Suggested Day Trips
There are numerous easy local drives to small towns and villages, each of which has its own quaint character and charm, and there are many gentle walks in all of them. To get the best from your experience we have outlined 4 distinct driving routes to whet your appetite but of course can help you design bespoke tours to best suit your needs.
Route 1 – Stonehaven – Dunnottar – Crawton – Catterline
From Kair it’s a short hop to Stonehaven, a bustling market town, the highlight of which is the harbour. Near the harbour there is a 16th century tolbooth which was once a prison but is now a small museum with a seafood restaurant. You can then head south out of Stonehaven along the coastal route on the A92.
3km from Stonehaven (great walk) lies the outpost of Dunnottar Castle, a fortified ruin dating from the 13th – 17th centuries, although it is believed that there has been a fortress here since Pictish times. Charles 2nd sought refuge here in 1650. In more recent times the site was associated with the historic series, Game of Thrones, ensuring its ongoing popularity.
A short drive heads down the rugged coastline to Crawton, a former fishing community, but now with just surviving ruins of this small hamlet. It is adjacent to the RSPB nature reserve at Fowlsheugh which is a site of special scientific interest. There are prolific seabird nesting colonies on the 70m high cliffs. It can be accessed either from the clifftop trail or by boat from Stonehaven Harbour. In an area known as ‘the St. Kilda of the East’, there are puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and guillemots. Trelong Bay lies directly below the Crawton cliffs.
A few minutes’ drive further down the coast you can head into Catterline, a pebble bay with absolutely stunning views. You can paddleboard here. It is said that this was effectively a smugglers cove – it is clear why when you visit the site. This intriguing landscape is now a haven for artists. Up above lies the most wonderful seafood restaurant, The Creel Inn.
From Catterline you can head south and then immediately prior to Inverbervie, take the B967 through Arbuthnott and back home.
Route 2 Fettercairn – Edzell – Glamis
Heading south west lies Fettercairn, a delightful little village famed for its 1824 Fettercairn Distillery which used to be a corn mill. The distillery uses a unique irrigator ring which ultimately results in the production of only the purest spirit. There is a very picturesque archway leading into the village itself. This Royal Arch was built in 1864 for the arrival of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who decided to stay the night at Fettercairn on the way to Balmoral, as you do. Within the village there is a café and one or two local shops – a very quaint little spot indeed.
Another 10 minutes’ drive south-west leads to Edzell, described as the Jewel in the Crown of Angus. A pretty village with a very pleasant long and wide road running through. There are some small shops as well as a couple of cafes and a wonderful golf course. For light lunch or coffee be sure to visit Sinclair’s Larder. North of the village there is a fairly long riverside walk through some beautiful scenery starting at Gannochy Bridge passing The Rocks of Solitude – there is a salmon leap at this point.
From Edzell, heading west, you can walk along a quiet road to Edzell Castle, an old 16th century ruin with many points of interest. It is superbly well-maintained and in a delightful spot with beautiful 17th century walled garden grounds. A must visit.
From the north east of the village there is a wonderful drive along Glen Esk all the way to Loch Lee, a picturesque spot with a quaint little graveyard. It is possible to walk from here over Mount Keen to Ballater.
A further short drive south leads to Glamis, with Glamis Castle being the ancestral home of the Earl of Strathmore and associated for many years with Queen Mother. This is a very picturesque village with the Castle being 20 minutes’ walk from the centre. The castle was largely built in the 17th century and was the childhood home of the Queen Mother and it was there within the 14 000 acre estate that Princess Margaret was born. Within the castle grounds there is an arboretum overlooking Glamis burn and has many old and rare tree species from all over the world. This is deservedly considered as one of the foremost castles in Scotland.
Route 3 Deeside (1-4 Day options)
This route provides multiple day tours with a real variation in the types of scenery on offer. Heading through Fettercairn, be sure to take the high mountain pass up and over the Cairn o’ Mount, an ancient military route over the Grampian mountains. On the way you can stop off at The Clatterin’ Brig tearoom and restaurant. Once again you are following in the footsteps of Romans as you head high over the hill where the viewpoint offers spectacular views over surrounding farmland and over to the coast. The highest point is 1500 feet above sea level.
One option is to take the B976 heading west through Finzean, with its farm shop and café, keeping on this picturesque road all the way to Ballater, a pretty market town, a centre for hiking and close to Balmoral and Crathie Kirk, before reaching, if desired, the exceptionally pretty town of Braemar, in the heart of Royal Deeside, and home to one of the best Highland Gatherings around, attended each Autumn by the Royal Family. Nice, tasty fresh food and home-made cakes can be had at The Bothy in the heart of the village. There is also the fabulous recently established Pavillion Café and Museum, directly in front of the showground.
Heading back towards Kair on the A93 you can stay with this road from Ballater past Loch Kinord, Aboyne, a very pretty little town on the banks of the River Dee, and then there are various options to take any number of the wonderful castles and gardens of the area. Namely Craigievar, Crathes, Pitmedden with its superb walled garden and museum of farming life, Castle Fraser or Drum, all of which deserve special attention, before heading back home on the A957 towards Stonehaven.
Other attractions in the area include the Royal Deeside Railway – Standard Gauge 1 mile- long section alongside the Dee, Alford Valley Railway and the Tomnaverrie Stone Circle.
Arbuthnott – Inverbervie – Gourdon – Johnshaven – St Cyrus – Lunan Bay
This coastal route incorporates coastal walks highlighted below. Once you reach Inverbervie, heading south the A92 offers a terrific view of the seascape all the way down and back – best to see from 2 different angles sticking to this very scenic route. Once you reach Inverbervie, be sure to take some time down at the bay before heading south.
Gourdon is a small popular fishing village. You can head down to enjoy the view. It has an 1820 working harbour with an old coastguard building which now houses the Maggie Law Maritime Museum which tells of the survival story of a lifeboat called the ‘Maggie Law’.
Further south after some spectacular views, comes Johnshaven, a charming fishing village with another working harbour. It is home of the nationally acclaimed Fish Festival, held in the first 2 weeks every August.
The A92 then heads south coming slightly inland to St. Cyrus, a quiet little spot sitting high on the clifftop above the 3 mile-long sandy beach which runs all the way south to the North Esk river. Here there is a National Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. There is a great circular walk to be had here.
A little bit further south heading past Montrose lies Lunan Bay, a hugely popular sandy beach. There is traditional fishing, and the beach is popular with surfers and horse-riders. Viking armies first came here and then generations of holidaymakers. Its dramatic views are well worth the visit.
Head for home straight back up the A92 to catch those lovely views on the way back.