Arbroath to Aberdeen via the Cairngorms – photo story

After our visit to the St Andrews Highland Games in late July we decided to follow the coast up through Dundee and round to the small town of Arbroath.

slow roadAbroath looked like a town that had once seen better days but the tiny streets around the harbour were fascinating, heavy with the ghosts of the 19th century fishermen who had once made Abroath one of the biggest white fish ports in Britain. Arbroath Abbey is also a surprise, an unexpected magnificent medieval ruin set back from the sea front.

While in Arbroath we also hatched our plan to travel one of the ‘best driving routes in Britain’, the A93 through the Cairngorms Natural Park. The idea for this and many other beautiful routes in Scotland came from Martin Dorey’s book, Take the Slow Road, which I’d very much recommend to anyone planning a Scottish road trip.

Heading north from Arbroath along the cliff path you come to Seaton Cliffs. Here the elements have carved weird and wonderful shapes into the red sandstone rocks, creating secluded hideaways where the waves crash at your feet.
Fields of barley near Arbroath
Seaton Cliffs nature reserve.
The old military road from Glenshee to Aberdeen, now known less prosaically as the A93, is one of the most dramatic roads in Britain. It passes through the heart of the Cairngorms National Park and even in late July, is a wild and windswept place. We travelled north west from Arbroath to join the road at Glenshee then headed north to Braemar.
The empty lifts of the Glenshee Ski Centre rumble on, transporting the ghosts of winter skiiers high into the cloud base.
Just west of Braemar we stumbled across a wild camping spot with this beautiful view of the River Dee.
After Braemar we camped overnight in a forestry car park, deep in the Cairngorms. In the late evening sunshine it was a soft, peaceful place, scented with pine and filled with the small noises of birds and the whisper of the wind in the tall trees. We made a cheerful supper and settled in to watch a TV drama as the light faded around us. Later, as we packed away our dishes, I began to feel a little uneasy. The long twilight had turned into a pitch black night, our little van an island of golden light in an infinity of darkness. Emptying the last of my tea into the long grass by our cab door I felt the hairs prickle on the back of my neck and, before I knew it, I was bolting for the door, slamming it shut behind me. Even my husband was a little spooked and and we decided it would be sensible, though obviously a little silly, but definitely sensible, to leave the keys in the ignition that night.
We stopped at Glen Tanar near Aboyne to hike some of the trails in the area.
A gardener working in the beautiful gardens of Crathes Castle.
A tortoiseshell butterfly at Crathes Castle.

After a beautiful summer afternoon at Crathes Castle we headed south east to the coastal village of Stonehaven. We planned to stay for a day but loved it so much we stayed for three.

Stonehaven sea front at dusk.
Dunnottar Cliffs
While staying at Stonehaven we hiked along the cliffs to the spectacular ruin of Dunnottar Castle.