Originally a fishing village built around the High Street, and formerly known as Stonehive, the town has grown to a population of around 11,000.
The sense of history, with the impressive ruined fortress of Dunnottar Castle, the awe inspiring views of the sea and harbour, the friendliness of the local people, combine to make Stonehaven special.
Stonehaven is the main county town of Kincardineshire and the Mearns, although, due to Local Government changes, the town now lies within Aberdeenshire.
In August 2010, Stonehaven was voted the best seaside town in Scotland in a survey carried out by the Bank of Scotland which looked at the quality of life in coastal towns throughout the country, looking at factors such as crime rates, weather, property prices and earnings.
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 meager shelters.
The Covenanter's 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.
The Castle at Dunnottar was made a little more famous when Mel Gibson chose to film his 1990 version of Hamlet here Starring himself and Glen Close.