Pennan

Pennan is one of the most picturesque fishing villages on the coast of Buchan. It is a single line of cottages perched on the edge of a shingle beach beneath towering cliffs of red conglomerate rock. The harbour lies towards the east end of the village and is still in use for fishing.

The village gained a degree of notoriety when it was used as a location for the film Local Hero, which was released in 1983, and which attracted many tourists. One of the props used in the film was a replica of the classic British red telephone box designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. In the film the telephone box was sited on the street near to the pub, and, of course, after the filming had been completed, it was taken away. Tourists, visiting the village after seeing the film were disappointed not to find the telephone box, so a real one, one of the few red telephone boxes left, was installed, as a tourist attraction. The story of the telephone box is disputed: A local source states that the telephone box used in the film was a prop and was indeed removed after the filming had been completed, but the real, functional, red telephone box was present when the film was being made, hidden by a hoarding for the filming, the hoarding having been removed afterwards, leading to the confusion.

In August 2007 a series of devastating mudslips sent hundreds of tons of mud and clay down the cliffs and caused such disruption that all of the residents had to be evacuated from their dwellings, but repairs are under way, and most, if not all of the damaged houses were inhabitable by the end of 2007. It is still easy to see where the land slipped, but the village itself appears to be more or less back to normal.

In the Autumn of 2009 a crack appeared in part of the cliff adjacent to the only access road leading into the village. It was feared that the crack would lead to another landslip, devastating the road and cutting off the houses. Aberdeenshire Council arranged for the crack to be stabilized using netting secured by bolts, preserving the road, and allowing the residents to continue living in the village.

Across Cullykhan Bay to the west of Pennan there is a massive peninsula connected to the mainland by a knife-edge ridge, a topographical feature that has been exploited as the site of a fortification since Pictish times. The peninsula itself provides fine views of Pennan, and some of the vestiges of the fortifications can still be made out on the ground. The western edge of the peninsula is a narrow gorge, and beyond the gorge there is a huge gash in the hillside, the landward opening of a high-roofed narrow cave that opens through the cliff to the sea. The sounds of the damned in torment echo and ring in the cave as the waves break on the seaward side. This is Hell's Lum (chimney).

A little further west of Hell's Lum is Troup Head, where there is a nature reserve recently opened by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The reserve contains part of the cliff-face of Troup Head, where there is the only mainland breeding colony of the largest native seabird, the gannet. Other species of cliffnesting birds, such as kittiwakes and guillemots also base precarious-looking nests on ledges, and in crevices of the cliff. Other seabirds that nest on or near the cliffs include fulmars, razorbills, and puffins.

(The 9th of 14 pages. Revision date: Friday 16th March 2012)

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