It was my favourite kind of day – a new area to be explored and glorious sunny weather in which to take in the new sights. The kind of day in Scotland for which I am ever-so appreciative: where the deep blue of the sky and the shimmering sea makes my heart swell with happiness; where my very being feels flash-flooded with light. The kind of day where I never let go of my camera and my steps seem to take on a slightly Tigger-ish bounce. I love nothing more than to soak up the beauty of my homeland and yesterday I was in my element, showered in the spectacular scenes of the Aberdeenshire Coast.
In the middle of my working week I suddenly felt as if I had been transported abroad for the day; drenched in baking sunshine and breathtaking coastal views. The part of the coast that we explored was unlike anything I’d seen in Scotland before, with jaw-dropping coves and turquoise-edged waters that seemed as if they’d be at home in Cyprus. It was a day brimming with brilliant moments, from wandering around the magnificent ruins of Slains Castle near Cruden Bay to puffin-searching at the phenomenal Bullers o’ Buchan (what a day it would have been if I’d actually spotted a puffin!).
As always, I have tried to weave words and images together in this blog post to give you an idea of just how beautiful this area is, and why it made my spirit soar. (It doesn’t do it justice, though, you’ll just have to visit for yourself…).
I have long wanted to see a puffin and when I heard that they can be spotted at the Bullers of Buchan at this time of year, just north of Cruden Bay, I decided yesterday’s sunshine was the perfect time to go in search of these adorable birds. I hoped I’d spot a puffin or two, but I didn’t expect to find myself standing in front of some of the country’s most dramatic coastal scenery. The Bullers of Buchan is a collapsed sea cave, with 200ft walls that reverberate with the echo of birds. It is magnificent. Home to a range of sea-birds, such as Kittiwakes, Shags, Fulmars, Razorbills and Guillemots (but sadly NO PUFFINS when I was there!), it is truly a sight to behold.
I wandered along the cliff-top (with great care, various signs shouting at me: ‘These Cliffs Are Dangerous’), drinking in the views in all directions. Farmland rolls along to meet the coast, the flat of surrounding fields making the sight of the ragged arches and stacks of the coastline even more astounding for me. Stony coves sparkled in the sunshine, sunlight flickering over the waves in a merry dance, while jagged fingers of cliff poked into the sea with foamy trails of white dragged behind. Birds swooped in and out of every photograph, shrieking and swirling. I stood entranced by the scenery and the great gathering of birds, hugging it all to myself for that moment, listening to the song of the sea.
I desperately wanted to see a puffin. I scoured the cliffs, finding myself in a game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ where every bird suddenly appeared to be black and white. But it was not to be – I was disappointed to discover there had been a puffin sighting an hour earlier, and also the day before. And yet it was impossible to be despondent when wrapped in this scenery.
I sadly didn’t have enough time but you can walk from the Bullers of Buchan to Cruden Bay, passing the atmospheric ruins of Slains Castle (you can also walk north along this stretch of The North Sea Trail to Longhaven Cliffs Wildlife Reserve). The sharp shapes of Slains Castle zig zag on the horizon, hovering on the edge of Cruden Bay. The castle juts out of the cliff-side, balanced precariously above a choppy sea. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live on the very edge of the land, battered by the elements. The 16th century tower house, which apparently inspired Bram Stoker, was rebuilt a number of times, the last time said to be in 1897.
Despite the bright sunshine, there was something slightly eerie about the castle (or maybe it was just my imagination taking the association with Count Dracula and galloping away). But it fascinated me. I could have spent hours weaving in and out of the ruins in the afternoon sunshine, gazing at the sea out of its massive windows and collapsed doors. We walked a bit of the path back towards the Bullers of Buchan, taking in the sight of the castle from a distance. The empty windows stared back at me; sullen and silent.
One of my favourite things about wandering around the castle ruins? The sea pinks that spilled down the cliffs – the perfect frame for the impossibly blue seas and skies.