The result of extensive field research, this unique guide by Roger Smith presents you with a dazzling array of choices, starting from the southern end of the area
Arbroath. It was within this historic town’s superb abbey that Scotland’s nobles declared their independence in 1320. Fine working harbour, excellent pubs to celebrate your arrival (try The Old Brewhouse or The Smugglers) and superb cliffs to the north with natural arches and stacks. Hourly bus or rail to Montrose.
Auchmithie. Village perched on clifftop high above small scenic harbour. Welcoming pub, the Auchmithie Hotel, and an excellent small restaurant, the But’n’Ben. Bus (or lovely cliff walk) to Arbroath then train or bus to Montrose.
Lunan Bay. Glorious long sweep of sand, often deserted. Ethie Haven, at S end, is incredibly picturesque group of cottages. Red Castle is a dramatic ruin. Bus to Montrose (or lane walk, about 2 hrs).
Boddin Point. Not as good as it looks on the map. The huge “castle” is in fact a former limekiln. Just north is the weirdly shaped Elephant Rock. Lane walk to Montrose.
Fishtown of Usan. Poignant row of deserted fishermen’s cottages plus abandoned coastguard tower make this a place of much atmosphere. Easy lane walk to Montrose or follow the coast to…
Scurdie Ness. Lighthouse guarding entrance to Montrose harbour. Like all of its kind, it is now automatic but still retains atmosphere. A “Challenge Cairn” was erected here in May 2005 so it makes a good place for a finish photo. Short road walk (or bus from Ferryden) into Montrose.
St Cyrus. The village is on the clifftop; the cliffs, dunes and beach are a
National Nature Reserve with superb birdlife in May. Small visitor centre on the beach and don’t miss the wonderful old kirkyard with the grave of George Beattie, a Montrose “poet” who killed himself here after being jilted by a local beauty. Hourly bus to Montrose.
Tangleha’. The name (which means “weed haven”) has drawn many Challengers. It’s a small huddle of old cottages plus one extraordinary villa which looks as if it has been bodily uplifted from Ibiza. Hourly bus from main road to Montrose.
Johnshaven. Attractive fishing village with a neat harbour, a good pub and a shellfish processing plant. Worth exploring before you catch the hourly bus to Montrose.
Gourdon. Another neat fishing village still with working boats. Not much used as a finish point but well worth considering. Good pub (Harbour Bar). Hourly bus to Montrose or why not enjoy the fine walk to either Johnshaven or Inverbervie on the old “Low Road” (now a track) before catching the bus?
Inverbervie. “Bervie” to the locals, this small, busy town featured as “Segget” in the novels of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Several good pubs, and the Bervie Chipper has won awards. There is a very good community garden and an excellent village Sculpture Trail including the figurehead of the Cutty Sark designed by the splendidly named Hercules Linton. Hourly bus to Montrose.
Kinneff. Historic church where the Scottish Regalia were hidden in the 17th century after being smuggled out of the besieged Dunnottar Castle. Superb cliffs but no easy access. Hourly bus to Montrose from Roadside of Kinneff.
Crawton. RSPB’s Fowlsheugh reserve stretches north for two miles from here, with a cliff path. Magnificent birdlife in May, well worth an afternoon’s visit. Hourly bus from main road to Montrose.
Catterline. Small clifftop village above lovely wee harbour. The artist Joan Eardley painted many fine works here. Excellent pub, the Creel Inn. Bus from main road to Montrose.
Dunnottar Castle. Exceptionally atmospheric site on large peninsula. Used by Zeffirelli in film of Hamlet. Open to visitors and well worth exploring. Fine cliff walk into Stonehaven for hourly bus or train to Montrose.
Stonehaven. Large, busy town with full facilities and a fine and very photogenic harbour where there is a good museum and two pubs. Hourly bus or train to Montrose.
Muchalls. Large village above dramatic cliffs with a splendid waterfall. For your actual finish you can choose between two evocative headlands – Grim Brigs to the south or Brown Jewel to the north. Just inland is Muchalls Castle (C17th), not usually open in May but might be if you ask. Bus to Aberdeen or Stonehaven for train to Montrose.
Newtonhill. Like Muchalls, the village is now used by commuters working in Aberdeen and has grown as a result, but is still a picturesque place with small harbour on a deep bay. Bus as above.
Cammachmore/Downies. Another lovely bay, rarely visited so you may well have it to yourself. The village is up on the main road. Short walk to Portlethen station for trains to Montrose.
Portlethen. Now an unlovely large commuter village, the original settlement on the cliffs is still relatively unspoiled, but to reach it you’ll have to get through a shopping centre and industrial estate. With its growth has come a station, though not all trains stop here. If you’re feeling energetic there’s a fine cliff walk all the way to…
Aberdeen. Major city and port with every facility you could desire. Much of historic interest if you’ve time to spare. The trick is getting there without too much road-slogging. Frequent trains and buses to Montrose.
We have omitted a few very small places, to leave you some room for exploration. North of Aberdeen the coast stretches on to Fraserburgh with many more fine places at which to end a walk. Though few Challengers venture this far north, those who do find it’s worth the effort. Blowup Nose, just north of Aberdeen, sounds great but is in fact the municipal rubbish tip!