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Seafront Cottages
Seafront Cottages

The exact spot at which the coastline north from Aberdeen turns to run west towards Inverness is debatable. But one contender must certainly be Cairnbulg Point, two miles east of Fraserburgh and immediately to the north west of the village of Cairnbulg and its eastern neighbour, Inverallochy.

Shoreline from the North
Shoreline from the North
Back Street in Fishertown
Back Street in Fishertown
Inverallochy Parish Church
Inverallochy Parish Church

Cairnbulg Castle, to the south west of the village, can trace its origins back to the 1200s and fishing communities were well established on this coastline by the 1500s. In the 1850s a visitor noted that the villages on the coast were little more than collections of huts next to which fishing boats were dragged out of reach of the tide.

The 1860s brought cholera to the area. The inadequate housing made the epidemic worse and it was later cleared away to make room for planned fishing villages at Inverallochy and Cairnbulg and, a mile or so down the coast, at St Combs.

West Haven
West Haven
Beach at St Combs
Beach at St Combs

The much larger new villages were needed to cope with the boom in the herring fisheries, and by the 1880s well over 200 fishing boats operated from these two villages. The settlements were built as fisher cottages set in rows, gable end to the sea to minimise the effect of storms. The spaces between them were used to shelter the boats dragged up out of the water.

Today the houses remain but most of the boats have gone. Some leisure craft use the tidal harbour at West Haven half a mile to the west of the village and overlooking Fraserburgh Bay. But by the end of the 1800s most fishing activity had moved to Fraserburgh's much more sheltered harbour. Getting the fishermen from their homes in St Combs, Cairnbulg and Inverallochy to Fraserburgh presented a problem that was solved by the building of a light railway linking the three in 1903.

The twin villages of Inverallochy and Cairnbulg together form a wonderfully atmospheric place. It must also be an intimidating one in a northerly storm. But catch it on a day with clear blue skies and the quiet streets, narrow alleys, and rows of cottages can easily carry you back to a very different time: when every cottage had a boat pulled up, and the entire community made use of the seashore washing lines to dry their laundry.

St Combs has slightly more of a "seaside" feel than Inverallochy. There are both beach and rocky sections on the short stretch of coast between the two. But south from St Combs is a what has been described as one of the best stretches of sand dune and beach in the country, extending the ten miles past Rattray Head to Peterhead.

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