Walking to St Combs

Walking to St Combs

The Castlehill of Rattray is a pretentious name for a humble grassy mound, but it was once the site of a village with royal burgh status, belonging to a pattern of early castle sites stretching along the North-East coast. Their presence is strategic and has been associated with Viking forays. The Comyn Earls continued coastal defence from possible seaborne attack. Although all traces of the original fortification have vanished, a World War II concrete pill-box now crowns the top of Castlehill. Thus Rattray’s raison d’etre had clearly lain in its role as sheltered anchorage on a remote, exposed coastline.

Physical changes would threaten this vulnerable and dangerous inlet, spelling ruin for the folk whose living depended on its continued existence. Disaster was never far away. Rattray’s coastal embayment owed its shelter to the protecting shingle bar that had been building slowly southwards for centuries. Between the Castlehill and the sea, there existed a large sand hill. As long as this dune was stable, it served to protect rather than threaten, but stability removed, Rattray’s fate was in a very literal sense sealed. The writer of the Old Statistical Account of the parish, going on the evidence of local folk memory, suggested that around the year 1720 a furious easterly gale ripped at the dune and deposited huge quantities of its sand into the access channel to the bay.

The fate of Rattray may have been comparatively swift. From the evidence of 19th Century farming improvements on the estate, the laird of Rattray noted that sand lay on top of underlying old plough rigs, with no evidence of mixing, suggesting that movement of sand in the past must have been very rapid. Even today, narrow access roads become infilled and dry weather results in a considerable depth of loose sand on top of exposed soils.

'Sands and Silence' - DP Willis, Centre of Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen (1986). See the following images for more details..
Ref:
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Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson
Walking to St Combs

Walking to St Combs

The Castlehill of Rattray is a pretentious name for a humble grassy mound, but it was once the site of a village with royal burgh status, belonging to a pattern of early castle sites stretching along the North-East coast. Their presence is strategic and has been associated with Viking forays. The Comyn Earls continued coastal defence from possible seaborne attack. Although all traces of the original fortification have vanished, a World War II concrete pill-box now crowns the top of Castlehill. Thus Rattray’s raison d’etre had clearly lain in its role as sheltered anchorage on a remote, exposed coastline.

Physical changes would threaten this vulnerable and dangerous inlet, spelling ruin for the folk whose living depended on its continued existence. Disaster was never far away. Rattray’s coastal embayment owed its shelter to the protecting shingle bar that had been building slowly southwards for centuries. Between the Castlehill and the sea, there existed a large sand hill. As long as this dune was stable, it served to protect rather than threaten, but stability removed, Rattray’s fate was in a very literal sense sealed. The writer of the Old Statistical Account of the parish, going on the evidence of local folk memory, suggested that around the year 1720 a furious easterly gale ripped at the dune and deposited huge quantities of its sand into the access channel to the bay.

The fate of Rattray may have been comparatively swift. From the evidence of 19th Century farming improvements on the estate, the laird of Rattray noted that sand lay on top of underlying old plough rigs, with no evidence of mixing, suggesting that movement of sand in the past must have been very rapid. Even today, narrow access roads become infilled and dry weather results in a considerable depth of loose sand on top of exposed soils.

'Sands and Silence' - DP Willis, Centre of Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen (1986). See the following images for more details..
Ref:
Date:
Location:
Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson