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Portsoy lies on the north facing coast of Aberdeenshire, approximately midway between Cullen and Banff. Of all the many ports along the Aberdeenshire and Moray coasts, Portsoy was one of the earliest to be established, and as a result is one of the most fascinating.

Portsoy was established as a burgh in a charter signed by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1550, and the first harbour was built at around the same time. In 1692, Sir Patrick Ogilvie, the 8th Laird of Boyne replaced the existing harbour with another built entirely of stone.

The Lairds of Boyne had long been influential in the area, having built the clifftop Boyne Castle nearby in the late 1300s. Its replacement, the Palace of Boyne built in the 1570s - probably with profits being generated from Portsoy's trade - was still being used as a grand house in the mid 1700s when the Ogilvies' support for the Jacobite cause led to their being stripped of their lands. Its ruins now stand a couple of miles to the east of Portsoy.

Around the Old Harbour are a number of impressive buildings that date back to the end of the 1600s or early 1700s, with buildings getting progressively younger as you climb the hill away from the harbour towards the very attractive Square in the heart of the uphill parts of Portsoy.