Lodge St Olaf is situated in the picturesque village of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Located approximately 23 miles north of the city of Aberdeen known locally as the granite city and world wide as the oil capital of Europe.
Cruden Bay is a costal village with beautiful walks along sea cliffs and beach. In days gone by the village was a popular retreat for the landed gentry, and the legacy of those days are that there are many and varied attractions to be seen within the village and it’s surrounding countryside.
The village is home to a world class golf course, frequently rated in the top 50 around the world, and as well as the fantastic beach which draws visitors from far and wide, the focal point for many, lies just to the north in the impressive ruin which was Slains Castle, the acknowledged inspiration for Brams Stoker’s “Dracula”.
As you travel along the A957 Road towards Cruden Bay the first sight to welcome you to the village is the St. James’s Episcopal Church set alone on an elevated site.A beautiful building with flood lights highlighting it against the horizon.
Built during the 1800’s with monies donated by the then 17th Earl of Erroll and dedicated to St. James the less, the church has a spire is some 90 feet in height and with its’ elevated location places the spire approximately 300 feet above sea level. .
While you travel past the church views of the sea, the village and the ruins of Slains Castle reach up to meet you. As one scans the views ahead ones’ attention is drawn to Cruden Parish church lying approximately a quarter of a mile in land.
The Parish Church of Cruden was built in 1777, the walls of which are said to have been built from the “Grey stone of Ardendraught” a huge boulder of granite removed from Oldtown farm near Whinnyfold. The church was enlarged in 1834 with two circular towers added.
Just a matter of yards from the Parish Church is the unusual “Bishops Bridge” with its’ single arch crossing the Water of Cruden the bridge was built in 1697 by the Bishop of Brechin the bridge contains the coat of arms of both the Bishop and the Earl of Erroll in the south wall. The bridge was extended in 1763 by the 14th Earl of Erroll. Care must be exercised when crossing the bridge due to its narrowness.
Approximately half a mile from St. James’s is a road junction, travel eastwards here for approximately 2 miles and one arrives at the cliff top village of Whinnyfold, pronounced locally as “Finnyfa’” a collection of cottages that has remained almost unchanged for centuries. >From here a short walk northwards leads one to “ Cave Arthur” a large dry cave formerly used to hide contraband from the excise men in the days when smugglers brought their goods ashore along this coastline. The cave is inaccessible at high tide.
During the 19th century 24 boats fished from Whinnyfold but, as there is no harbour the boats were drawn up onto the shingle beach below the cliff and the fish laid out to dry.
Look south along the rocks to where the Spanish Galleon Santa Caterina is said to have floundered in 1588.
In the local Kirk yards are head stones carrying the Spanish sounding name of Castel, possibly descendants of the survivors of the Santa Caterina sinking.
At Whinnyfold the cliffs change from gneiss to granite. From here one can take to the cliff top path and walk the two miles to Cruden Bay and admire the views along the cliff and look off shore to the Scaurs of Cruden a group of prominent rocks which extend about half a mile into the North Sea which in times gone by claimed the lives of many a mariner.
Legend tells how, ”When there is a full moon at the Lammas Tide and if you have the ‘sight’ you can see the blanched bodies of all the folk who have been savaged by the reef during the past twelve months come out of the sea and make their way to St. Olave’s Well so that they can join their spirits in heaven or in hell.”
The writer Brams Stoker had a holiday home here and based his book “ Mystery of the Sea” on the legend. Brams Stoker eventually retired to Whinnyfold and spent the latter years of his life here, where the legends and stories of the area were a great source and inspiration of some of his masterpieces of horror.
Located in the centre of the village is the monument to Tryggve Gran, the first pilot to cross the North Sea,
Also located in the heart of the village is the Ladies Bridge which gives access to the beach beyond.
Beyond the Ladies Bridge the road leads to the Harbour which is a popular visiting attraction. Once a busy village port supporting a vibrant fishing community, the harbour is still used by village fishermen as well as recreation sailors.