Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Portsoy → Portgordon

portsoy.jpg Distance: 17.79 miles
Ascent: 382 metres
Duration: 5 hours 58 minutes

Six harbours and one cave
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The Moray Coast Trail is a 45-mile path from Cullen to Forres. We'll be following it for the rest of the week, which should make route-finding significantly easier (and eliminate almost all road walking). Presumably Cullen was chosen as the starting point due to its proximity to the boundary of Moray, which is a shame since there's a path of equal quality all the way back to Portsoy.

An annual charity walk begins in Portsoy and takes in six harbours: Portsoy, Sandend, Cullen, Portknockie, Findochty and Buckie. Our walk today added one more in Portgordon.

First things first: we loved Portsoy. Driving through on the A98 you see just a snatch of the village: a couple of shops (including a fantastic baker) but not much else. You need to venture north towards the harbour to find the real action. The oldest harbour on the Moray Firth, Portsoy is reminiscent of the Fife fishing villages, with a few hints of Cornwall thrown in.

Next up is Sandend. The path climbs up behind the houses halfway along the village street, but before taking it pop in to "Messrs. J. Smith Fishmerchant". It's primarily a wholesaler with a small packing unit here on the village street, but they'll happily sell to passing walkers. Just before the village is the recently reopened Glen Glassaugh distillery. It's always a joy to see distilleries coming back online, but their whisky wasn't particularly to our liking.

bow-fiddle.jpgPortknockie and Findochty were equally charming and their settings spectacular. At Portknockie, Bow Fiddle Rock is an obligatory photo-opportunity although to us it looked more like a whale breaching the surface of the water than a violin. In Findochty a mural sets out scenes from local history and we were delighted to see in one corner the question "Fit like?" ("Aye, fine.")

fish-mosaic.jpgIt's been another good day for animals: deer in the fields, the obigatory doocot, a weasel on the rocks in Portessie, seals galore just outside Portgordon and even a starfish on the beach.

We saw a dog too. A mysterious dog.

He appeared on the path a fair distance ahead of us somewhere between Findlater Castle and Logie Head. Every few metres he'd disappear, only to pop up again a little further on. He didn't seem to be with anyone but we could see him peering at from gaps in the rocks, like some sort of friendly spirit.

charlies-cave.jpgIt was round about here that we found Charlie's Cave. Charlie Marioni deserted the French army and lived as a hermit on the beach at Sunnyside in the 1920s, sheltered from the weather by a shallow hollow in the cliff and a driftwood roof. A sign by the cave tells the sorry tale of a man who was happy with his self-sufficient bartering lifestyle (perhaps supplemented with a little scrumping?) but was eventually brought before the courts after a local land tenant lodged a formal complaint about him. Fined as an unregistered alien, he quietly dispatched his two cat companions then turned his back on his home of 13 years and eventually died in poverty in England. A notice on the beach (described in a council meeting last year as "inappropriate") sets out the whole heartbreaking tale.

pet-cemetery.jpg(On the outskirts of Cullen the path passes by a huge gaudy pet cemetery. That broke the spell.)

port-gordon.jpgThis is a walk was excellent: whisky, fish, wildlife, fascinating geology and a shaggy dog story. We highly recommend it.

Posted by pab at 18:51 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!