Lunan Bay and Red Castle

I missed a trip the other week to Lunan Bay, one of Scotland’s longest and most beautiful beaches about ten minutes north of Arbroath on the road to Montrose.  Today, there was a break, and it seemed like a good time to go.  The sun was out, and it was 14 degrees C.  From Arbroath, Lunan Bay is about a 15-minute drive.  A word of warning if you go.  The iPhone directions actually tell you to turn right about half a mile early.  To get to the lovely dunes and the sea, you need to drive right into the heart of this small hamlet.  You will then see the signs for the beach and its parking.  The drive takes you through farming land and cow pastures with the beautiful red Highland Cattle with their sweeping horns. Lunan Bay is one of the few remaining areas in Scotland where salmon netting takes place.  They have apparently been catching salmon here since the 15th century.  Up until the 1960s, the salmon fisherman lived in bothies, little shacks near the beach, and would only go home to their families at the weekend.

As you near Lunan, look off to your right and before you get to the actual village,  you will see Red Castle.


Red Castle has a tragic history, and today it is mostly in ruins, ready to fall down.  It was built in the 12th century for King William of Scotland to defend against the Viking invaders who had been coming to the shores of Lunan Bay since the 10th century.  It is called the ‘Red Castle’ because it is built of red sandstone bricks.  The castle and the surrounding lands passed down to several individuals.  Ingram de Balliol married the wife of the late Walter de Berkely.  Together they rebuilt the castle, and the castle is said to have remained in their hands until their grandson, Ingram, died childless in 1305 and it was passed down to Henry de Fishburn.  It came into the hands of Robert the Bruce who gave it to the Earl of Ross in 1328.  It is awhile til the saga happens.  In 1579, Lady Elizabeth Beaton who owned the castle at the time fell in love with and married James, the son of Lord Gray.  Well, James fell in love with Lady Elizabeth’s daughter, and she throws him out.  James Gray joins with his brother Andrew of Dunninald, and for two years they try to take the castle.  They were ultimately successful by burning them out.  Since then they say the castle went into decline.  There are some images on the website Scottish Places that show the castle in the 1950s with its roof intact.  Today, as you can see it is almost entirely in ruins.  I did not know, but there is a footpath that will take you right up to the castle to see the keep.  I might try that tomorrow!

Lunan House has rooms to let.  It is close enough that you can walk down to the beach.   You might also be able to get a meal here.  On weekends before April 1, there is a cafe near to the beach parking, and I understand it is open daily once the visitors begin to come.


I had an exciting event happen on the drive back to Arbroath.  I wanted to take photographs of the Highland Cattle, so I was driving slowly along a lane that was about 1.5 cars wide (small cars!).  The car in front of me had a pheasant leap into its windscreen.  Well, this reminded me of our old friend, Alf Waddingham from Grantham.  He told us the rule:  If you kill the pheasant you cannot take it but the next person can.  We often thought he might have scared them out of the ditches into the lanes to get hit as he always came home with 4 or 5.  Well, today, I pulled an Alf.  I don’t think the chef was that thrilled when I brought the beauty into the kitchen, but I am hopeful someone working on the estate will like it and take it home.  The colours on this bird are just amazing, and it was quite sad, actually.  That said, I have every intention of plucking those tail feathers.


And tonight Lucy came to fetch me so I could see the ‘Worm Moon’.  It is apparently a Super Worm Moon that is occurring with the spring equinox.  It will not happen again until 2144.  This is the first time that a super worm moon has occurred since 1905.  The farmers used to say that the first full moon in March was when the soil had warmed up and the worms would wake up and come out of the ground.  Apparently, it will be brilliant at 2am!  Here it is starting to rise.






  1. Marilyn Cram Donahue says:

    Thank you for your beautiful article. Lunan Bay is one of my favorite places in Scotland. My husband and I stayed at Lunan House numerous times! I am a writer of 17 books of historical fiction and books for middle grade and young adult readers, as well. Some day I hope to write a book with Lunan Bay as its setting. Thank you again for your article.

    1. Dear Marilyn, Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I enjoyed reading your note. Oh, I must check out your books! Lunan Bay became such a very special place for me while I was at Hospitalfield House. It still inspires me. Had tickets and bookings to return in April 2020. Just fell in love with the area. I can see how it could be a huge inspiration for a book! Please alert me if you do write that book, please.

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