History of Portsoy and Maritime Heritage
Portsoy was established in the 17th century and boasts one of the oldest harbours on the Aberdeenshire coast. Portsoy has two small harbours and was once a thriving herring port on the Banffshire Coast. The first historic harbour dates back to 1679, and this is where you will find Creel Cottage which was built at the same time. The odd old wooden boat sits in the harbour and sometimes a passing yacht. The harbour is now quiet and quaint but with stunning views in every direction. The second “new” harbour was built in 1839 and is now home to the mostly leisure, boats that remain.
During the days of the change from sail to steam the scale of fishing and the nets involved grew. As a consequence two brothers set up business by Loch Soy in the town to produce their solution to hauling the large nets and lines involved. Their answer of a steam driven capstan sold throughout the UK but their line hauler, used in deep sea fishing, was sold world wide putting Portsoy on the international map.
Today Loch Soy is no longer home to industry and instead homes a number of ducks and a pleasant walking area with the only boating available being small peddle boats to hire! The area in and around Portsoy Aberdeenshire is dedicated to tourism with much to see and do. For those interested in bigger boats then The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival is an event not to be missed. This covers much more than just the boats and the items associated with them but also the local foods available past and present as well as folk music from the local area and further afieldTop
Fishing around Portsoy
If you are interested in sea fishing you need look no further than Portsoy harbour where you can catch cod, pollock , wrasse, coalfish, mackerel, ling and conger. Another good spot for fishing is from the rocks beside the old open air swimming pool. Here you can fish for cod, pollock , wrasse, coalfish, mackerel, flounder, dabs and plaice. There are many other points you can fish locally. Why not drop into the angling shop in Cullen for advice.
For river fishing there are many fine rivers and lochs in the area too including the rivers Findhorn, Spey and Deveron. Both salmon and trout can be fished.
For still water trout fishing there is the Loch Insch Fishery.Top
Eating and Drinking in Portsoy
For those not so keen on catching their fish, there are several restaurants, pubs and cafes in Portsoy to sample the local seafood. A few doors down from Creel Cottage is the Shore Inn serving lunches and evening meals while a few doors down in the opposite direction is the Beggars Belief Cafe which serves snacks all day including delicious homemade soups. Up the hill from Creel Cottage is the Boyne Hotel which serves bistro meals and on the main street is the Station Hotel which offers a good range of the local seafood as well as other good local fayre with meat and vegetarian dishes catered for. Further along the main street a good range of hot meals are served all day at Wilkies. There are also a couple of other good coffee shops serving meals all day including Ross the Bakers and a more extensive menu at the aptly named Portsoy Coffee Shop. If an ice cream is more what you are after the Portsoy Ice cream Shop boasts some of the best homemade ice cream in the area with many flavours to choose from and a selection which is constantly changing.
Cycling and Walking from Portsoy
Portsoy is on the main national Sustran Nation Route one which runs through both Aberdeenshire and Moray. This offers a number of options for both cycling and walking. There are also a large number of options for coastal walks. Follow the coast round from the harbour around the bay, or if inclined follow the old railway line to Banff or head west to the site of the old open air swimming pool and onward to Buckie. Perhaps you prefer to follow the sign posted path across fields to Fordyce to see the quaint village and its fine castle (castle not open to the public).
Sailing and Water Sports from Portsoy
The Aberdeenshire coast provides plenty of opportunities for sailing. Portsoy is suitable for smaller or flatter bottomed craft. For larger craft there are full marinas in Whitehills, Banff and Peterhead. Sailing tuition is available in Banff, Peterhead and Findhorn. There is a canoeing club in Banff. The sea, rivers and lochs provide opportunities for canoeing which is becoming increasingly popular. There are several good swimming beaches.
The Northern Lights in Aberdeenshire
The Aberdeenshire Coastline still offers the perfect chance to view the Northern lights or Aurora Borealis as they are officially termed. Indeed October 8th 2012 saw one of the most spectacular displays for many years. The months from October to March offer the darkest sky’s. With luck and some help from the solar storms and flares from the sun, a cloudless night in a location facing northward and you too could witness this awe inspiring light show only nature can provide. Creel Cottage has uninterrupted views north so is well placed.
In order to have the best chance try subscribing for free email messages from Aurora Watch or follow them on Twitter. You will then receive alerts warning you of when there is a chance to spot nature showing off.Top
Wildlife around Portsoy
Portsoy and Creel Cottage is a perfect base for exploring the diversity of wildlife that the Moray Firth is famous for. Creel Cottage itself has stunning views of the Moray Firth. Right before you there could be some of the now famous Moray firth dolphins from the most northerly based bottle nosed dolphin group in the world to common, white-beaked and rissos dolphins too. During summer you may be lucky enough to spot whales passing through including minke, pilot and killer whales. Or see some of the local seals basking in the sun while otters maybe playing in the river estuaries on the way out to sea.
Not only do we have such amazing marine life in the Moray Firth but this area of the Banffshire coast in Aberdeenshire boasts a stunning array of birds too. Troup Head RSPB site sits just between the beautiful villages of Crovie and Pennan. Here on the 365 foot high red cliffs can be found one of only 2 mainland Gannet colonies along with a whole host of other birds including fulmars, gannets, shags, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and there are even some puffins resident too! Maybe you will see the passing dolphins from the top or why not combine a chance to see all by booking a wildlife trip on one of the local boat cruises which can be found at Buckie in the form of Gemini explorer or Puffin Cruises from Macduff.
Just around the corner on the east coast of Aberdeenshire is Loch Strathbeg RSPB centre. The loch of Strathbeg was created in 1720 when a sand storm created a sandbar across the mouth of the channel. This led to the forming of the largest dune loch in the UK and is now part of the 2300 acre RSPB site. This area of wetland in Aberdeenshire is important for waterfowl and in winter is home to 20% of the world population of pink-footed geese. Here as well as these geese you can also find migrating waders including black-tailed godwit, ruff and greenshank – while lapwings and redshanks breed on the wet grassland. Large numbers of mute swans gather on the loch to moult while the common terns bread on the small islands in the loch. Corn buntings, yellowhammers and skylarks can be found on adjacent farmland. 260 species of birds, 280 species of moths, more than 300 different species of plants, 18 butterflies and more than 20 species of mammal can be seen in and around the loch throughout the year.
Seals can be seen along the coast of most of Aberdeenshire. Their precise location varies according to the time of year but most of the year they can be spotted on the rocks out to sea at Portgordon where they enjoy sunbathing on a sunny day. From November to May they can be seen swimming off the sandy beach at St Combs. If you don't see them at once just wait a few minutes and then you will become aware that you are being watched! First one head then another will pop out of the sea and you will notice their intense interest in you as they follow you as you walk along. As many as 40 or more seals can be seen at the same time.
A little further south is one of the main colonies of seals on the banks of the River Ythan. Here seals can regularly be seen in their hundreds sunbathing on the sandy banks of the Ythan.
Also don't forget to head inland too with a choice of amazing birds at the North East Falconry Centre where you can watch owls, hawks, falcons and eagles flying.Top
Portsoy and Creel Cottage itself is within an hours drive of the 300 Aberdeenshire castles in various states of repair from ruins to full family homes. To the east of Portsoy within a mile are a couple of ruined castles including the ruined Palace of Boyne. To the west within a couple of miles of Portsoy there is the ruined Findlater Castle. From the Aberdeenshire Castle trail you can choose to follow or just pick a few from the 300 available in the Aberdeenshire area to view.
Findlater Castle can be found on the coast between Sandend and Cullen This spectacular ruin is built into the rocks above the Moray Firth and offers stunning views of the Banffshire coast. There are still areas of the castle that can be explored but great care needs to be taken.
Huntly Castle is a short 17 mile drive away and is a well preserved ruin. On the site of Huntly Castle are the remains of the original 12th century motte and bailey castle but the substantial remains date back from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Huntly Castle saw more than its fair share of battles and was burnt to the ground on more than one occasion. Once the seat of the Dukes of Gordon it fell into disrepair when the family found themselves on the wrong side in the Civil War. Now owned and administered by Historic Scotland the magnificent ruins are open to the public for a modest fee.
Delgatie Castle, Turriff, Aberdeenshire is an intact castle which is open to the public. Delgatie dates back to the 11th Century but is still a home today. The castle has much to offer including the bed chamber where Mary Queen of Scots slept to the Laird’s kitchen serving lunches. The grounds of the castle offer woodland walks and a lake.
Fyvie Castle is another intact Castle. The earliest parts date back to 1211 but further towers were added in the 14th, 15th and 18th centuries. Part of the Castle to this day remains a family home but the Castle is now owned and maintained by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public for much of the year. Fyvie Castle is a good example of the Scottish Baronial style and apart from the sumptuous Castle interiors there is a good cafe and long walks available in the extensive Castle grounds which boasts a large beautiful lake.
Spynie Palace, Elgin Moray was home to the Bishops of Moray. The large tower, Mighty Davids Tower, offers views of the area around it. This Tower is the largest tower of any tower house surviving today in Scotland.
