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Dunnottar's Hidden Treasure

A lovely walk along the cliffs to Dunnottar Castle.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 377ft (115m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Cliff edges, metalled tracks and forest paths, 3 stiles

Landscape Striking seascapes and ancient castle

Suggested map aqua3 OS Pathfinder 273 Stonehaven, Inverbervie & Lawrencekirk

Start/finish NO 874858

Dog friendliness On lead along cliffs

Parking Market Square in Stonehaven

Public toilets By Market Square

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the Market Square in Stonehaven, walk back on to Allardyce Street, turn right and cross over the road. Turn left along Market Lane and, at the beach, turn right to cross the footbridge. Your route now takes you along duckboards beside the beach, then past a wire sculpture of a dolphin. Turn right at the signs to Dunnottar Castle, which bring you out at the little harbour. During the 18th century this was the focus of trade in Stonehaven. Grain, potatoes, whisky and fish were the main exports, while coal and lime were the main imports.

2 Cross here to continue down Shorehead. Pass the Marine Hotel, then turn right into Wallis Wynd and left into Castle Street. It's a bit of a puff uphill now, but you're soon rewarded with great views over the harbour. You emerge at the main road, then maintain direction, walking along the road until it bends. Continue ahead, following the enclosed tarmac track. This takes you between arable fields and past a war memorial on the right-hand side. Your path soon gets narrower and you will see signs saying that erosion has made it hazardous (though it is still widely used).

3 You pass another bay on the left-hand side and will get great views of both the castle ahead and of the seabirds swooping over the cliffs. Nip over the stile at the end of the track and make your way across the middle of a field, then cross a footbridge and two more stiles. You now pass a track going down to Castle Haven Bay and continue, following the main path around the cliff edge. Cross another footbridge and bear uphill. The path is laced with wild flowers and the seaweed down in the bay creates a rich, salty collage of copper, ochre and green. You'll soon reach some steps on your left that run down to Dunnottar Castle.

4 Your walk bears right here, past a waterfall, through a kissing gate and up to a house. Pass the house to reach the main road, turn right, then take the first turning on the left, walking in the direction of the radio masts. Follow this wide, metalled track past the masts and on past East Newtonleys on the left-hand side. When you reach the main A957, turn right and walk downhill, then take the first turning on the left-hand side. Follow this track to reach a sign on the right saying 'Carron Gate'. Turn right and walk through the woods, following the lower path on the right-hand side that runs by the burn.

5 You'll soon reach a little Shell House on the left, built in the 19th century for the children of the local gentry. It gets its name - not surprisingly - from the thousands of seashells that decorate its interior. Passing this on the left, continue along the lower track, then climb uphill to join a wider track. Bear right here, to maintain direction and reach the edge of the woods. Walk through the housing estate to join Low Wood Road and the river. Turn left, then right to cross the footbridge with the green railings. Turn right and walk by the water. You'll soon pass the striking art deco Carron Restaurant on the left-hand side, and will reach a cream-coloured iron bridge. Bear left here, then turn first right to return to the Market Square.

Scotland's Crown Jewels are among the oldest in Europe. Also known as the Honours of Scotland, they comprise a crown, made in 1540 of gold encrusted with precious stones and pearls, a sword of state, and a silver sceptre. Today they are on display at Edinburgh Castle, but you can only see them thanks to the bravery of the people who hid them from Cromwell's army.

The Scottish regalia had been taken to Dunnottar Castle when Cromwell invaded Scotland. He intended to destroy them as he had done with the English Crown Jewels, and they were spirited away from Edinburgh for safe keeping. Cromwell came to Dunnottar and beseiged the castle for nearly a year, but when it finally fell the jewels had gone. They had been smuggled out by the wife of the local minister and her maid, who had hidden the jewels in their clothes. The Honours were then hidden for eight years in the church at nearby Kinneff, and returned to Edinburgh after the Restoration. This wasn't the end of their travails however. Now nominally safe in Scotland's capital, the Honours were hidden away after the Act of Union, and walled up in a sealed room. People eventually forgot where they were and many believed they had been stolen by the English. Sir Walter Scott rediscovered them, locked inside a dusty chest.

Where to eat and drink

The Ship Inn by the harbour serves food all day from noon at the weekends. The Marine Hotel near by serves lunches from noon to 2pm and supper from 5-9:15pm. You can also try the Carron Restaurant which has seats outside and serves seafood, baguettes, baked potatoes and toasties.

While you're there

Further down the coast is Kineff Old Church, where the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden under the church floor in 1651. There's a memorial at the church to the Revd James Granger who, with his wife, was responsible for hiding the treasures and thus saving them for Scotland. Sometimes they kept them under their bed instead of in the church.

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