Lewis Grassic @ Gibbon

We had a wee gander around Lewis Grassic Gibbon territory at the weekend.

At the Kirk of St Ternan, we duly signed the visitors book before setting off to Fowlsheugh in search of puffins.

Fowlsheugh is aptly named since the stench of bird-droppings is quite overpowering although some folk prefer to call the place Crawton.

There are around 200k breeding seabirds on and around the sea cliffs at this time of year but there were only a very few puffins - perhaps seven in all -  and I now am wondering if the RSPB have plaster mock-ups stapled onto the seaside cliffs. Seemingly if you sign up to a public walk they will show you more at a cost of £8 for members and £14 for so-called 'Non -members'.  I prefer to be an outsider and, given the lack of facilities on-site, am quite prepared to stick to my principles. Seven puffins will do me for a lifetime methinks.

Confusingly, the interpretation boards along the way sometimes refer to fish as opposed to birds and the way-marks are sparse along the path. An initial piece of faded signage suggests that the walk to the end of the RSPB path is a mere 1km. But, perhaps someone has been moderate with the truth since my Fitbit records 1 mile trudge each way. But perhaps a kilometre either way matters not unless you are elderly. And, although last time, a dry-loo awaited at the end of the walk; this is now closed and a key-less lock alongside an open invitation to clean the facility greets the visitor. I often despair at the impression such silliness must make on the foreign tourist. The bushes around the bird-observatory are of course stained a familiar yellow.

I had brought along my trusty 25-105mm USM since the - long-distance - 70-300mm weighs a ton. So, the bird-shots are mainly fairly crap. In sharp contrast, we met a man from Fife who had packed a massive telephoto. In retrospect I should have gotton his contact details.

Fowlsheugh was however hoatching with walkers, mainly passing Belgian tourists of course, and I was pleased to see that the cliff-top waterfall near the car park is still in fairly full spate despite the weeks of drought. Then on to Gourdon Chipper for a fish supper which we ate in the car park alongside the former coastal rail-line between Gourdon and Inverbervie.
There is a memorial to Lewis Grassic Gibbon and his late wife, and other members of the Mitchell family, in a western corner of the Arbuthnott churchyard. Often the butt of jokes about tourists seeking out the monkey house, Gibbon was of course fortunate to have escaped irreverent comments concerning machine guns.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire


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