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Information and photographs of Pennan and Pennan Harbour in Scotland
Pennan is a hidden gem of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It sits below the farmlands of rural Grampian, near Fraserburgh. The drive down to Pennan Bay is quite steep and care should be taken to drive slowly down this narrow road, but rewards await. There is a car park at the top of the Pennan road and the village and harbour is a short, but pleasant walk.
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Pennan was a traditional fishing village community and this is still in evidence with the rows of drying greens for fishing nets which is now giving over to washing lines and benches and seats to sit and enjoy the coastal views. Do look out for a unique bench made from driftwood by one of the villagers. The old fashioned fishing cottages and houses have retained their charm and are still white-washed.
One or two fishermen with their boats and creel baskets still fish from the harbour and others now earn their living from giving boat trips to tourists to see the local wildlife like seals and birds and to enjoy more coastal views from the sea. These costs from only £5 for children and £10 for an adult.
The beach is pebbly with a small area of sand and is enclosed by cliffs. The feeling of getting away from it all is one of the charms of Pennan.
Souvenir cards and photographs can be bought outside one of the private houses.
Toilets are situated at the far left as you enter Pennan and there is plenty of free parking.
Meals, bar snacks, hot and cold drinks and alcoholic refreshments are available at the Pennan Inn which is directly across from the most famous Pennan landmark of the traditional red phone box. My camera ran out of batteries as I got there to take a photograph but I will add this photo to the page in a few weeks.
Pennan was a sleepy village and well kept Scottish secret until writer Bill Forsyth wrote and directed the film Local Hero
. It starred Burt Lancaster, Fulton Mackay, Denis Lawson, Peter Capaldi, Rikki Fulton, Jenny Seagrove and Jennifer Black. Local Hero told the story of an Oil Billionaire called Happer who sends a man called Mac to Pennan to buy the property rights so that they can build an oil refinery. The locals cannot believe their luck and look forward to their new fortunes but are hampered by Ben Knox, a hermit who owns and lives on the beach in an old shack. Happer has to fly out to settle negotiations and falls in love with the Scottish village. Buy Local Hero
The final theme tune of Local hero was written and performed by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Local Hero the cast and crew were reunited for a special screening in Glasgow during the 2008 film festival. This included Denis Lawson who played Gordon Urquhart.
Pennan Phone Box
Areas of Pennan were used in the 1983 film Local Hero, in particular the traditional red British Telecom (BT) phone box kiosk which Mac used each night to phone Happer with his report. The Pennan Inn, which was one of the smallest bars in Scotland, also featured in the film.
Many a tourist stops by the Pennan red phone box and the Pennan Inn to take a photo or make a phone call. However before the film and film buffs grew interested in the red box there was no phone there. The original red phone box at Pennan was a movie prop so that it could appear nearer the pier! Visitors, movie buffs and locals campaigned successfully for BT to install a real workable red phone box at Pennan.
The Pennan red phone box kiosk is the most called kiosk in Scotland. BT have traced these back to tourists phoning a relative and asking them to ring back. The Pennan phone box is now a listed building and it is painted with red paint that is used on oil rigs to protect metal work from the harsh North Sea and winds.
A photograph of the Pennan phone box will appear soon - my batteries ran out as I was taking one!
In April 2007 the Pennan Inn went up for sale for offers over £350,000. It had been owned by Vince and Louise Melvin since August 2005. They had their first date at Pennan Inn. Included in the Pennan Inn sale by Christie and Co of Edinburgh is the public bar, restaurant, an owner’s flat and six en-suite bedrooms.
The Pennan Inn tried to change their image in 2002 when the exterior was painted blue. Locals and visitors thought it not in keeping with the white washed cottages and houses and the owners had the exterior repainted white in 2004. The Inn was extended to include a restaurant and still provides hotel accommodation.
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The BBC Culture Show
In 2007 The BBC Culture Show will feature Pennan in its TV programme. It will interview locals who remember the filming of the film Local Hero.
On the morning of the 6 August 2007 Pennan residents were evacuated from their homes and cottages by the police for health and safety reasons. Heavy rain had caused a landslide at about 6 am which was dangerous for those Pennan houses that are built into the cliffs. Over 34 residents from the West side of Pennan village were evacuated to Pennan Inn for their safety. Some of the villagers had to be rescued by the fire service whilst others were able to clamber out of their windows because their houses were surrounded in mud and water as high as six feet. The Aberdour to Pennan road was blocked because of debris from the Pennan landslide and Grampian Fire and Rescue Service and Aberdeenshire Council were called in to clear and make safe the road. Mud and rubble from the Pennan landslide made the homes unsafe and residents were still advised not to return home on Tuesday 7 August. Police had to escort residents back to their home or cottage in the Western side of Pennan to collect personal belongings and essentials like drugs because of fears that another mudslide would occur. Police were guarding the top of the road into Pennan to stop access to the unsafe areas. An engineering assessment will be made on the area on the 40 affected properties that were thought to have been affected by about ten separate landslides. Manu of the cottages and houses had their windows, walls and roofs caved in from the mud and water with rooms such as kitchens, lounges, bedrooms and bathrooms being deluged in mud and water.
The newly refurbished Pennan village hall was hit by the landslide and suffered structural damage to the roof and building. It is feared it may now have to be demolished. Sadly some historic photographs of Pennan were destroyed or damaged. Many were over 100 years old and irreplaceable. Some were of sentimental value such as a signed photograph of Burt Lancaster from the set of the film Local Hero. These photos had been gifted to the Pennan community by the film crew of Local Hero. The pictures were removed for safety by Aberdeenshire Council and stored in a Peterhead warehouse.
The Eastern side of Pennan was much safer and water supply from Scottish Water was restored within 24 hours. Alex Salmond, The First Minister visited Pennan to see the damage and villagers. Alex Salmond has a home in the nearby village of Strichen. Their local Scottish National party (SNP) Member Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Banff and Buchan Stewart Stevenson was on ministerial business at Holyrood but visited the area on the 8 August 2007.
Pennan village and harbour area opened again on Thursday 9 August 2007 though ten houses were still unsafe and there was the risk of further landslides due to wet weather. The laird of Pennan cliffs, Julia Watt is being contacted to make safe the area. Suggested solutions to protect Pennan houses and cottages from falling rocks and mudslides were made by Aberdeenshire Council after a preliminary assessment was carried out after the mudslide. This includes adding anchored steel mesh netting to the hillside at Pennan, adding new drainage channels and rock stabilisation.
Photographs of Pennan
Here are some more photographs of Pennan:
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