Gardenstown, or Gamrie as it's known, is a fishing village on the northeast coast of Aberdeenshire, with a population of 762 in 2011. It's the largest of the string of attractive villages clinging to this rugged coastline: the other main settlements are Crovie and Pennan.
From Inverness by car follow A96 east past Elgin to Fochabers, then A98 through Banff and Macduff, then B9031 along the coast.
From Aberdeen the simplest route is A96 northwest, then just before Huntly take A97 to Banff then B9031 as above.
Watermill Coach 273 runs along the coast from Banff and Macduff to Gardenstown, taking 30 min. There are five M-F, and the last stop is on Main St just above the harbour. The bus from Fraserburgh has been axed.
From Aberdeen take Stagecoach Bus 35 towards Elgin and change at Macduff. This runs every 30 min and takes two hours.
You need wheels to get between Gardenstown, Troup Head and Pennan. A bike would do.
- 1 Gamrie Heritage Centre, Harbour St AB45 3YT. Apr-Oct M-F 14:00-16:00. Small local history museum by the harbour.
- 2 St John's Kirk is a scenic ruin on the headland west of town. It was rebuilt in 1513 but fell derelict from 1830.
- 3 Crovie is a tiny coastal village, just a single row of cottages, no longer fishing since its pier was wrecked in a storm of 1953. Walk along the clifftop path from Gardenstown. If you drive, use the south end car park and don't try to scrape along the village lane.
- 4 Troup Head, Gardenstown AB45 3JL (off B9031). 24 hours. RSPB bird reserve: the headland has gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills. Donation.
- 5 Cullykhan is the site of a castle, on a pinchpoint on the headland cliffs. A series of fortifications have perched here since maybe the 7th century BC, with the last an 18th century gunnery point, but only earthworks remain visible and you come for the view.
- 6 Pennan is another tiny coastal village that has lost its fishing trade. It was "Fenness" in the 1983 film Local Hero, when a Texan tycoon tries to buy up the land for an oil refinery. The red phone box on the quay became iconic, a red exclamation mark as the hero's links to his city-slicker world stretched thin. The beach scenes were filmed the other side of the country near Mallaig.
- Hike along the clifftops and watch the birdlife.
- Golf: no course in town, there's a couple in Macduff / Banff.
- Spar on Macduff Rd is open M-F 06:30-19:00, Sa 06:30-17:00.
- Garden Arms on Main St (see Sleep) serves food daily till 20:00.
Garden Arms is the main pub.
- Garden Arms, 69 Main Street, Gardenstown AB45 3YP, ☏ . This is the local pub, restaurant and hotel, in an 18th century building. Decent food, dog-friendly, its two rooms "The Wonky Room" and "The Squinty Room" share the bathroom. B&B double £100.
- B&Bs in Gardenstown and Pennan didn't open in 2021.
- 1 Gamrie Bay Caravan Site, Easter Cushnie, Gamrie AB45 3HT (off B9031), ☏ . This is open all year but for Caravan Club members only, no camping.
- Harbour Cottage is self-catering right on Gardenstown harbour. Dog-friendly.
- Two Bears Cottage is self-catering at 162 High St AB45 3YW.
- Pennan Inn, Harbour, Pennan AB43 6JB, ☏ . Smart friendly village inn. B&B double £100.
The reason that the Local Hero of 1983 tried to conduct international business from a red coin-operated phone box was that he couldn't get a mobile signal. Perhaps to preserve the area from corporate sharks, you still can't - as of Sept 2021, Gardenstown and Pennan remain dead spots. You might manage a call with Vodafone, but there's no signal from EE, O2 or Three.
- West is Banff and Macduff, attractive linked coastal towns with the impressive Duff House.
- East is Fraserburgh, the large fishing port near the tip where the coast turns south.
- South is Huntly with its ruined castle.