East of Banff, Gamrie Bay has the highest sea cliffs in Aberdeenshire, offering great soaring with picturesque views of the fishing village of Crovie, as well as the potential for coastal XC as far as Macduff.
North through North-East.
NJ 790 645 / 57.670410, -2.353700 / 70m
NJ 793 644 / 57.669801, -2.349034 / 0m
NJ 791 639 / 57.665232, -2.352217 / 50m
Directions to site
From Banff, take the A98 towards Fraserburgh then turn left on to the B9031 – signed for Rosehearty and Gardenstown – shortly after leaving Macduff. Before reaching Gardenstown, the road descends and winds through a small glen, as the road descends in to the glen, take the turn to the left signed St John’s Churchyard. Follow this road for 500m to reach the carpark.
Access to launch
From the carpark, continue walking on the road towards the sea, taking care to stay left where the sign advises to do so to bypass the private property. Continue past St John’s Churchyard until a small bench. The usual launch area is just after the bench. To get to the upper launch, continue past the main launch, following the path along and up the slope until you find a suitable area to launch.
Be wary of the true wind direction and strength, as a north-westerly may wrap around Mhor Head and present as a northerly on launch. In this situation, Crovie may be a more appropriate launch.
Don’t go round the corner of Mhor Head without comfortable glide to a safe landing i.e. stay well above the cliff height round the corner.
Don’t go round the corner of Mhor Head until you have tested that you can fly back comfortably in to any easterly wind component. Otherwise, you could be pinned round the corner with no landings.
If the wind is at all crossed from the right – i.e. has a predominantly easterly component, and therefore appears to come from the right of Crovie as viewed from launch – consider whether it is safe to fly at all, given that there will sea downwind of launch.
The cliff edges are sharp enough to produce rotor. Be mindful of this if landing on the farm land on top of Mhor Head. If in doubt, drift further downwind where there should be less rotor.
Don’t scratch too low north of launch in a northerly as you risk leaving yourself without enough height to glide back to a safe landing and turn in to wind.
High tide can consume the entire beach, leaving limited bomb-out landing options.
The launch areas are reasonably small and require good ground handling skills.
There is plenty gorse to get your wing or yourself stuck in, amongst other less hostile plants to tangle lines in on launch.
Top landing is possible in the vicinity of the main launch, however beware that the ground varies considerably, and that most spots are really slope landings.
If the wind is north-east, or more easterly, be wary of leeside effect from Troup Head, upwind at the far side of Gamrie Bay,
In a north-easterly, or more easterly, the air on the beach may be significantly turbulent due to rolling over Gardenstown and along the grassy but quite well carved out cliffs above the beach.
It is not recommended to fly low downwind of the church due to limited landing options and hazards such as power lines running south from the nearby residence.
Flying back towards the car park is not recommended due to the tight nature of the terrain, increasing risk of turbulence in that area.
Usually the main launch is high enough to get established from. Days where it’s too light to soar from the main launch, but soarable from the upper launch, are rare.
It’s best to turn left, in to wind, off launch to get established.
It’s most common to top-land at the main launch. There are patches of long grass between the areas of gorse.
The bomb-out is the beach, unless the tide is all the way in, in which case consider the safety of flying at all.
It is possible to land on the flat top of Mhor Head. Be respectful of the farmland that covers most of this area, and be mindful of potential rotor behind the cliff edges. If you find yourself round the corner on the north side of Mhor Head and unable to push east back to safety, don’t hesitate, dive over in to the farmland and be ready to active fly any rotor; it’ll be better than dropping below cliff height.
Get established on the section of ridge adjacent to the main launch and use this time to analyse what the wind is doing. Ideally, you will be a significantly lower ground speed as you fly north, towards the open sea, and faster as you fly back in to the back. In this situation, you can start to explore north to the corner of Mhor Head, to the point where you can look west along the coast, but still fly back to the south-east, in to the bay.
If your ground speed over launch is similar on both beats, or at all faster on the north-bound beat, do not go round the corner, as the wind may be wrapping round, and it will hard or impossible to get back to any landing options if you are below cliff height.
In a north-easterly, the wind will be straight on to the launch face of Mhor Head, giving easy soaring. In stronger wind, you may find that you can simply glide directly in to wind for hundreds of metres, well in to the bay, flying parallel to the beach, and climb hundreds of metres above the cliffs.
In northerly conditions it may be possible to fly both to Crovie and back, and to Macduff one-way, or half-way to Macduff and back.
Airspace associated with Aberdeen airport lies approximately 8km to the south of Gardenstown.
Lossiemouth and Kinloss airspace lies approximately 50km to the west of launch.
Notable flights/site records
21 April 2014
Roddy Milne and Kieran Campbell enjoyed soaring in a brisk north-easterly, gaining unheard of height in front of the ridge, while orographic cloud formed below them. Kieran found lift far in to Gamrie bay, reaching 432m above sea level at one point.
21 March 2015
Cathal Redmond, Kieran Campbell and Andrew Williams flew from Gardenstown to Macduff Golf Course. David Bichan, Khaled Nassar flew out and return flights some way along the route. Julian Robinson beat everyone by launching further east at the Crovie launch and also landing at the golf course.
AHPC site contact
AHPC Sites Officer – Get In Touch.