Walk Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle Ruins in a time of Social Distancing – Yes, we are restricted right now to benefit others and ourselves, but what can we explore in relative isolation?
A walk from Stonehaven to Dunnottar castle is an option, stopping at Stonehaven’s War Memorial en route. You can drive to the castle car park and vastly shorten the walk if your party has very young children. *Contains affiliate links
Seeking other Scottish inspiration? For a detailed list of castles in Aberdeenshire click here, a round of family walks in Aberdeenshire visit here, for Rocks of Solitude near Edzell click here, from Dunkeld to the Cathedral click here, wander around Old Aberdeen, find the Birnam Oak, or for the Fairy Pools in Skye visit here.
Step 1 – Stonehaven Harbour
Park up at Stonehaven near the harbour, obviously I’m not advocating public transport right now. The harbour is a lovely stop in itself, for a quick paddle or play in the sand. In better times I’d recommend a drink at one of the bars, an ice-cream and a visit to the free Tollbooth museum.
Step 2 – Find the Sign
Walk along the harbour front houses, passing the Ship Inn and the Marine, till you see a discreet sign on the wall, up Wallace Wynd. Follow the sign, cutting up behind the houses, veering steeply left uphill.
Step 3 – Viewpoint of Harbour
Step 4 – Coastal Path to the War Memorial
From the viewpoint, keep walking uphill. Rather than follow the road to the right, take the dirt track hugging the coastline cutting through the farmland. It’s sound complicated, but it’s really obvious when you see it. Dunnottar castle begins to come into view.
Step 5 – Visit the War Memorial
Be sure to stop at the War Memorial. It was built by local Stonehaven architect John Ellis, and unveiled in 1923. Over 200 men did not return to Stonehaven from the First World War. The names of great WW1 battles (Mons, Jutland, Gallipoli, Zeebrugge, Marne, Somme, Vimy and Ypres) are carved around the top of the ruined temple, and the names of the fallen are honoured within the memorial. The Second World War is equally commemorated with key battles and names remembered.
Step 6 – Continue to Dunnottar Castle
From here, continue following the coastline till you reach the castle. As this is a coastal walk little ones will require supervision. On the final approach to the castle there are a significant amount of steps. There are small beaches next to the castle for some down time or a snack/picnic. It is possible to enter the ruins, which are expansive and fascinating, but you would need to enter the ticket booth to pay for entry – the castle is only accepting card payments right now for hygiene reasons, no cash.
The castle itself is so rich in history. It’s a site where the Honours of Scotland (Crown Jewels) were hidden from the Government forces as Cromwell marched through Scotland. Mary Queen of Scots has visited, as has James VI (so you’re in good company), and for something more gruesome, the vault held many Covenanters (religious prisoners) who died within its walls. Much of ‘Hamlet’, starring Mel Gibson, was filmed here too. The castle is a great place to pass on some of Scotland’s Horrible Histories, fantastic for photography, wildlife spotting and a good walk in the fresh air.
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Step 7 – Return
Retrace your steps to return to Stonehaven.
For this walk, from Stonehaven itself, I’d allow roughly an hour each way. So if you get as far as the viewpoint or the War Memorial and feel that you or the kids have done enough, then it’s great that you’ve reached a destination and feel you’ve seen and achieved something, rather than some walks where you turn back feeling you haven’t achieved a thing! Keep safe and enjoy Scotland’s wilder places.