262. Burnmouth to St Abbs

April 2013

Now I have entered Scotland I was looking forward to making progress along the east coast. For this walk I was once again doing it as a day trip from home. I live in Surrey so you’re probably thinking that going all the way from there to the Scottish borders and back for the day is bonkers. And you’d be right (but then arguably so too is walking all the way around the coast of mainland Britain and I’m doing that too). However there was a good reason – it did not cost me anything. I shall explain.

At the time I did this walk trains running on the East Coast Mainline from London to Edinburgh were operated by a company called East Coast, a nationalised company that took over after the previous private operator (National Express East Coast) had hit financial problems, who themselves took over after the previous private operator (GNER) hit financial problems. They were replaced in 2015 by private operator Virgin Trains East coast, who, funnily enough, also hit financial problems, resulting the franchise being nationalised again and it’s now called LNER (are you spotting a pattern here?). Anyway East Coast trains had a very good loyalty scheme that meant for every pound you spend on train tickets booked through their website you got 1 point. It did not matter if the tickets you were buying were for travel on their trains or another operator. When you had 250 points you got a free single off-peak ticket to anywhere on their network. Since booking train tickets on the East Coast website was exactly the same price as buying at a station (and sometimes cheaper) and there was no booking fee I’d been booking all my train tickets (including tickets I’d need for business travel and later get back the costs for on expenses) through their website. As a result I had accumulated 500 points – enough for 2 free single tickets. I decided to use them for this walk meaning my journey there and back was free, which was nice. Naturally this generous loyalty program did not last once Virgin Trains took over!

I had booked the tickets a few weeks earlier so was very lucky that weather was absolutely perfect for it, with clear blue skies all day and a nice temperature for April.

I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, two tube trains over to London Kings Cross and then the 8am train from there to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where I arrived on-time at 11:39. From the station I took a bus across the Scottish border to Burnmouth where I arrived a little under 30 minutes later.

I followed the road through the village, crossing the railway line and heading towards the coast where I looked down again on Burnmouth and the harbour, far below at the base of the cliffs.

The coast at Burnmouth

The official coast path follows the road up out of the village to this point, where I had got to last time, so I was now resuming from the point where I had left off before. Just past this I passed the old school house on the right (the school closed in 2005) and then followed the prominent “Coast Path” sign which headed beside the old school to a field where I could follow the field edge, which soon became the cliff top.

The former county of Berwickshire, where I was is lucky in having an excellent coast path (the Berwickshire Coast Path) and here it ran right along the cliff tops, offering fantastic views.

The coast at Burnmouth

The coast at Burnmouth

Ahead I soon had some very impressive geology, where the cliffs seemed to be formed of lines of rocks that had folded under some enormous force (volcanic I expect), which was especially obvious near the base of the cliffs.

The coast south of Eyemouth

The coast south of Eyemouth

This was the little beach of Hurker’s Haven, a shingle beach surrounded by these impressive cliffs. There isn’t (safe) access to the beach from the coast path, sadly.

The coast south of Eyemouth

Continuing ahead along the coast path I soon had a view of Eyemouth, the next town ahead (in fact the first town in Scotland on the east coast).

Approaching Eyemouth

The coastal scenery continued to impress with spectacular high cliffs with jagged rocks at the base of the cliffs over which the waves were breaking.

The coast south of Eyemouth

The coast south of Eyemouth

The coast south of Eyemouth

The views inland were not bad either.

View inland near Eyemouth

The rock again looked to have been “folded”, it was very impressive.

The coast south of Eyemouth

The coast south of Eyemouth

The coast south of Eyemouth

I continued along the coastal path right along the cliff tops as the cliffs got gradually lower. Alongside on my left was now a golf course. I was soon to find out that it appears to be compulsory for every town in Scotland to have a golf course (well, it certainly seemed that way anyway). This was Eyemouth Golf Course which claimed to have “Britain’s No 1 most extraordinary golf hole”. I never did find out what was extraordinary about it.

