Johnshaven & Inverbervie
We return to our journey through bonny Eastern Scotland looking at a microcosm of life along the North Sea. Our visit today will explore two North Sea fishing villages. Traveling about an hour north from Arbroath (see previous North Sea Article – part 1) by car or regional bus, we soon arrive in the picturesque village of Johnshaven. In season, fishing boats line the harbor bringing in fresh catches from the temperate waters of the North Sea which is fed by the Gulf Stream. When the lengthy flat lava base is exposed at low tide (pictured, lower left), it becomes a boon to the local fisherman for gathering lobster, crab and haddock for most of the year. Then add cod during the summer months for a maximum bounty.
Hundreds of creels line the wharf awaiting their next opportunity to trap succulent lobster and crab from the North Sea. Commercial fishing is a high maintenance skill requiring attention to detail during the shore days. Scotland’s population is only a fraction of the UK’s total inhabitance, but supplies over 60% of the seafood consumed. Scotland is a vital resource for the country’s love for fresh seafood.
Watching this shipwright master his trade, I was ready to burst into Jimmy Buffet’s song “Boats To Build”, as recorded alongside Allan Jackson.
“Days precious days roll In and out like waves. I got boards to bend, I got planks to nail. I got charts to make I got seas to sail.
I’m gonna build me a boat with these two hands. It’ll be a fair curve from a noble plan. Let the chips fall where they will, cause I’ve got boats to build”.
Scotland’s Thomas Morton invented the Patent Slip (marine railway) in 1818. It allows a time saving way to dry dock a sea going vessel. Over time the mechanisms have changed, but the basic design stayed the same.
The proof is in the catch! Pictured right are hundreds of fresh lobsters crowding the tanks at Murray McBay & Company on the east pier. These crustaceans are about a foot long from pinchers to tail. There are also other tanks nearby that house huge crabs that were trapped during recent outtings. When our desire for fresh seafood reaches a certain point, Murray McBay is the place we come to.
For the approximately one thousand people who call it home, Johnshaven residents keep a tidy town with rows of ubiquitous whitewashed fishermen’s cottages perched on a slight bluff above the North Sea. Johnshaven host its annual Fish Festival every year in mid-August with attendance from people all over the world.
Inverbervie, our next stop is only 5 miles away. You can follow a coastal path from Johnshaven on foot or transport by car. This is a “must-stop” for me every time I visit Scotland. The prefix “Inver” denotes that the town is at the mouth of a river, and in this case the Bervie River. The neighboring town of Inverness has similarities with Inverbervie. The quaint community is at the mouth of the Ness River, which flows into the Loch Ness.
Being a foodie and lover of seafood, it is a great treat to go with my friends to The Bervie Chipper restaurant (pictured, left). It is located on Highway A92, the main road through town. We must keep an eye on the traffic direction while crossing the road – you know they drive on the other side of the street in Scotland. I suppose this is the thing that trips me up most when I visit the British Isles.
I can’t resist the Fish and Chips served here. My daughter and I argue, good-naturedly of course, about where to find the best Fish and Chips in Britain. She says Anstruther, but I say here! For sure we disagree because neither of us have been to the other’s favorite haunt. Both locations have won National Awards over the years for their heaping servings of haddock and French fries similar to this mouthwatering plate shown upper left. It is accompanied by a platter of hot scampi (fried Norway Lobster). Weather permitting, we will sometimes get a “to go” order. We stroll to the Inverbervie Beach park, setup a picnic like atmosphere and savor the food while watching the soothing waves of the North Sea.
Having a great fish eatery is not all Inverbervie is known for. Hercules Linton, the designer of the British clipper ship Cutty Sark was born here in 1836. We Walked down the sidewalk along the highway towards the large bridge to the town’s memorial that honors this hero from Scotland. The memorial is in the form of a full size replica of the figurehead of the ship. The scantily clad witch named Nannie is from Robert Burn’s poem Tam o’ Shanter.
I find that if you want to put a little “spice” in your travel schedule, it is a great idea to include new adventures to remote places you have not experienced before. It adds a flare for fun and creates everlasting memories. I look forward to sharing more of my travels along the North Sea soon!
Author: Paul Scopel
Photographer: Paul Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper