Not a still from a film:
our back yard (Newburgh)
I've lived most of my life in Aberdeenshire with the exception of a few years at university and gadding about teaching in Europe. Every time I left, I came back. I grew up in Newburgh, went to school in Ellon, and now I'm bringing up my own family in Newmachar. This is not an accident, this is a choice. When I leave I think it's the landscape I miss the most, and it's not just a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. I really do appreciate it when I'm here too. This morning I headed to Newburgh Beach with the dogs, as I very often do. The coast is where I go when I need a think. If you added up the amount of time I spend on Balmedie beach, Newburgh beach, Collieston, Cruden Bay and Forvie Sands we'd be looking at weeks, possibly months of my life. Those places our best kept secret. There are other, really secret ones beyond Collieston heading up to Peterhead that you can only reach if you have a 4x4 or a car you don't care about too much. You look around and the views are the stuff of tourist adverts, yet they appear in none.
My husband's family and many of our friends live in the Central Belt. When we take them to these places they are open mouthed. They see them through the eyes of people who do not have access to coastal wilderness on their doorstep. They cannot believe, for example that on Forvie Sands they are standing ten feet from a massive colony of seals and their pups. They stand at the edge of the wee harbour in Collieston and it's the first time they've seen a dolphin outside of an aquarium or Florida theme park. I tell them there have been Orcas seen there too, in fact there was one just outside Peterhead Harbour the other week and they need Youtube proof before they believe me. (Go here if you still don't believe me! 1 minute in for the action https://youtu.be/skxQzv_CINs)
Not a screenshot from an Attenborough documentary:
a photo I took on Forvie Sands!
That ruin you can just see on the outskirts of Cruden Bay? Glows kind of red when the sun is going down? Bram Stoker who wrote Dracula used to hang out there. Yes, yer actual "Dracula". They say that the house was an inspiration for the castle in the book. Yet it's Whitby that makes a big deal of the Dracula connection.
look closely you might see a bat!
Along the Ythan River as you go towards Fyvie from Ellon there's another ruin. This one belonged to an even bigger literary giant. It's the ancestral home of Lord Byron. Yes, THE Lord Byron. He was an Aiberdeenshire loon, don't you know, as well as being one of the greatest poets in the English language. He's an ancestor of the Gordons.
Lord Byron: Titan of literature
(and a loon fae Gight!)
And there's pracitcally nobody at these places, except a few dog walkers. These links to titans of literary history aren't tenous ones, yet we make no fuss about them. In the same way we make no fuss about the fact that our beaches are like being in an Springwatch episode on an hourly basis (but without the over enthusiastic BBC naturalists!). In March I was in the Basque Country and I was taken to a small village that was famous in the area for the fact that Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables, stayed in a guest house FOR ONE NIGHT! There was a plaque and a wee museum and folk taking photos against the little narrow building that he spent less than 24 hours in! Dracula's author and one of the greatest poets of all time LIVED in our area. Something is wrong with this picture!
We live in a place that if we really shouted about what we've got we could give the West Coast tourist industry a run for their money. We could encourage filmmakers to use our landscapes as locations. Could it be that we maybe have to stop hiding our lights under our understated North East bushels? Eco tourism is something we need to look into in a serious way. We need to start telling more people about the people who lived here, the things that happened here. We need to start giving our kids more of an idea of the local and natural history of this amazing place. Maybe it's time to do something that maybe doesn't come all that naturally to is North East folk, and boast a little....
As lovely as it was to walk along the North East coast this morning and only see a couple of dog walkers and a jogger, I feel slightly selfish. Folk need to know what we have here. It's nice to share. And sharing our secrets might just be the making of us, and our local economy.