The most dramatic Scottish castle you never knew existed
Dunnottar Castle is kinda ridiculous. It can't possibly exist. Surely it's only a figment of the imagination of a Game of Thrones writer? The impossible placement of a noble fortress jutting out from a craggy cliff into the angry, raging seas is really just too incredibly cool to be real.
Get your most sturdy and unsexy walking boots on, because if you can, you should really walk up to the castle by the dramatic cliff drops, the swooping crows, and the erm, mooing cows. Your day will start in Stonehaven, where you'll most likely arrive by train or bus (it's a 20-minute train ride from Aberdeen). Stonehaven is a stunning historic Scottish fishing village, and well worth a visit in its own right. The beach is cold, grey, utterly Scottish, and utterly picturesque.
Looking at the township from the beach in Stonehaven.
It's about a 3km walk to the castle from the township. If you can't walk, taxis are pretty cheap and quick. But if you can, you'll experience some rather pretty views. There are signs the entire way showing you which way to walk.
You'll start getting excited when you see Dunnottar Castle in the distance, just standing there all unassuming (Me? Ridiculously good looking? Noooo). You'll pass some fields of friendly moo cows – some bright spark has rightly thought it a good idea to use all this lush, green pastureland to good use. They're happy girls and give visitors a warm welcome along the path.
We'd never think of mooooving away from the castle!
Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress. It is famed for having been the hiding place of the Scottish crown jewels from Oliver Cromwell's invading army in the 17th century. It was used as a setting in the 1990 film version of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson. The site itself has been inhabited since Pictish times, as far back as 5000BC. The place really can only be described as magical – the landscape, especially the cliffs, surrounding the castle are truly swoon-worthy.
Standing close to the edge is not usually recommended.
After your big adventure, you really should finish off with some dessert. Back down in the township of Stonehaven, Aunty Betty's is an institution. You should really use this occasion to pig out, ahem, indulge in some traditional Scottish "sweeties". Luckily, Aunty's range of ice-cream will beat just about anything anywhere, and you'll always find some Scottish Tablet on offer – a fudge made from condensed milk, sugar and butter.
Some of the famous places you'll visit as a traveller will leave you unsatisfied and wondering what the big deal was. Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle do not fit that category. It's a day trip that you'll never forget, and you'll always think back on as one of the loveliest "touristy" things you've ever done.