Ages: Colin was 66 years and 80 days. Rosemary was 63 years and 223 days.
Weather: Cloudy with a couple of drizzle episodes. Warm and muggy.
Location: Gardenstown, via MacDuff, to Banff.
Distance: 11 miles.
Total distance: 1589½ miles.
Terrain: Some beach, both sandy and boulders. Some grassy paths. Concrete on the harbours. But MOSTLY road walking with no footpath! Undulating.
Rivers: No.132, the Deveron at Banff.
Kissing gates: None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: No.15, Duff House in Banff.
Ferris wheels: None.
How we got there and back: We took two days to drive up from Malvern to Gardenstown where we have rented a cottage for two weeks. This morning Colin drove to Banff with his bike on the back of the car, parked the car near the harbour and cycled back to the cottage. When he returned, we started the Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk at the car which was parked just behind the harbour. After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Gardenstown. We had already visited Duff House when we were staying in Pennan back in May.
Inside, we found the house to be so full of furniture we had difficulty getting round it. We never did get to the further end of the table to find out what was in the sideboard! There is no garden attached, the terraced cottage opens out directly to the street front and back. Luckily Colin’s bike just fitted into the back porch, but we had to take it out the door if we ever wanted to go out that way. The fridge kept packing up, and just as I was about to despair it would start working again. Colin had to rewire the TV because it had been done completely wrong — luckily he is a retired electronics engineer and knows about these things. The oven didn’t always heat up. I got the knack of bashing it about a bit, and suddenly it would start to work! And the hot water system had a mind of its own, so we could have had a shower in the middle of the night but not always when it was convenient to us. It was certainly the most eccentric accommodation we have stayed in to date. But it was a place to lay our heads, and made a base for our Walks.
Now to the Walk itself. We started it from our crazy cottage, bypassing the harbour as we had already walked that last time. The sunshine of yesterday had completely disappeared, and the low cloud made it look almost dark. But it wasn’t at all cold, quite muggy in fact. Visibility was very poor all day.
We stopped and chatted to a woman on the beach who asked to look at our OS map. She, too, was staying in a holiday cottage, and had been hoping to do some coastal walking in the area. She was as disappointed as we were to find that there are no paths along the cliff tops. I told her we were walking to Banff, and that most of today’s Walk would be along the road. I chatted to another woman who had a little girl the same age as our grandchild, Natalie. This delayed the start of our Walk a little, but in the nicest possible way!
We looked in the churchyard, and found it was full of 18th century graves. Some had a skull and crossbones carved on the tombstones! We noted that a lot of children were buried there. One tragic family lost three of their children, aged nine, three and five, in December 1793 — all over Christmas. Then in 1808 the mother died, followed by another son aged twenty. (He would have been five when his brothers and sister died.) The father continued to live another thirteen years. How poignant! The church must have been without it’s roof for sometime, for there were gravestones actually within the walls.
We looked for the path, clearly marked on the map, which we hoped to take, but found it to be so completely overgrown it didn’t actually exist! That meant we had to take the track to a car park and thence to the road, which meant more road walking than we had planned. But at least we didn’t have to cross the stream gorge again with its steep sides. We had a last look back at Gardenstown before we left the ruined church, then made for the road with heavy hearts.
Neither of us like road-walking, especially when there is no footpath and we are out of sight of the sea. It was a bit of a route-march for three miles before we could turn off. We always walk in single file, and try to step off the road, if it is at all possible, when vehicles appear. Some cars slowed and some didn’t. Some gave us plenty of room, even driving on the ‘wrong’ side to give us a wide berth. And some went speeding past as if we weren’t there! We had to be on the alert the whole time. Eventually we were able to turn off on a ‘yellow’ road (we call them that because they are marked yellow on the map) to go three sides round a rectangle. It was a longer route, but at least it got us off that wretched busy road for a while. We passed a farm which looked more like a factory — that seems to be the way of farms these days. It was all shut up, but that could have been because it was Sunday.
But as we entered MacDuff, a footpath appeared much to our relief. We walked past a golf course, and then found an alley which led down to the beach. There we turned eastwards for about a quarter of a mile because we had missed that bit out, not being by the coast. We passed a sewage works, and walked on until we overlooked a derelict lido complex.
There was no way over to where the teenagers had been, so we had to walk all the way back to where the harbour began. It started to rain quite hard, and we got out my cape and Colin’s umbrella once again. It stopped raining once we got to the town.
We didn’t walk on the eastward, and much shorter, arm of the harbour because it looked too gungey. In fact there was a derelict feel about the whole of MacDuff with many seafront businesses closed down. I wonder how much the demise of the fishing industry has to do with this.
The girls were continuously jumping from the high walls into the harbour, then climbing out again. They were teasing the young boy who was not so sure. I told him not to do it if he didn’t want to — that’s how tragedies happen. I felt most uncomfortable for him. In the end he plucked up courage and did it, just once. Then he climbed out and went away — home I presume.
The girls got more and more silly in their behaviour, showing off for our sakes. So we ignored them and departed as quickly as we could. I didn’t want to be there when the inevitable tragedy happened. As a stranger, it’s no good talking to kids like that, you only get a load of abuse and they do it more.
That ended Walk no.184, we shall pick up Walk no.185 in the car park behind Banff Harbour. It was six o’clock, so the Walk had taken us seven hours. After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Gardenstown.
We visited Duff House back in May when we were staying in Pennan.
It is an 18th century Georgian manor house, now used as an Art gallery. A beautiful-looking house from the outside, but not much that interested us — we prefer medieval castles! And we are not ‘Arty-Farty’ people so we weren’t much interested in the exhibition either.
But we were amused by one of the art exhibits, a headless limbless statue!! Well, at least it has boobs! Why didn’t they just chuck it in the bin?