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Banffshire
Chapter 8. Along the Coast


The seaboard of the county is pleasantly diversified. There are many picturesque rocks and in the eastern extremity towering cliffs, with, at intervals, such fine areas of sand as would be a powerful factor in the fortunes of a southern watering place.

Beginning at the Burn of Tynet, we go by Tannachy Sands to Portgordon, the most westerly village. Across the Burn of Gollachy, a low beach of sand and sea-washed stones leads by Arthur's Point to Buckpool, the western division of the burgh of Buckie, divided from Buckie proper by the Burn of Buckie. Passing on, we reach Portessie, with the Slough Hythe. Slough preserves the old and still common designation of Portessie, which has also been called Porteasy. Off the sands of Strathlene is Portessie Bay, skirted by the attractive line of the Craigenroan Rocks. The coast now becomes increasingly imposing and picturesque in the bold headlands it presents to the furies of the northern ocean. Inland we skirt the Muir of Findochty, part of which, now planted, known as the Baads, is believed to have been the burial place of the Danes slain in battle by the victorious Scots under Indulphus.

The prosperous fishing burgh of Findochty, with its Crooked Hythe, spreads itself along the seashore and on the hill above. Onwards to Portknockie and beyond, the coast consists of high cliffs, rugged rocks, picturesque and far-stretching caves, the whole seeming to be the embodiment of sullen power and resistance. Of the many Portknockie caves, the most familiar is probably Farskane's Cave, named after the proprietor, who, in 1715, retired into it, along with two other gentlemen, to avoid trouble during the Earl of Mar's rebellion. The Bow-fiddle rock, familiar to every visitor to the coast, is in close proximity to Portknockie, and a little farther eastward the county reaches its most northerly point in the rugged heights of the Scaur Nose.

Rocks known as Toshie's Long Craigs are at the opening of the beautiful Bay of Cullen; and we pass along Cullen sands and links, by the Boar Craig, Round Craig and the Three Kings—outliers of the Old Red Sandstone—to the royal burgh of Cullen. Just at the entrance we cross the Burn of Cullen or Deskford, flowing through a fertile valley from the heights of Deskford. Beyond the harbour of Cullen, a footpath goes by way of Muckle Hythe and the Maiden Pap to Portlong, and thence to the bold promontory of Logic Head, near which is an area of sea-shore sand that has sharp sonorous qualities.

On a rocky eminence overlooking the sea, between Logie Head and Crathie Point, are the ruins of Findiater Castle. From Crathie Point the rocky coast goes on to Garron Point. Between the latter and Redhythe Point, is the Bay of Sandend, with the hamlet of Sandend to the west and adjoining an extensive area of the finest sand, through which the Burn of Fordyce enters the sea. From Redhythe Point onwards to Portsoy are many bold and picturesque rocks, the haunt of the geologist as well as the artist. East of Portsoy, at the Links Bay, into which falls the Burn of Durn, is St CoIumba's Well, and also the reputed site of St Columba's Chapel, both close to the shore. Inland there extends one of the most fertile districts of the county—the Boyne—of old a great forest-region:

Fae Culbirnie t' the sea
Ye may step from tree to tree.

After Cowhythe Head, we go by Old Hythe to Craig of Boyne and Boyne Bay, with the outlet of the Burn of Boyne. A few hundred yards from the sea are the massive ruins of Boyne House, while at the Craig of Boyne, a precipitous rock has the shattered remains of a still more ancient stronghold.

From Boyne Bay, the coast, still rugged and rocky, leads to the prosperous fishing-village of Whitehills. The coastline now runs north till it terminates in Knock Head, where the Saut Stanes have hurled more than one goodly ship to its doom. Tradition says that the grey rat was first imported into this region from a vessel wrecked on this reef.

A sweep inland, with the sea skirting the sands and links of Banff, marks out the Bay of Boyndie. Close by the shore are the ruins of the old church of St Brandon.

