Cullykhan Bay in Aberdeenshire

I love Cullykhan Bay

Near the village of Pennan, Cullykhan is a place that has long been appreciated by people, so it has a rich history. To the left of the sandy and sheltered beach lies an impressive promontory.

It’s been home to an Iron Age fort, now vitrified, and a medieval castle. Excavations have uncovered Neolithic and Roman finds (read more about these on the Canmore site).

From the promontory, you can see the Deil’s Lum (meaning devil’s chimney). This cave shoots sea spray with a roar during stormy weather.

The Deil's Lum, a cave at Cullykhan Bay.

It’s a place – promontory, bay and caves – that I write about quite a lot.

In THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, Isobell, Jasper and Ian have to cross the inside of the Deil’s Lum before following a tunnel to the castle. The tunnel is fictional, and so is my description of the interior of the cave, or rather it’s stolen from just around the corner.

As is my way, in the name of research, I have explored every tunnel and cave that is remotely accessible by land at Cullykhan.

cave entrance at Cullykhan Bay

This one leads to a dark and seagull-filled space… and it’s this space that I made the characters traverse, after slipping and sliding across it myself, of course.

Cave opening at Cullykhan Bay

Isobell, at least, did not enjoy the experience:

The truth was that caves and tunnels were more fun when told of beside a fireside, in dry clothes with a full belly. The reality of them – the cold, the wet, the dripping and the echoing, and the smell of decay – was only startling. The roof looked as if a huge ogre had wielded a knife inside the cliffs, cutting and carving to his heart’s content, but the idea contained no mirth, nor even any interest. And what lay ahead in this new life of ours?


Climbing to the Cave

Staring at the entrance of the Deil’s Lum from across the divide wasn’t enough for me, so one day I slid down the hill and climbed up into it. This is foolhardy behaviour, and not recommended, but I made a short video so you can see the cave without risking your own life and limb.

Writing Cullykhan

Cullykhan features heavily in the 1st century story of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. I loved writing about this beautiful place, capturing the essence of it in words. I took its great magnificence, and its beauty, and swirled them around, adding terrible, strange and unexpected events into the mix.

Cave opening at Cullykhan
Light and dark at Cullykhan…

I was honoured to appear on two wonderful websites recently: in an interview on Sue’s Musings here, and on Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore.

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Ethereal and spellbinding... says the Historical Novel Society of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Set in 1st century Scotland, and featuring the cliffs and caves of Cullykhan Bay, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book has a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance…

“Ethereal and spellbinding…” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.



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Writer’s Tip Jar

46 Replies to “Cullykhan Bay in Aberdeenshire”

  1. ‘So wonderful to see these beautiful pictures. Now we can see that your description of the cave in The Mermaid and the Bear was spot on. I finished reading Fireflies and Chocolate, and it was such a beautiful love story too. It happens that I lived in that part of PA between 1995 and 2003 in a rural, historic town still celebrating the arrival of Rev. George Weiss, first Reformed pastor to that area near Philadelphia, in 1727. My husband was a Protestant pastor there, and we found the ancestors of the people who arrived with their first pastor in 1727 are still the people who fill that rural church. Yes, in the 18th century they had African slaves even in Pennsylvania. ‘Story is told of a pastor’s wife who willed freedom to her slaves, and also willed her house which was church property to her freed slaves. It made for an awkward court case they haven’t forgotten.

  2. I love seeing the real places you use in your tales. Isobel’s take on the cave was apt for a young lady her age. All of your descriptions were lovely and drew me deeper into the story. Poetry amidst the prose.

  3. Wonderful – and the Border’s open at last…

    In novels and films, I ‘m fascinated by fictional geography – the world of locations. A former classmate found her dream job – sourcing locations…

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