Eyemouth golf course

The official coast path turned left here, across part of the golf course and cutting off the coast at the eastern side of Eyemouth golf course. However a sign indicated there was also a path along the coast to the harbour and that you must give way to golfers if you use it. I therefore stuck to this path since it was nearer the coast and avoided missing any out.

The coast south of Eyemouth

At the end of the golf course I head reached the road at the eastern end of Eyemouth harbour, which is at the mouth of a small river called Eye Water. The eastern side of the harbour was not so pretty, but the buildings on the other side of the harbour were very pretty.

The harbour at Eyemouth

The harbour at Eyemouth

I passed what I presume was the Harbour Masters house above the harbour walls and the walls of what was likely a castle originally.

The harbour at Eyemouth

Just past this there is a lock gate over the mouth of the river which I crossed and continued on the eastern concrete wall of the harbour, to reach the back of the harbour.

The harbour at Eyemouth

The harbour at Eyemouth

The harbour area was very attractive with buildings of all different sizes and colour along the other side of the harbour. Inland of the harbour the river, Eye Water as now very narrow but the sea-weed suggested the water channel would soon fill as the tide came in.

Eye Water at Eyemouth

The boats in the harbour were mostly fishing boats, though there is also a life boat based here which happily wasn’t being called upon today.

I now headed along the western side of the harbour back towards the coast. I soon passed the Eyemouth Maritime Centre, a quite amazing building designed to look like a long wooden boat, even if the effect was somewhat spoiled by the tatty Transit van parked alongside it (though I could get a better view at the back).

Eyemouth Maritime Centre, Eyemouth

Eyemouth Maritime Centre, Eyemouth

(It has since closed down after going into liquidation in 2017)

I continued alongside the harbour wall passing the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen (according to the sign on the front, at least) and now had nice views over the harbour to the grand house and castle, too.

The harbour at Eyemouth

The harbour at Eyemouth

Soon the road reached the end of the harbour at a car park where a (closed) seafood van was parked up called “Eels on Wheels”, I rather liked that pun. Behind it was a pub called “The Contented Sole”. Clearly Eyemouth is a place keen on puns!

Eels on Wheels, Eyemouth

Now rounding the corner I was rather surprised that Eyemouth had a lovely sandy beach. Surprised because the Ordnance Survey map shows it is a rocky and pebble beach, rather than sand!

The beach at Eyemouth

The beach at Eyemouth

The beach at Eyemouth

I was now back on the official route of the coast path again and followed it along the back of the beach to the steps that took the path back up onto the cliff top.

The beach at Eyemouth

From here I had a lovely view back over Eyemouth. To my left however was a rather less attractive caravan site. I followed the path out to the end of the little headland where the were the remains of an old fort, Corn Fort and some now rather rusty canons that were presumably once in the fort.

Corn Fort, Eyemouth

Ahead I could now see that the coast continued to be spectacular, with the waves crashing around between the rocks, turning the water it white with foam.

The coast at Eyemouth

The coast at Eyemouth

Below the caravan site was a rock and pebble beach but rounding the corner ahead I had another lovely sand and rocky beach, which is called Killiedraught Bay for reasons I’m not sure of.

The coast at Eyemouth

Again it was a sandy beach despite the map showing it as rock and shingle. I could see someone down on this beach too, so access was clearly possible.

Rounding the bay the coast really was gorgeous with the fine weather offering very clear views ahead to St Abbs head.

The coast at Eyemouth

I decided not to go down to the beach as I didn’t have that much time and I would have to come back up the same way to continue my walk.

The coast at Eyemouth

The coast at Eyemouth

The coast path continued to hug the coast into the next rocky bay which had quite red sand, a little like the coast of South Devon that also has red cliffs and sand.

The coast at Eyemouth

The coast north of Eyemouth

At the end of this bay was a little rock stack, eroded from the cliffs.

The coast near Eyemouth

The coast north of Eyemouth

Rounding the corner, I had another fine beach visible ahead of me (Linkim Shore), but a steep valley between me and it that I had to negotiate.

Linkim Shore near Coldingham

The path headed a bit inland beside this valley, formed by the Abbey Burn and then follows the valley beside the burn back down to the beach, where more red cliffs were in evidence.

