The north-east corner of Aberdeenshire is a fascinating but, with a couple of exceptions, surprisingly little known and under-appreciated part of Scotland. Which is a shame because the area is home to some of the most attractive harbours and coastal villages in Scotland, as well as to a large part of Scotland's modern fishing fleet at the large and very busy ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
The tour shown in dark blue on the map is 80 miles long, starting and finishing in Banff and should be tackled anti-clockwise. This ensures that the inland section of what is essentially a coastal tour is tackled at the start of the day, and it also means that the attractiveness of the coastal scenery and of the villages and harbours tends to get better and better as you progress through the tour, culminating with the highlight, the villages of Pennan, Crovie, and Gardenstown. Make sure you leave time to appreciate them to the full!
No excursions are suggested to extend this tour, and if your time is limited, you could just take in the north coast segment of it, by continuing along the A98 from Banff as far as Fraserburgh, and picking the tour up there, returning along the coast and omitting those parts of the tour to the south and east.
Banff stands on the west side of the mouth of the River Deveron and amply repays exploration. Its twin on the east side of the mouth of the river is Macduff, which has a working harbour and a boatbuilders and repair yard. The two form a highly complementary pair and Macduff can best be appreciated from the viewpoint above the harbour near the church. Towards the east end of Macduff is the popular Macduff Marine Aquarium.
On leaving Macduff you follow the A98 south-east as far as its junction with the A950, which you then follow, also south-east. Carrying on along the A98 would bring you to Fraserburgh and the truncated tour referred to above. These inland areas of northern Aberdeenshire offer many attractions for the visitor, and the villages of Strichen and Maud are both worth a look if you have the time: but as there is plenty to fit in later on this tour, we ignore them for now. Deer Abbey is accessed from the A950, and is well worth a look: and the nearby village of Old Deer is also very close to your route and of considerable interest, with Old Deer Old Kirk standing near one end of the main street.
This tour brings you to the sea at the south end of Peterhead, and it would be a great shame to omit the village and harbour of Boddam, just to the south. Peterheaditself is unlikely to be a contender in any "beautiful town" competitions, but it does have huge character and interest, and the way the harbour grew to incorporate what was once a separate island is intriguing.
North from Peterhead the main A90 trends inland, and it is worth turning off to reach the coast again at the villages of St Combs and Inverallochy. The latter offers some dramatic views across Fraserburgh Bay of the fishing port of Fraserburgh, which is our next destination. Like Peterhead, Fraserburgh is an important fishing port: and like Peterhead it is in no danger of ever being called "pretty". But it is a fascinating place, and the interest is enhanced by the presence at the north end of the town of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.
West of Fraserburgh the B9031 hugs the coast to the fishing village of Rosehearty. The road then continues some distance inland from the coast, passing the village of New Aberdour before turning to head almost north-west and approach the coast once more just above the village of Pennan. To reach Pennan you turn off the main coast road and descend steeply into the heart of a community hugging a narrow shelf between mud cliffs and the shore. If you're a film buff, then Pennan may look a little familiar. In 1983, parts of the film "Local Hero" were shot here. The film gave Pennan one of the best known red telephone boxes in the world, sitting on the quayside opposite the Pennan Inn and attracting a steady stream of visitors over the years since.
Rejoin the main coast road for three miles heading south-west, and another side road leads down to the larger but equally attractive village of Gardenstown, clinging to the terraced ledges that descend the steep south-east side of Gamrie Bay. On the east side of the bay, and appearing to lead an even more tenuous existence, is the smallest of the three villages, Crovie, which is virtually just a line of cottages seriously exposed to adverse weather. Here the shelf on which Crovie is built is so narrow that cars cannot access most of the village.
West of Gardenstown and Crovie the B9031 continues to run above the cliffs until it meets the A98, just to the east of Macduff, and from there it is only a short distance back to your starting point in Banff.
Visitor InformationDistances: The main circular route shown in dark blue covers 80 miles, starting and finishing at Banff.
Fuel: Readily available at the main settlements on the tour.
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