A field here is known by the name of ' Arrdanes" and on the rising ground immediately to the east is "Swurd-danes," names believed to carry the remembrance of the position of two divisions of invading Northmen, armed with arrows and with swords. At the western extremity of the links the Burn of Boyndie enters the sea; opposite part of the links area series of low jagged rocks known as the Tumblers. Banff is approached by way of the Elf Kirk, the Black Rock, the Babes, the Boot and the Broad Craig; and close by the harbour are Meavie Point and Feachie Craig. Banff Bay, beautiful for situation, washing the base of the Hill of Doune, and receiving the waters of the Deveron, lies between Meavie Point and the Collie Rocks off Macduff, and by its shores are the Rose Craig, once the residence of a retired poet of the Stuart Court; Craig Gilbert; the large and far-reaching bar of sand and stones formed by the action of the sea and the river; and the rocks at the Palmer Cove.

From this point onwards for the ten miles to the eastern extremity of the county, the coast is skirted by a ledge of stupendous rocks, in some places of sheer descent of over 500 feet to the sea and everywhere precipitous. Near Macduff is the picturesque Howe of Tarlair, with its fantastic rocks, and its "waters," in the efficacy of which Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk and his friends had an abiding faith. Old Haven and its vicinity receive the Burn of Cullen and the Burn of Melrose, and inland from it is one of four great openings in the rocks, which here serve as outlets for the water of the interior, and which, branching off or widening as they recede from the sea, become straths or valleys. The largest of the four is the Den of Afforsk, while the other two are at Crovie and Cullykhan.

The Bay of Gamrie is formed by the jutting into the sea of the mighty headlands, Gamrie Mhor (536 feet) on the west and Troup Head (396 feet) on the east. Between these points is the large open bay, one of the deepest in the Moray Firth, and provided with a fine natural breakwater in the Craigendargity rocks. At the shore of the bay, the steep and rugged rocks that form the headlands retire a little, leaving room for the village of Gardenstown, and no more. The collection of houses clings in a wonderful way to the side of the sea braes. At some points of the steep ascent one could almost fancy one might peep down the chimneys, and indeed, so abrupt is the rising of the ground in some parts that a house of three storeys may have them all ground floors, one entrance being at the front, another at the back, and the third at an end. Artists love to paint the picturesque and straggling village, with its miniature lanes, its narrow streets and the headland which prevents any great extension of the place. Half way up the rugged side of Gamrie Mhor are the ruins of the old church of Gamrie,

An old, old church, the pride of the place,
The pride of the north countree.

So sang the late Sir William D. Geddes, Principal of Aberdeen University, who, in his early days, was parochial schoolmaster of Gamrie.

Half up the ribs of a bold giant hill
That washes his feet in the sea,
And looks like a king o'er the watery world,
Lot a patch of greenery,
Westward and northward the crags rise high,
To shield it from injury,
And there, looking down on the beautiful bay,
Is the Churchyard of Gamerie;
Oh well do I love the sweet, sweet slope,
Where it sleepeth solemnly.

Haifa mile east of Gardenstown is the hamlet of Crovie, a single street built close to the sea, at the base of Troup Head, and, except where it faces the sea, surrounded on all sides by bold and picturesque cliffs. In the vicinity the coast-line is one of the grandest and most picturesque in Scotland. Parts of it are inaccessible to the foot of man, while others bend just enough from the perpendicular to admit a carpeting of green sward, and here and there are traversed by a winding footpath like a staircase, which few but native cragsmen are venturesome enough to scale. Several caves occur among these gigantic masses of rocks. One is So fathoms deep, 6o long and 4o broad, with a subterranean passage to the sea, about 8o yards long, through which the waves are driven with great violence in a northern storm, the spray escaping in what has the appearance of dense smoke—hence its name of Hell's Lum. Another, known as the Needle's Eye, is a passage, through a peninsula, of about 150 yards from sea to sea, along which a man can with difficulty creep. At the north end of this passage is a cave about 20 feet high, 30 broad and 150 long. The roof is supported by immense columns of rocks, and the effect, after one has crept through the narrow way, is exceedingly striking. The wonders of the Devil's Kitchen and the placid beauty of Cullykhan Bay lead one on to the Burn of the Tore, otherwise the Burn of Nethermill, and here in a wonderful panorama of rocky scenery the counties of Banff and Aberdeen join hands.


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