Scurdie Ness

This fairly extensive location, covers the ground beyond the lighthouse and on as far as the series of shingly bays immediately north of the farm at the Mains of Usan.

      I had previously spent a lot of time at this location, during the summers of 2012 and 2013 in particular. In noting what I had collected here and later cut, as I have said previously in the Ferryden section, from my experience, Scurdie agates are generally of a lower quality than stones found to the north and the south. Many nodules are mainly comprised of quartz or calcite, and many others display weak banding in grey-blue with areas of celadonite filling part or most of a nodule from the base upward.

         The rarest agates found here are perhaps the coloured tube and stalactitic agates, occurring more infrequently than at Ferryden. Sagenite is encountered regularly, but it is rare to find coloured examples that are marked with a distinction worth preserving. Amethyst can be found, as well as Smoky Quartz, together with agate banding in the same nodule on occasion. Agates here can also be of unusual colours, including bright yellows that sometimes grade into greens. Most, however are fleshy pink weathered to white at the extremities, woody browns that grade into reddish tints, pastel shades of grey from navy-black through to shades of gun-metal and light blue. Oranges are more common than reds, and occasionally the most strongly coloured blue agates exhibit shades of violet or mauve.

        Stalactitic agates here tend to be fairly non-descript, and only rarely display strong colouring with depth and detail in the nodule's interior features. Fortification banding can be intricate particularly in the smaller examples, however it is less often so than in specimens from Usan. Onyx,as has been previously noted, is far less common than at areas further south, only becoming more prevalent as you approach the aforementioned Fishtown of Usan. Those examples that do occur are encountered elsewhere in better quality, but generally again, most resemble Usan stones.

 

Nodules here certainly do reach sizes of 15cm or more, but those are generally mostly quartz (no surprises there) It is rare to find "solid" well-marked agates with dimensions larger than 6 or 7 cm. Most agates here reach from around 2 to 6cm in diameter.

 

Agates become more scarce as you travel south of the beaches closest to the lighthouse, but diligent searching at productive times will always uncover new material, in my experience, comprising mostly of fortification agates. The more unusual stones seem to be associated with the andesitic rock close to the lighthouse.

 

On a typical day here, I would park at Ferryden, and depending on time might walk along the beaches to the lighthouse and beyond, or use the road that leads to the lighthouse to access Scurdie Ness only. You might find walking from Ferryden pleasant in autumnal sunshine, you might see an enthusiast metal-detecting at low tide in the barnacle -encrusted shingle. You might watch the ships led out of the harbour by a pilot boat, and hear their foghorns low. As you pass by the convoluted lighthouse buildings, you would open the cattle-gate and might quickly find yourself facing-off a furious gale, being now fully-exposed to the north sea's mercurial squalls. You might follow the rough path here, past numerous shingle banks, until the trail dips after a brief area of ragged low cliffs, where cows often gather in summer to sample the saltiest grass closest to the spray.

 

From this spot the way is more desolate. Swathes of yellowish sand beneath the pebbles are exposed at low tide, and the bays are neatly divided by reefs of angular rock. At the furthest reaches a manmade breakwater of old masonry circles the Mains of Usan, and marks the boundary between the locations, together with a stile over the fence on the peak of the brae that is very obvious even from a distance. Somewhere a little south of where you stand now, close to Usan House, the Blue Hole once lay. Usually now, I would turn around, and make my way back to Ferryden, a brisk walk of around forty minutes. If instead, I decide to retrace my previous wanderings, "filling in the gaps" so to speak, I might take 2 hours to reach the car, just as the sunlight becomes Martian and lurid. It's a fine place to visit, but it is so satisfying to leave that violent wind to whistle through the coves, and sever spume from the manes of white horses, knowing one has walked long and far, and explored every cranny and has a heavy pack to show for it. Scurdie Ness is the classic Scottish, east-coast location: not particularly difficult of access, varied of content with an abundance of material distributed in well-picked areas and in those more neglected. Why not try some of that seaborne salt in your coagulating claret, while you're still on the right side of your vitals old hoss? You know it makes sense.