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A Clifftop Covered In History
Dunnottar Castle (Stonehaven)
Member Name: eilidhcatriona
Dunnottar Castle (Stonehaven)
Date: 15/08/09, updated on 17/08/09 (217 review reads)
Advantages: Spectacular scenery, lots of history and atmosphere
Stonehaven is a town situated on the North East coast of Scotland, around 13 miles south of Aberdeen. Traditionally, Stonehaven was a fishing town. It grew from a small village into the town it is today. The oldest part of the town, the "auld toon", is therefore the area around the harbour. Stonehaven has, however, played its part in Scottish history throughout the ages.
One of Stonehaven's main tourist attractions is Dunnottar Castle, famous throughout history for a number of reasons. The Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden here for many years, and as Cromwell came to find and destroy them, some local fisherwives snuck them out in a small boat and took them down the coast to Kinneff, where they remained hidden. This is a famous local story, and one that every child hears - our town has played its part in history! Even the famous William Wallace was at Dunnottar Castle, when he reclaimed it from the English in the thirteenth century. And another Wallace connection is that the Castle was used in the 1990 film Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson. In addition to all this, the Castle played its part in the Jacobite rebellions of the eighteenth century, and played host to Scotland's most famous monarch, Mary Queen of Scots, in the sixteenth century.
The car park for the Castle is located off the A92, which can be reach from either north or southbound on the A90 (A92 is signposted Arbroath). The Castle is signposted on the A92. It can also be reached by walking a coastal path (2-3 miles) which can be accessed from the auld toon of Stonehaven - it is signposted. Local buses also stop near the Castle car park, and these can be caught from the main bus stop near the Market Square (outside Farmfoods).
The Castle is well worth a visit. It is not easily accessible, and cannot be reached by wheelchair users or those with impaired mobility. There is a lengthy walk from the car park, and then a steep descent down some stairs, and then an ascent to the Castle entrance, as the Castle is strategically positioned on an outcrop. Between the descent and the ascent, there is a nice little cove with rock pools, but take care as it is very slippy and the tide can be dangerous.
Even if you cannot reach the castle, the view from the road or from the top of the cliffs if you have walked from the car park is incredible. The Castle is in ruins now, but even so is very imposing. For me and others from the area, the image and shape of Dunnottar Castle is iconic and instantly recognisable.
The interior of the castle (what remains) is fascinating. The rooms are marked so you can see what happened where within the castle. There is a memorial to the Covenanters who were imprisoned there in the seventeenth century, and information available about each room. Only the stone remains, and much of the castle is open to the elements, so be prepared to get wet and be blown about - even on a glorious summers day the wind out there can be very strong.
For me, two areas of the Castle always spring to mind when I think of it. One is the dungeon, which even now, in ruins, is chilling. So many people died there over the centuries, not least the imprisoned Covenanters who refused to give up their beliefs, and it is hard to forget that. The other area is the Lion's Den, which always fascinated me as a child - this is where the owners of the Castle in past times kept lions and other exotic creatures.
Opening of the Castle is seasonal. It is open 9am-6pm every day June to September, but has reduced hours on a Sunday in April, May and October, and closes November to March (due to its exposed location, it wouldn't be very nice to visit then anyway!). The Castle is privately owned, and admission for the 2009 season is only £5 for adults, and £1 for children under 16 (cash only). This to me is a fantastic bargain - how many other historical sites can you visit for that price these days? And not only do you get the Castle, but you get views that money can't buy.
Summary: An iconic north-east Scotland sight
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