Abbey Burn near Coldingham

The beach was made of large red coloured pebbles broken from the cliffs, initially.

Linkim Shore near Coldingham

There was a path along grass at the back of the beach and soon the beached turned to sand rather than pebbles.

Linkim Shore near Coldingham

It was nice to be beside the waves here and I very much enjoyed this stretch of beach walking.

Linkim Shore near Coldingham

The coast near Eyemouth

At the end of the beach steps took me back up to the path along the cliff tops, which gave me fine views back over the beach.

Linkim Shore near Coldingham

Unusually the cliff path was quite boggy in places here (cliffs often being windy mean I find cliff-top coastal paths tend to be less muddy than inland paths in winter) but helpfully boardwalk had been provided over the worse sections.

The coast near Coldingham

Now I had another small valley to cross. This was formed by the Milldown Burn so I had to descend from the cliffs into the valley, cross the burn via a bridge and then back up the other side.

The coast near Coldingham

However there was a small rocky beach to the right so I took the opportunity to briefly leave this and explore this beautiful little beach (un-named on the map). This beach is a shingle beach but now the pebbles are all grey. I was quite surprised at the contrast from the beach behind me where the pebbles were all red.

The coast near Coldingham

At the far end of the beach is the burn, which has formed a surprisingly deep valley and I could cross the burn via a fairly sizeable footbridge.

Milldown Burn, Coldingham

Near Coldingham

Climbing back up the top I now had wonderful views of the next beach, Coldingham Bay. This is another lovely sandy beach (this time also marked as sandy on the map), backed by gently sloping grassy cliffs and a few buildings.

Coldingham Bay

Now it was time to descend back down to the beach again, as the coast path follow the beach here. Surfing is possible here, which doesn’t surprise me given how rough the sea had been and there was also a little cafe at the back of the beach.

The beach at Coldingham Bay

It was a lovely spot and I stopped for a quick paddle. It was very refreshing on the feet, but the sea is quite cold at this time of year, so I didn’t stay in the water for long.

The beach at Coldingham Bay

The beach at Coldingham Bay

It felt like a proper little resort with a few beach huts on the grass behind the beach and a few people were sitting on the beach too.

Coldingham Bay

There were even a few daffodils growing in the grass, adding some more colour to the scene.

Coldingham Bay

The beach here was lovely, but it was time to move on so I headed up the coast path at the far end of the beach.

Coldingham Bay

Once the sands had ended the coast became very rocky again with lots of rocks, large and small just off-shore. This sheltered bay doesn’t look like somewhere you’d want to try and navigate a boat into with all those rocks.

Now I had reached the small village of St Abbs, which also has a harbour.

St Abbs Harbour

Although only a fairly short walk so far, the next settlement along the coast from St Abbs is the village of Cove near Cockburnspath. However it is well over 10 miles away (in fact nearer to 15 miles away). I didn’t have time to get that far today,  so I knew I had to end the walk at St Abbs.

So I headed down and explored the pretty harbour area.

St Abbs Harbour

St Abbs Harbour

St Abbs Harbour

The coast at St Abbs

However it was such a lovely day and I still had a fair bit of time before I needed to catch the bus back. The lighthouse at St Abbs head was about a little over 1 1/4 miles further along the coast. So I decided to walk towards that. I wasn’t sure if I’d get that far before I had to turn back for the bus, but I thought I’d at least give it a go, it was too nice a day to finish so soon.

So I took the stairs that led up to the cliff tops from the harbour. and followed the path around the back of Starney Bay, a rocky beach with more red sand and pebbles as a beach.

St Abbs

St Abbs

St Abbs

The high cliffs beyond the town offered lovely views back over the village of St Abbs.

St Abbs

St Abbs from St Abbs Head

The next headland beyond this beach, White Heugh, had some quite impressive “rock fingers” sticking up from it’s top, it was stunning.

St Abbs from St Abbs Head

I now head St Abbs head ahead of me and behind it there was a grassy valley containing Mire Loch. The first time I have passed a loch (rather than a lake) on my coast walk, another sign I am into Scotland now!

