Portknockie lies some two miles west of Cullen and is one of the string of traditional fishing villages that line the north coasts of Moray and Aberdeenshire, though it differs from many in lying above cliffs that drop steeply to the shore, and harbour, below.
Portknockie's harbour is naturally sheltered by the rocky bluff of Green Castle, once a Pictish stronghold. And traces of still earlier Iron Age defences in the area suggest its origins as a port are probably very ancient. But the modern story of Portknockie began in 1677 when a group of fishermen from Cullen moved a little along the coast and started to operate from here. It grew only very slowly over the years, but then expanded rapidly during the herring boom of the 1800s.
In 1886 the railway reached Portknockie, despite its height above sea level. And in 1890 the harbour, pretty much as you see it today, was built, complete with access at all states of the tide and with its very steep approach road from the village.
By the end of the 1800s some 150 fishing boats were based in Portknockie, a village which at the time had a population of some 1300 people. In 1929 there were still 58 steam drifters based here, employing 550 crew. Fishing declined during the remainder of the 1900s, but there are still ten fishing vessels based here, landing their catches at a variety of larger Scottish ports, plus five smaller fishing boats still operating from the harbour: which is also home to a number of leisure craft.
The oldest part of the village stands above the harbour and has the narrow wynds and small fisher cottages you would expect. In the late 1800s the increasing prosperity brought the building of rows of larger "captains' houses" like those shown in the header photo of Park Street. Their lofts would originally have been used for storing nets and some of these lofts had outside access via external stairs.
In the 1920s, Portknockie was home to some 50 shops and businesses. Today the number is far smaller and the village has a more purely residential feel.
A popular excursion is along the clifftop path that leads around from above the harbour. This takes you to the Bow Fiddle Rock, a wave-cut natural arch, which provides a dramatic roosting place for gulls and cormorants. Further round the headland you can get some superb views over Cullen Bay to Cullen.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map