Exploring Old Banffshire

Pennan in Banffshire

I travel with a group of lovely girls on our “expeditions” to see Scotland’s garden and landscapes. As Cullen Harbour hostel is no longer in the Independent Hostel Guide a good alternative, just up the coast is the  The Sail Loft Bunkhouse,  is a good as a base  for exploring old Banffshire and Aberdeenshire.  The phone box in the photo above was used in the film Local Hero, and is found in the isolated village of Pennan within easy driving distance.

I had three friends in tow when I first used Cullen Harbour Hostel. As our stay unfolded we became settled in the old fishermen’s store which has been cleverly restored as a cosy warm place.   We used Cullen Harbour Hostel as the base to visit  Deeside and Crathes Castle. The garden here is splendid. It has a fine handkerchief tree, magnificent herbaceous borders and wonderful topiary. To create topiary gardeners cut yew and boxwood into unusual shapes. Our dive into the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park in Aberdeen met with an explosion of colour and horticultural excellence.

Duthie Park Winter Gardens
Duthie Park Winter Gardens, Banffshire
cullen harbour at sunset
Cullen harbour, Banffshire

A visit to Banffshire would not be complete without calling in to Ballindalloch Castle. It is often referred to as the “Pearl of Banffshire” and as the pearl is precious the name is apt. Lamas keep the grass down in the paddocks. A fabulous Laburnum arch leads through to the Castle and the rock garden.

Banffshire and whisky go together. My favourite is Strathisla distilled in Keith a wee town situated half way between Aberdeen and Inverness. When I was a young man aged fourteen years I acquired a lemonade bottle of Strathisla for my Ne-erday (New Years) bottle. I didn’t drink any myself. I poured many a person a dram from my bottle which is traditional Highland hospitality.

Cullen harbour hostel, Banffshire
Cullen harbour hostel, Banffshire

At the close of every day we returned to beautiful Cullen and our hostel. We met many interesting people including a beautiful young lady who entertained us on her Appalachian dulcimer (a mellow string instrument). We met people who had just finished walking the Speyside Way… some from Falkirk who were involved in Helix Park and the Kelpies.

Our hosts Ruth and Howard are always friendly and welcoming. They make sure that everything is in place to make your stay a happy one including giving you masses of space and time to relax with your new found friends.

Cullen Beach, Banffshire
Cullen Beach, Banffshire
Bow Fiddle Rock Cullen Bay, Banffshire
Bow Fiddle Rock Cullen Bay, Banffshire


About Brian Sutherland

​Brian explores Scotlands Gardens and Landscapes. In summer he leads the Glasgow Garden Walks Group to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.