Stonehaven (Steenhive in the Doric dialect of Scots) and Cala na Creige in Gaelic is a town with around fourteen thousand inhabitants (9,577 in the 2001 census) on the northeast coast of Scotland. It is the county town of the historic county of Kincardineshire or The Mearns and the present day county of Aberdeenshire. It grew around an Iron Age fishing village, now the "Auld Toon" ("old town"), and expanded inland from the Seaside. As late as the 16th century, old maps indicate the town was called Stonehyve or Stonehive.
The town is served by Stonehaven railway station.
Stonehaven is the site of prehistoric events as witnessed by finds at Fetteresso Castle and neolithic pottery excavations from the Spurryhillock area. The town lies at the southern origin of the ancient Causey Mounth trackway, which was built on high ground to make passable this only available medieval route from coastal points south to Aberdeen. This ancient passage specifically connected the Bridge of Dee to Cowie Castle via the Portlethen Moss and the Stonehaven central plaza. The route was that taken by the Earl Marischal and Marquess of Montrose when they led a Covenanter army of 9000 men in the first battle of the Civil War in 1639.Originally the settlement of Stonehaven grew and prospered and was known as Kilwhang. With ‘Kil’ meaning hill and ‘whang’ the name, or sound of a whip, possibly, the name is derived from the cliffs above the original settlement and the sound of wind whistling around their meagre shelters.
The Covenanters were imprisoned in Dunnottar Castle, where many died. A memorial to them can be found in Dunnottar Church. Other castles in the vicinity are Fetteresso Castle and Muchalls Castle, both of which are in private ownership and not open to the public. The oldest surviving structure in Stonehaven is the Stonehaven Tolbooth at the harbour, used as an early prison and now a museum.
Dunnottar Castle, perched atop a rocky outcrop, was home to the Keith family, and during the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden there. In 1296 King Edward I of England took the castle only for William Wallace to reclaim it in 1297, burning down the church in the process with the entire English garrison still in it. In 1650, Oliver Cromwell sacked the castle to find the Crown Jewels following an eight month siege (having previously destroyed the English Crown Jewels). However, just before the castle fell, the Crown Jewels were smuggled out by some ladies who took them by boat to a small church just down the coast in the village of Kinneff, where they remained undetected for eleven years.
Near the Cowie Bridge, at the north of Stonehaven. was a prior historic fishing village known as Cowie, which area has now been subsumed into Stonehaven. Somewhat further north are the ruins of Cowie Castle. Slightly to the west of Stonehaven is the ruined Ury House, originally a property of the Frasers.
Stonehaven was a holiday retreat of the poet, Robert Burns.
Stonehaven is 15 miles (24 km) south of Aberdeen in a sheltered position on Stonehaven Bay between the Carron Water and the Cowie Water. Stonehaven lies adjacent to a deeply indented bay surrounded on three sides by higher land between Downie Point and Garron Point. The harbour, consisting of two basins, was improved in the 1820s by the engineer Robert Stevenson (grandfather of the author Robert Louis Stevenson) and became an important centre of the 19th century herring trade; the harbour is bordered on the north by Bellman's Head and at the south by Downie Point. At the western edge of Stonehaven west of the A90 road lies the village of Kirkton of Fetteresso.
At present day the town's primary industries are marine services and tourism, with Dunnottar Castle, a local landmark, bringing in a large volume of tourists every year. It was used in the 1990 movie Hamlet (directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close). Dunnottar Castle is a prominent landmark and is visible on many leaflets (flyers) advertising Scotland.
The town has a long beach facing the cold North Sea, with large cliffs at either end sheltering small rock pools and inlets. It is also famous for its Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, which is heated and filled with a mixture of tap water and filtered seawater. Another attraction is the local harbour, which features the Tolbooth, the town's tiny museum of local heritage.
During Hogmanay festivities, the High Street comes alive with crowds watching the annual fireballs ceremony, in which volunteers walking down the High Street swing huge balls of fire around and around at the ends of chains. The Fireball Festival was part of the content of stv's Hogmanay coverage The fireballs are finally thrown into the harbour.
Every July Stonehaven holds a Highland Games. All those competing in the heavy events (which include the Hammer, the Heavy Stone and Tossing the Caber) must wear full Highland dress. Other events include the Stonehaven Folk Festival regularly attended by famous Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly. On the first Saturday in June the Feein' Market recreates a 19th Century agricultural hiring fair. The RW Thomson Classic Car Rally is an annual celebration of the inventor of the pneumatic tryre and attracts an impressive range of vintage and classic cars. There are two harbour festivals each summer. A farmers market is now held once a month in the market square where local food suppliers and producers can sell fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and other types of meat.
The town's Haven Fish Bar was the likely origin of the Deep-fried Mars Bar, a snack now culturally associated with Scotland - and its health record - as a whole. The premises are now the award-winning Carron fish and chip shop.
Stonehaven has three primary schools (Dunnottar, Arduthie and Mill O' Forest) and a large secondary school (Mackie Academy). Population expansion has led to the expansion of primary schools and extra spaces built for classrooms in the secondary school. The town supports a Rugby club - Mackie Academy Former Pupils Rugby Football Club - which plays in the BT National League Division 5. The town also has a junior football club who play in the North Region SuperLeague at Glenury Park.
Stonehaven's long established Pipe Band plays at events throughout the year, including the folks festival and fireball ceremony. The band has competed at various levels throughout its illustrious history including several years at the prestigious Grade 1.
Stonehaven was mentioned in the Sport section of The Guardian newspaper, by one Sir Alex Ferguson. "When we went to camp in places like Stonehaven..." (Friday 14 December 2007). It is unknown if Sir Alex Ferguson continues to camp at places like Stonehaven, if at all.