Banff to Gardenstown – Section 8 | Day 12

Banff to Old Haven

Passage Planning notes:
Banff Bay is sandy on both sides of the River Deveron mouth but rarely is there no surf. No requirement to approach with availability of Banff Harbour. Macduff Harbour is commercial with a concrete slip in west basin. However with Banff nearby this would only be used in urgent situation. Collie rocks are a danger offshore from the north side of the harbour commercial slip. Wide berth should be afforded unless local knowledge of the inside channel is onboard. The only sandy beach beyond Macduff is found in the first bay beyond Tarlair swimming pool in the Bay of Cullen, locally known as the ‘Salmon Howie.’ This bay is protected by two rocks across mouth of the bay. Approach and beaching on sand possible but with local knowledge onboard. Old Haven is a shingle beach, the Burn of Cullen and the Burn of Melrose flow onto it.

Banff to Collie Rocks 0.8 miles
Banff to Old Haven 1.6 miles

Old Haven to Gamrie

Passage Planning Notes:
Offlying rocks exist off Mohr Head. Gamrie Harbour is protected by the Craigen Dargety rock. Approach on east side of rock is clear. There is a marked channel on the west side but dangerous rocks lie on either side of this channel. There are pontoons within harbour but with a slip which would facilitate launch or recovery.

Old Haven to Head of Garness 0.6 miles
Garness to Mohr Head 2.2 miles
Mohr Head to Gamrie 1.0 miles

Banff Academy skiff, Banac
The coast to the east of Banff is broadly unexplored by local skiffs and demand for a seat in the boat is high! We have built up quite a flotilla, with Morven and Morag from Finechty, Soy Loon and Soy Quine from Portsoy, Heave Awa from Whitehills and Banac from Banff Academy is here to see us on our way, although its training row will be towards MacDuff and back! Then there is Mike in the rib, Soy Lassie, and a couple of yachts from Finechty, all loaded with supplies and spare rowers, ready for en route changeovers of crew and some R&R. It is good have the comfort of the support boat for the more difficult areas as we venture out into uncharted territory.

Banff Harbour, looking towards MacDuff
Mike and passengers in Soy Lassie
The Loon in Banff harbour

They say around along this stretch of coast that the water ‘flows to Fraserburgh and ebbs to Elgin’, so we are planning to row with the rising tide.

It’s not far from Banff across the mouth of the Deveron, past the Banff Bridge to Macduff. Macduff has quite a busy harbour with a reasonable cargo and fishing fleet and some well-used maintenance businesses so there’s always the chance of encountering a much bigger vessel before we get to the unpopulated part of the coast.

Banff Bridge
Morag in Banff Bay

Macduff Aquarium
We avoid the busy commercial harbour and steer well clear of Collie Rocks. Here we should just about be able to see the distinctive domed top of the Macduff Aquarium, but it’s doubtful whether we will encounter any of its residents nosing out towards the North Sea!

Aerial view of Tarlair pool
As we pass Macduff, we might catch a glimpse of a rocky arch near the old open-air art deco pool at Tarlair. Built in 1931 this Category A listed building is, according to Historic Scotland, the best surviving example of an outdoor swimming pool in Scotland. Aberdeenshire Council has recently agreed to fund £300,000 of essential improvements/repairs so it might throng with squealing children once again.

From there we pass across the first cove beyond Tarlair, the Bay of Cullen; happily we are not lost, going westward to Cullen, but there is a nice beach there which we could use as a bail-out point if needed. This is known to the locals as the ‘Salmon Howie.’ Each cove after this is numbered the 2nd Howie, 3rd Howie etc. A howe in Scots is ‘a hollow or low-lying piece of ground’ and a howie would be a small hollow just as a brig becomes a brigie.

Soy Quine
With the rising tide, this section should be a straightforward row where we can enjoy the rugged parts of the Aberdeenshire coast. There are a number of rocky outcrops along this stretch, some of which are regularly used by climbers and are noted in climbing circles. We will be more focussed on keeping our timing steady and together than on looking for climbers, and it’s likely the climbers will be too busy concentrating on their next handhold to notice our flotilla gliding by.

Troup Head in the background beyond the cliffs
The cox has a tantalising view of Troup Head as we continue eastward, yet it never seems to get much closer; in any case, it is something to aim for tomorrow as we only have to reach Gardenstown today.

The coast now is mainly cliffs with very few beaches for bailing out so this is a stretch where the safety boat would be welcome in changeable conditions if rowing alone. Findochty, Whitehills and Portsoy will be rowing in company for most of this leg and fine weather will doubtless prevail!

Approaching Gardenstown
Maintaining a steady rhythm is key to keeping focussed after the mid-point of the day’s row. The coxes keep one eye on the coast to be the first to spot where the cliffs take a dip down to sea level to let in the pretty fishing village of Gardenstown. Pulling in to the surprisingly big harbour, who will be first to make it to the delights of Eli’s café with her delicious home-made cakes? No room in the skiff to pick up any of the local crafts on sale, but that gives an excuse to return by road another day…

An aerial view of Gardenstown and harbour
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