Location: Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
Map: OS Landranger 396
Distance: 5 miles (8km)
Time: 3-4 hours
Grade: easy coast walk
Mature woodlands just south of Stonehaven can be linked on a cliff-top walk past the ruins of Dunnottar Castle, one of Scotland's most best-situated castles.
Dunnottar Woods is 80 acres of mixed broadleaf trees on the banks of the Carron and Glasslaw burns. It creates a cool canopy on a warm morning. Paths and tracks took us through the woods and around a field where red campion and vetch added splashes of colour. Beyond the red-brick walls of old Dunnottar House on the Glasslaw burn, meadowsweet and wood anemones grew in damper ground.
Dunnottar House was demolished after the Second World War. The woods were planted about the time the house was built, in the early 19th century. Beyond the woods a quiet road heads towards the sea and the cliffs that look down on the ruins of Dunnottar Castle. With gulls shrieking, the still-stormy sea gurgling in the bay below and the gaunt ruins silhouetted against the sky, it was a dramatic sight.
The crumbling castle is largely from the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is thought to have been a Dark Ages fort, sitting above steep cliffs on three sides with only a thin neck linking it to the mainland.
Some of the great heroes of Scotland's history appeared on this stage at some point or another - William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II all came here, and a small garrison held out against Cromwell's army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Honours of Scotland, from destruction.
The route begins from Market Square in the centre of Stonehaven and follows Allardice Street south until opposite the court and police station. Turn right and follow the road until it takes a sharp turn to the left. Cross the road here and enter Low Wood Road where you'll find a signpost on the left for Dunnottar Woods.
At the end of Carron Gardens follow a path up the steep slope and at the first path junction turn right to climb up towards a large field. Follow the path now in an anti-clockwise direction around the fields until you see the walls of Dunnottar House. Continue following the main path to reach a road. Turn right, cross the road and follow the path opposite the entrance to Dunnottar Nurseries. Skirting Gallows Hill follow this path to a car park and picnic area. Leave the area to the left, then turn left again on to the A957. Follow this road for a short distance and take the first turning on the right. Follow this narrow road over a hill and past the former Maritime Radio Station to a junction near Dunnottar Castle. Turn right then left into the castle car park then follow the cliff-top path.
Beyond the castle a narrow footpath follows the clifftops north, back to Stonehaven.