The Ythan rises at Wells of Ythan near the village of Ythanwells and flows south-eastwards through the towns of Fyvie, Methlick and Ellon before meeting the North Sea near Newburgh.
The lower reaches, known as the Ythan Estuary, pass through internationally famous conservation areas like the Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch Special Protection Area, the breeding ground of the Common Tern, the Little Tern and the Sandwich Tern. The Ythan takes its time and so should you. Put your backpack down, take a break and enjoy a part of the British Isles where the birds make more noise than the traffic. Our thanks for this photomontage go to local nature photographers, Andy Leonard, Carron Wymers, Cassandra Stevens, Mandy Adams, Moira Turner, Ron McDonald and Sandra Hay.
Right in the heart of Ellon, these tranquil Castle Gardens were first set out by Baillie Gordon and completed in 1715 - check out his coat of arms on the side of Raeburn & Christie's offices. The original castle dates back to the 15th century and, after a long and sometimes bloody history, the gardens and the castle ruins are cared for by a trust which holds open days and events showcasing the progress of this sympathetic restoration.
Regular tours share the 400 year history of the Gordon family at this magnificent Scottish, Palladian-style stately home, featuring a large art collection including 85 James Giles paintings of Aberdeenshire castles. Enjoy the terrace garden or join park rangers for wildlife tours around the extensive grounds. There are visitor centres for the house and park, picnic areas, cafes and a dog park. Photo courtesy of NTS.
Home to both horticultural and artistic delights, the peaceful gardens house colourful parterres with over 30,000 plants, the Museum of Farming Life, waymarked woodland trails, seasonal events celebrating the crops and flowers produced there, the Stables Art gallery and outdoor theatre and music through the summer. Photo courtesy of NTS.
Forvie nature reserve covers over 2000 acres of internationally important coastal habitats between the North Sea and the Ythan estuary and has great walking and cycling routes. Home to a variety of wildlife, Forvie is particularly known for its birds, including the largest breeding colony of eiders in Britain, four species of breeding terns plus wildfowl and waders.
It's pronounced "icy" and it's a folly built in honour of George Hamilton Gordon, the Fourth Earl of Aberdeen, owner of Haddo House, Prime Minister during the Crimean War and reputedly the man who persuaded Queen Victoria to purchase the Balmoral Estate during a visit to Haddo. The Prop was raised in 1861 thanks to subscriptions raised by the tenants of the Haddo Estate. There are 92 steps to the castellated top, which offers extensive views of the surrounding countryside and villages. Below the Prop lies Druid Park, a field which is home to a stone circle, six standing stones known as the Druid Temple, around 3000 years old.
The family-friendly beach at Collieston is well-protected from the elements as it sits inside the harbour. Around this tiny fishing village you'll find cliffs and rocks with well established walks. The Forvie Nature Reserve begins at the edge of the village and runs for 3 miles down the coast to the Ythan Estuary. Originally known for the popular delicacy Collieston Speldings, it is more famous now for leisure activities and wildlife. An ice cream cafe at the harbour opens during the summer season. (Leslie Mess photo)
About a mile over the dunes from car parks at Forvie and Newburgh, you'll find a beautifully isolated beach which is only accessible on foot or by sea. A great place to picnic or just sit and think - and used occasionally by intrepid kayakers as a snackstop. Bring your own food - take away your own litter.
Built in the 1580s for William Forbes around the 15th century Preston’s Tower, it still bears traces of the harling that once covered much of the castle. The drum tower sports a newly restored cap house (you’ll need a head for heights) and the courtyard is still used occasionally for military re-enactments. See if you can spot the initials of Thomas Leiper, the master mason who built the castle.
Danny and Joan Ross opened their home by Tolquhon Castle to art lovers in rural Aberdeenshire in 1987. It's now one of the longest established independent galleries in Scotland,
They celebrate and promote Scottish art, showing the best emerging artists as well as established modern masters. Several hundred artists are represented by the gallery, all of them carefully selected by Danny and Joan, who are always on hand and happy to discuss the work of any artist.
The Forbes Tomb at Tarves was constructed for Sir William Forbes, laird of the newly-built Tolquhon Castle, in 1589. It was part of an aisle added to the medieval Tarves Kirk. The church and much of the aisle are now long gone, but the tomb still stands largely complete. Of particular interest are the portrait statuettes of Sir William and his wife, Lady Elizabeth. These remarkably lifelike images are as close as you’ll come to meeting a lord and lady of the time.
Starting at the mouth of the Ythan, Newburgh Beach lies at the North end of an uninterrupted 12 mile stretch of sand, backed by dunes, links courses, firing ranges and the odd house. Identified as a possible landing target for German forces based in Norway in WWII, the dunes are littered with old tank traps and pill boxes, all slowly being swallowed by the sand. Fascinating! (Vicki Waterman photo)
The North East Open Studios is a not for profit organisation promoting Arts and Crafts in the North East of Scotland. Local artists and crafters open their own studios to the public or exhibit together in shared venues like Haddo House.
The 2021 event will run from 11th to 19th September. You'll find the Ellon trail map HERE and the full catalogue covering the whole of the North East HERE.
Cruden Bay has around a mile and a half of curving, sandy beach and dunes. Surrounded by cliffs and greenery, the beach has a slight pink hue, probably from the erosion of the red cliffs to the North. Visitors vary with the seasons. You'll see fishermen, sailors, jet-skiers, walkers, wind and kite surfers, day-trippers, paddlers and sandcastle architects - though not all at the same time. And the beach is a designated bathing water area so check the temperature and don't be shy. The harbour, Port Erroll, sits at the Northern end of the bay and offers berthing, hardstanding and slipway services. You can even park overnight in the car park for a small fee.
Slains Castle today is an unsettling place. It comes as no surprise that this imposing ruin, fronting directly onto cliffs east of Cruden Bay was one of the locations which inspired Bram Stoker in his creation of Dracula. Other distinguished visitors included Samuel Johnson and James Boswell on their tour of the Highlands and Islands. Undiscovered Scotland shares Johnson's description HERE, and Boswell's HERE.
A 13th century castle ruin on the cliff edge of the coast between Collieston & Cruden Bay. This was the seat of Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, who was declared a rebel and a traitor after converting to Catholicism.
In 1594 the castle was destroyed by cannon and gunpowder by order of King James VI as punishment due to arising suspicion that Hay was involved in a plot to capture him. Hay fled the country but returned secretly in 1596 where he rebuilt his castle, originally named “Bowness castle” and latterly the infamous “New Slains Castle”.
The ruins of it’s 8ft thick walls are now a scheduled ancient monument, overlooking the sea from a sheer peninsula of rock. Access via driveway is private but it can be viewed by walking track over the cliffs.
(Photo courtesy of Seonaidh Baker)
A hamlet of cottages overlooks a fishermen's cove beside a collapsed sea cave, which forms a cylinder of rock around 100 feet deep. An archway lets the sea in through the cliff and on rough days the sight and sound of the ocean breaking through can be daunting. Starting with the fulmars in February and followed by puffins and guillemots, you'll see all kinds of seabirds nesting here and the clifftops are festooned with wildflowers in season. The headland is the place for dolphin and whale watchers but be VERY careful: all of these walks are on high cliffs and there is no fence. Thank you, Leslie Mess for the photo).
Born in a garage in 2007, Brewdog is the fastest growing Food & Drinks company in the UK. The brewery in Ellon is one of the most advanced in the world and visitors can enjoy a Dogwalk, which takes in the original brewhouse, the epic new expanded Site 3 brewhouse, the Lone Wolf Distillery, the mind-blowingly spacious warehouse, awesome canning line and a cheeky look at the HQ offices, before relaxing with food and drink at the onsite Dogtap pub. Ellon is also home to our Overworks Brewery - dedicated to sour beer, which is served on handpump in the Dogtap pub.
This 800 year old fortress houses an impressive portrait collection, including works by Raeburn, Batoni, Romney, Gainsborough, Opie, Lawrence and Hoppner, and is home to a host of architectural treasures including the racquets court, bowling alley, ice house, bird hide and even a restored earth closet. Photo courtesy of NTS.
An ancient, broadleaved woodland beside the Ythan, near Methlick and Haddo, is home to badgers, brown hares, foxes and red squirrels. You'll find more places like this on the home page of the Formartine Ranger