19 members – and one friendly dog – met in Hopeman last Saturday for a sunny and very breezy walk along the coastal path to Burghead, with a detour down to the shore to explore the caves below Cummingston. There were plenty of birds about including eider ducks, oyster catchers and gannets out at sea, yellowhammers, robins and a sparrowhawk on the path.
In Burghead we had our picnic on the roof of the Visitor Centre which is situated on the highest point of the old Fort. At 1pm Cath Millar from the Burghead Headland Trust opened the centre and we were joined by six more members. Cath introduced the various displays on view, including photographs of Gordon Noble’s excavations, the carved Pictish bull stones, the model of the fort as it might have looked in Pictish times, information about the Clavie, and the history of fishing in Burghead. The centre also has a viewing gallery, a great place to view the Moray Firth and escape from the wind. Cath then led the group down to St Aethan’s cemetery where she pointed out “the Cradle stone” on the east wall, with a cup like hollow in its centre,made deeper by children repeatedly striking it over the years. ” It is said that as far back as anyone can remember, the children of Burghead have been led to believe that all babies come from below this stone”.
From there the group visited the mysterious Burghead Well uncovered by builders in 1809 looking for a water supply for the new planned village. A flight of 20 stone steps leads down to a square chamber cut into the rock and containing a stone tank fed by an underground spring. There are many theories about this well, once thought to be a Roman bath house, but now considered to have been a place of Pagan or Christian rituals. The final visit was the harbour and the Shetland Bus memorial. This was unveiled in 2015 to commemorate Burghead’s involvement in the operations to transport agents and supplies to Norway in 1942 and 1943 and to help resistance fighters to escape the occupation. One member of our group commented at the end of the visit, that they did not know Burghead had so much to offer