Duff House, Banff Aberdeenshire, is an 18th Century building built by William Adams to be a beautiful home for the Earls Fife. Here today the building is now home to many passing art exhibitionsTop
Golf in Aberdeenshire and Moray
Aberdeenshire and Moray offer over 50 golf courses from parkland to links including one designed by Dr Alistair MacKenzie who designed the home course of the US Masters. Locally to Portsoy there are a number of courses for you to chose from.
Cullen Golf Course just over the border in Moray can be found on the edge of the Moray Firth overlooking the Banffshire coast. This course founded in 1870 is only a few miles from Portsoy and offers an 18 hole 4597 yard par 63 course. When you have finished golfing why not settle in the club house to sample a bowl of Cullen Skink the areas fish based creamy soup!
Royal Tarlair Golf Club in MacDuff Aberdeenshire offers a cliff top parkland course to test more serious golfers but also caters for enjoyable golf for the not so serious. Here you will find an 18 hole 5866 yard par 71 course with views of the rugged Aberdeenshire coast.
Turriff Golf Course is situated inland within Aberdeenshire. This course is over a hundred years old with water and mature trees to add to the challenges on this 18 hole 6145 yard par 70 course. After your round stop by the club house where catering and panoramic views of the Deveron Valley are to be found.Top
Whisky around Portsoy
Portsoy is right on the doorstep of the Speyside Malt whisky trail. However you do not have to go that far to visit a working distillery since Portsoy boasts its very own distillery. Glenglassaugh Distillery is just outside of Portsoy. Here you can find out about the unique process this distillery uses to produce its own distinctive single malt during a tour which can be booked in advance, or drop into the new visitors centre where Glenglassaugh's single malt whisky can be purchased. There is a cafe where other drinks and light snacks can be enjoyed.
Speyside offers a multitude of distilleries from small to internationally renowned. Round every bend at times there seems to be another with many offering tours.
The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Aberdeenshire is probably one of the best know producers of single malt. Here you can enjoy a free tour , which takes you through the entire process, and sample a number of single malts and afterwards visit the shop and cafe.
Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch Aberdeenshire can be found further west. This distillery has recently undergone expansion which combines a new look with the age old process of making a single malt. Tours here are free.
There are many more distilleries available and indeed there is the official Malt whisky trail covering Benromach on the edge of Forres, Cardhu located in Knockando, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant Distillery Rothes Aberlour with its stunning gardens worth visiting too, The Glenlivet, Glen Moray in Elgin, and Strathisla Distillery at Keith rounding off the working distilleries.
To fill out the whisky making process there is also Speyside Cooperage Dufftown Road Craigellachie. Here you can follow the life cycle of a barrel and experience the craftsmanship required to maintain these.
Finally there is Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery. This distillery is now closed but offers a chance to see how a malted barley was produced on site back in the early days. This site now being run by Historic Scotland does allow you to get a little closer to the processes involved.
Why not make sure you are here for the next Whisky Festival when Scotland's Whisky Country will be full of life again 2013 when the Festival runs from 2nd - 6th May 2013. during this time there are many special events and chances to visit distilleries that are not open to the public throughout the year.Top
Traditional Music in and around Portsoy
The local dialect in Aberdeenshire is a form of Scots called Doric. Likewise Aberdeenshire has a wealth of folk songs that hearken back to its fishing and farming past. The local songs are called Bothy Ballads and can still be heard in many of Aberdeenshire's folk clubs.
Portsoy has its very own folk music club which meets in the Salmon Bothy by the seashore. The Salmon Bothy is a short 5 minute walk from Creel Cottage around the seashore to the west. The club meets on the third Friday of each month from 7pm although as seating is limited getting there early is advised. Apart from an open mic session on the third Friday, the club also hosts guest artists from time to time. For further details you can visit their web site at http://www.bothyfolk.org/ Even closer to Creel Cottage is a monthly folk music session which meets on the first Sunday of each month at 1pm in the Beggars Belief Cafe a few doors down also in the old harbour. You can find further details of their session and other sessions in the area at http://www.pkfolk.co.uk/
There are many folk clubs throughout Aberdeenshire but Creel Cottage has special links with Fyvie Folk Club which meets on the second Friday of each month in the Vale Hotel Fyvie. Fyvie is the home to one of Aberdeenshire's most famous folk songs “The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie”. You can keep up to date with what's on at Fyvie Folk Club through their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/fyviefolkclubTop
Churches in Portsoy
There are two churches in Portsoy. The established church in Scotland is the Church of Scotland which is Presbyterian. The kirk as it is known meets in Portsoy on the first three Sundays of the month at 10.30am.
The second church is St John the Baptist which is the Episcopal church (part of the worldwide Anglican church). St John's meets twice monthly on the first Sunday of the month at 9.15am and the fourth Sunday of the month at 10.30am. Other services are as arranged and you can find further details on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/stjohnsportsoyTop