Stonehaven is famous for its fireball-swinging festival on Old Year's Night, an ancient pagan ritual.
The solid and tidy old fishing port of Stonehaven lies 15 miles south of Aberdeen, where the coastal A92 joins the main A90 from Dundee. Nowadays Stonehaven is better known as a seaside resort, attracting a fair few visitors in the summer months.
Stonehaven was voted 'Scotland's best seaside town' in 2010.
Phone code: 44 (0)1569
Local Sights & Activities for StonehavenSightseeing
Stonehaven's outdoor swimming pool - an art deco heated salt water pool - is open most days and also has occasional midnight swims (Tel: 01569 762134).
By the harbour is the Tolbooth Museum, built around 1600, and the town's oldest building. It now houses a seafood restaurant and local history museum. Jun-Sep Mon and Thu-Sat 1000-1200 and 1400-1700, Wed and Sun 1400-1700. Free.
Another attraction is the town's highly respected folk festival, held over three days in mid-July. Away from the harbour and old town is the market square, where you'll find banks with ATMs and most of the shops. Just off the square is Just Scottish, an excellent arts and crafts shop (open Mon-Sat 1000-1730).
The main reason for coming to Stonehaven is to visit the impressive and impregnable Dunnottar Castle, two miles south of town just off the A92. Dating from the 12th century, this ancient ruin was a stronghold for the Earls Marischal of Scotland. Standing 160 ft high, with the sea on three sides and a huge drop and 'curtain wall' on the fourth, it is not far short of an island. It is worth devoting considerable time to exploring one of the country's most outstanding castles, which is approached by a steep 400-yd walk from the car park. So dramatic is its setting, that it was used as the backdrop for Zeffirelli's film version of Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson. But the fortress has a dramatic and bloody history all of its own. In 1297 William Wallace (another of Mel Gibson's characters, strangely enough) burnt alive an entire English garrison here; later, in 1685, a large group of Covenanters was imprisoned, tortured and then left to rot in the castle dungeons. The castle was reduced to its present state in 1716, during reprisals for the Earl Marischal's Jacobite activities.
Easter-Oct Mon-Sat 0900-1800, Sun 1400-1700; Nov-Mar Fri-Mon 0930-1600. The castle can also be reached by a footpath from Stonehaven; contact the tourist office for the relevant leaflet. Tel. 762173.
The 26th Stonehaven Folk Festival features evening concerts at the Town Hall apart from variety entertainment programmes at various venues around the town.
Annual New's Year Eve festival in the village of Stonehaven
Stonehaven Hotels & Accommodation
The best place to eat in town is the excellent Tolbooth Restaurant, Tel. 62287, upstairs from the museum on the harbour. It's expensive but worth it for the excellent seafood. Open Tue-Sat 1830-2130 (1730-2200 Sat). The restored Carron Tearooms serve traditional high tea Wed-Mon 1330-1600 and boasts a wonderful art deco interior.
Six miles north of town at Netherley, on the B979, is the friendly and welcoming Lairhillock Inn & Restaurant, Tel. 01569-730001, a charming old coaching inn which offers excellent local produce in beautifully rustic surroundings at mid-range prices. Also has rooms at Lairhillock Lodge. A few miles south of Dunnotar Castle is the turn-off to Catterline, where you'll find the wonderfully cosy Creel Inn, renowned for its seafood.
Travel Directions to Stonehaven
Stonehaven is on the Aberdeen-Dundee rail line and there are regular trains in either direction. The train station is a 15-min walk from the square. It's also served by buses 101, 107 and 707 from Aberdeen and there are also buses to and from Montrose. It's possible to head straight from Stonehaven to Deeside by taking the A957 (known as 'The Slug') to Crathes.
The Stonehaven Tourist Information Centre is at 66 Allardyce St, the main street past the square, Tel. 01569 762806. Apr, May and Oct Mon-Sat 1000-1300 and 1400-1700; Jun and Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1300 and 1400-1800, Sun 1300-1800; Jul-Aug Mon-Sat 1000-1900, Sun 1300-1900.