As the old county town of Kincardineshire, Stonehaven 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, Stonehive,Pont also adding the alternative Duniness. It is known informally to locals as Stoney.
Stonehaven is the site of prehistoric events as witnessed by finds at Fetteresso Castle and neolithic pottery excavations from the Spurryhillock area. 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.
Stonehaven is 15 miles south of Aberdeen in a sheltered position on Stonehaven Baybetween 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.
Stonehaven has grown rapidly since the oil boom in Aberdeen. The increasing demand for new, middle-class housing has seen four new estates being appended to the town, creating an expanse of suburbs and Stonehaven has been bypassed since 1984.
At present day the town’s primary industries are marine services and tourism, with Dunnottar Castle, a local landmark, bringing in a large number of tourists every year. Dunnottar Castle is regularly used in promotional material by the Scottish tourism industry; in addition, it was used in the 1990 movie Hamlet, and appeared as a featured desktop background in the UK edition of Microsoft Windows 7. Another attractive feature of the town is the long beach facing the 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. The local harbour features the Tolbooth, the town’s small museum of local heritage.