Join us on our day trip in the Buchan area of Aberdeenshire, taking in the ancient sites of Aikey Brae and Deer Abbey, before experiencing more modern history at Peterhead Prison Museum and the Buchan Ness Lighthouse.
Our family adventures recommenced within the boundaries of the pandemic restrictions during the summer of 2020, and we looked to find and highlight the great days out available to us in the North East of Scotland. As we start to see light at the end of the tunnel following the roll out of the Covid 19 vaccine, we want to see Scottish tourism flourish again and want to encourage visitors both near and far to experience the amazing range of things to do and see in Aberdeenshire.
Near the modern day village of Mintlaw lies the tranquil ruins of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1219. For more than 300 years, Deer Abbey was home to Cistercian monks. They seem to have lived a quiet and contemplative life until the Protestant Reformation of 1560 brought the abbey’s spiritual use to a close.
Only the footings of Deer Abbey remain today after years of alterations and destruction, although there are still substantial ruins where the refectory, or dining hall, once stood.
The abbey is associated with the Book of Deer, which was probably kept in the abbey’s library. This Gospel book was written around AD 900 but contains many additions from around 200 years later. These additions are the oldest body of Gaelic writing in Scotland. The book is now kept at Cambridge University in England.
Only a five minute drive from Deer Abbey, is the even older Aikey Brae Stone Circle, which was erected around 4,000 years ago. The circle is well signposted and there is a small car park at the bottom of the hill. A brisk 5-minute walk up the hill to the circle gives excellent views of the countryside, with the small copse of trees having recently been cut down to give uninterrupted views of the stones.
Aikey Brae Stone Circle is the most intact Recumbent Stone Circle in Northern Aberdeenshire (these circles are made up of several standing stones, plus a large horizontal - or “recumbent” - stone which has an upright flanking stone at either side of it). Aikey Brae has 5 erect stones, including the recumbent and East flanker, and 5 fallen stones, including the West flanker. They are set upon a circular bank of small stones and earth c.14.4m in diameter, with kerbs formed by slab-like stones on the inner and outer faces. Most of the stones of the circle are of granite although the fallen West flanker and recumbent are of whinstone. The recumbent is estimated to weigh 21.5 tons.
To read our previous stone circle blog post, click here.
Peterhead Prison Museum
We then headed for the coast and the biggest town in the Buchan area, Peterhead. Our destination was the Peterhead Prison Museum, which is set within the former prison walls. The prison was once known as the most notorious prison in Scotland and the location of the only time the S.A.S were used in Britain to end a domestic siege after an officer was held hostage on the roof tops for 4 days.
The tour of the prison takes you through time from 1888 when it first opened its doors to 2013 when it closed, and you witness how life was for staff serving in this prison. As you follow the tour, you can hear some staff members speak of their experiences as you make your way through the halls, reception, shower block, court room segregation wing, silent cell, and hospital. The tour is remarkably interesting and a touch macabre at times, and really conveys the conditions in this most infamous location.
Buchan Ness Lighthouse
Just south of Peterhead is the quaint seaside village of Bodam and its imposing Buchan Ness Lighthouse. The lighthouse was surveyed by Robert Stevenson, Engineer of the Lighthouse Board, and built in 1827. During the World War a drifting mine was washed ashore and exploded some 50 yards from the lighthouse. No one was injured but 3 lantern panes were cracked, 12 other panes of glass were broken in the tower, engine room and cottages. In 1978 the light was converted to electricity, and in 1988 it was automated.
There are 166 steps to the top of the tower, and you can even stay at the lighthouse buildings since they have now been converted into holiday cottages. Unless you are staying in the cottages, you cannot access the lighthouse, but there is a path that circles the perimeter of the compound.
Take the challenge, discover what is in your backyard, whether you live in Scotland, in the other parts of the British Isles or even Europe, venture into the fairy tale land of Bonnie Scotland.
Join us next time when our family adventures continue as we explore more of the attractions of Aberdeenshire. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.
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