Photo story: the celebrated seafood of Stonehaven, Scotland

Stonehaven’s glory days as a thriving fishing village may be behind it, but the culinary legacy of its past remains. Grab yourself a table with a sea view and tuck in to smoked haddock, award-winning fish and chips or fresh lobster.

Thursday, September 17, 2020,
By Simon Bajada
Photographs By Simon Bajada
There are attractive coastal walks from Gourdon Harbour in both directions, and tourists sometimes stop off ...

There are attractive coastal walks from Gourdon Harbour in both directions, and tourists sometimes stop off here to buy fresh fish from recently returned boats.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

Stonehaven has a prominent community of sea cadets, who can often be seen around the town. It’s also still home to a small-scale fishing operation, although nearby Gourdon Harbour has a higher turnover, supplying Stonehaven restaurants, such as the Tolbooth, with scallops and other seafood. With its rough waves, the North Sea remains a dangerous place for local fishermen like Ian Balgowan, who admits it’s harder to make a living fishing these days. His family’s culinary contribution goes beyond fish — in 1992, daughter Evelyn served up the first deep-fried Mars bar, at the Carron Fish Bar (formerly the Haven Chip Bar).

Sea cadets descending the hill from the Stonehaven War Memorial after a ceremony. Stonehaven has a prominent community of sea cadets, who can often be seen around the town.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

With its rough waves, the North Sea remains a dangerous place for local fishermen like Ian Balgowan, who admits it’s harder to make a loving fishing these days. His family’s culinary contribution to the local area goes beyond fishing — in 1992, his daughter Evelyn served up the first deep-fried Mars bar, at the Carron Fish Bar (formerly the Haven Chip Bar).

Photograph by Simon Bajada

Among the several curious buildings in Gourdon Harbour, filleting sheds contain boxes used for salmon trading, while customer orders mount up in a fisherman’s hut. Meanwhile, in the smokehouse, fresh fillets of haddock are lined up for smoking. The final product is served with egg for breakfast at The Ship Inn in Stonehaven Harbour. There are attractive coastal walks from Gourdon in both directions, and tourists sometimes stop off here to buy fresh fish from recently returned boats.

While Stonehaven Harbour is home to a small fishing fleet, nearby Gourdon Harbour has many more boats, supplying many local restaurants with scallops and other seafood.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

In the smokehouse in Gourdon Harbour, fresh filleted haddock waits in line for the smoker.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

The menu at the Tolbooth is seasonal and changes regularly. This fine dining restaurant is housed in one of Stonehaven’s oldest buildings, the former tolbooth, which it shares with a museum of local history. Like the Tolbooth, The Marine Hotel has great views over the harbour. It’s one of several places in Stonehaven where you can get excellent fish and chips. Other options include The Bay, which was has won national awards for its battered haddock and chips.

The Marine Hotel offers great views over the harbour, not to mention a menu of pub classics that make great use of local ingredients. The friendly hotel is a great starting point for an exploration of the area.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

The Marine Hotel is one of several places in Stonehaven where you can get excellent fish and chips. Other options include The Bay, which has won national awards for its battered haddock.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

The menu at the Tolbooth is seasonal and changes regularly. This fine dining restaurant is housed in one of Stonehaven’s oldest buildings, the former Tolbooth, which it shares with a museum of local history.

Photograph by Simon Bajada

Published in the Summer 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food

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