious dissenters, who refused to acknowledge the king as head of the church, for weeks in the damp and dirt (1685).
My iconic Scottish picture. Perhaps someone who has attempted the bagpipes could explain how this gentleman managed to play ceaselessly while thanking me out of the side of his mouth?
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped to pay our respects at the War Memorial. Which war? “All of them.”
According to the inscription, the soldiers of Stonehaven laughed in the face of Death’s challenge.
Nothing I’ve seen could compare with the view on the way to the castle, but we needed a breather after that hike!
Facing the memorial, the town behind me
Facing the memorial, the sea behind me
Our stomachs demanded we sample the local cuisine: cullen skink! Although the name suggests an odorous vampire, the dish actually consisted of cream soup with smoked haddock. With the sea air in our noses and Scottish brogue in our ears, we had never tasted finer.
Away across the Atlantic, I find myself thinking of friends at unexpected moments