(030) St Mary’s Chapel-Rattray Head Lighthouse Return (Aberdeenshire)

Route Summary
An easy rural walk from an 800 year old ruined chapel near the Loch of Strathbeg, a Special Protection Area for wildlife conservation, to the seashore at Rattray Head, with its imposing lighthouse. The nearby sand dunes can be 30 m high, providing a good all round viewpoint.

Duration: 2.75 hours

 

Route Overview
Duration: 2.75 hours.
Transport/Parking: No public transport nearby. Walking from a bus-stop on the A90 main road would double the length of the walk. There is a small parking area beside the walk start/end point.
Length: 7.420 km / 4.64 mi
Height Gain: 85 meter
Height Loss: 85 meter
Max Height: 28 meter
Min Height: 0 meter
Surface: Moderate. A mix of tarmac, good hard tracks, soft dunes and beach sand.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance.
Difficulty: Easy.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on the public road and near to any livestock.
Refreshments: Ban-Car in Lonmay. Tufted Duck in St. Combs. Options in Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Description
This easy walk, mostly on the flat, starts and finishes at the ruin of St. Mary’s Chapel of Rattray and follows a narrow access road through fields to the coast. The church was constructed in the 13thC, although the site was probably associated with the spread of Christianity in Buchan from the 6thC. It is thought to have been erected by the Earl of Buchan, William Comyn. Following the Reformation, use of the Chapel probably ended, and, after the great storm of 1720, the whole area was abandoned as a settlement. The village of Rattray was small when belatedly made a royal burgh in the late 16thC, and by 1696 it was occupied by only 4 fisher households. Rattray Castle, now disappeared from the landscape, was once the focal point of the small coastal community. It was constructed in the late 12thC on a large sand dune now marked on maps as Castle Hill, between the Chapel and the former harbour at Starnakeppie on the then Bay of Strathbeg. The tidal bay supported a harbour until the storm of 1720, when persistent problems with access to the sea being blocked by shifting sands finally came to a head. The tidal inlet flooded to become the Loch of Strathbeg, now Britain’s largest coastal lagoon, and a seasonal haven for up to a fifth of the world’s pink-footed geese. The loch, maintained by the RSPB, is a site of international ecological importance as home to a wide variety of wetland wildlife, such as breeding terns and gulls, as well as migrating waders and wintering geese (there is a RSBP visitor centre accessed from Crimond). At the mid-point on the walk we arrive at the windblown beach on the headland overlooking the Rattray Head Lighthouse, built on a rock tower and surrounded by sea water except at low tide. Listed as a building of architectural/historical interest, the light was established in 1895 by the famous Stevenson family. The innovative design made it the first rock lighthouse to have an inbuilt fog siren. From here, the walking route circles around the headland and climbs into the high sand dunes, part of a dunes system that stretches almost 30 km from St Combs to Peterhead.

Links:
Photos from walk
Download Route Guide  (PDF with illustrated Waypoints)
Download GPX file  (GPS Exchange Format)
Access Walk on Viewranger
Access Walk on Wikiloc  

 

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