St Abbs Head

I followed the path over another small headland to reach the beach that the map shows is called Burnmouth Harbour. This seemed very odd beach Burnmouth is many miles south and has a proper harbour so I wondered how this beach got it’s name.

Burnmouth Harbour, St Abbs Head

Now I had a very steep climb ahead to St Abbs Head, which is around 100 metres high.

St Abbs Head

It was quite a steep and long time but I was well rewarded with a stunning view back over the rocky beach of “Burnmouth Harbour” and the coast path to St Abbs (which was now just out of sight).

View from St Abbs Head

As I neared the top of the hill I could now see the lighthouse on St Abbs head ahead of me. I was a bit disappointed to be honest, I was expecting a tall tower but in fact it s a very low squat light presumably because it is already so high off the ground on top of the cliffs, though I did like the separate fog horn located a short distance away further down the cliffs.

St Abbs Head

I didn’t have time to continue right to the lighthouse, as I now had to head back in order to catch a bus back to Berwick-upon-Tweed for the train home. The walk back was just as lovely and the now lower sun was really picking out the details and textures of the cliffs.

St Abbs

Soon I had St Abbs visible again and was descending down back into the village.

St Abbs

Near the start of the village was another former school (now “The Old School Cafe”) and a visitor centre. I had a quick look in the visitor centre and nearby was a monument to the Eyemouth disaster. This was a severe storm that struck on 14th October 1881. 189 fisherman were killed, most of them from Eyemouth but many also from St Abbs and other nearby villages and the day was then dubbed locally Black Friday. The storm was also severe enough to destroy some houses. Sadly a reminder the coast is not always as benign as it had been for me today.

St Abbs Harbour

The harbour at St Abbs

Now it was time to head to the bus stop for the bus back to Berwick-upon-Tweed. This arrived promptly and 35 minutes later I was back in Berwick-upon-Tweed with time for a quick look around before I took my train back south to London at 18:15. I had dinner from the buffet car on the train.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Overall this had been a really lovely day and one of the best coastal walks I have done. The scenery was spectacular throughout and very varied, with impressive high cliffs, pretty villages, sandy and rocky beaches and ended with an impressive headland at St Abbs Head, which I’d explore further on my next walk. The coast path all the way had been excellent too, well signed and well maintained and I had also been very lucky with the weather.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Borders buses route 235 : St Abbs – Coldingham – Eyemouth – Burnmouth – Berwick-upon-Tweed. Runs very approximately every 90 minutes seven days a week. It takes around 20 minutes to travel between St Abbs and Burnmouth.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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5 Responses to 262. Burnmouth to St Abbs

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, what a beautiful day for such a fine walk. Without getting too technical, as my geological knowledge has evaporated over the years, the folding in rocks is generally down to a praticular mountain building episode or Orogeny. We’ve had a few in our gelogic past including the Caledonian, Arcadian and Hercynian. Indeed the red sandstones you saw on the Berwickshire coast belong to the same Devonian group you saw around Dawlish etc..

    You should pass Siccar Point on your next write up, which I am look foward to visiting.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks so much for posting this about the geology. As you probably realised I know pretty much nothing about the subject, but at least you were able to confirm I was right about the red sandstone!

      I did indeed pass Siccar Point but stuck to the official coast path which heads rather inland of it sadly. Perhaps it was a mistake not to try and follow a more coastal route rather than use the official path.

  2. I feel so nostalgic for our summer holiday reading this! We walked from Burnmouth to Eyemouth and back but didn’t do the bit to St Abbs. We dropped in there one evening to find the fishing disaster monument – having seen the ones in Burnmouth, Eyemouth and Cove I wanted to see this one too. It took us ages to find – all the others were by the sea but this one was up the road a bit. Everybody we asked was a tourist and had no idea, unti eventually we found one local lady to help us. It is so moving, the wee museum at Eyemouth has a good exhibition about it too.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes it’s a really wonderful walk this and glad you got chance to walk some of it too. As to the fishing disaster monument I’m afraid I’d not even heard of this until I saw the monument for it. I seem to recall (perhaps incorrectly) it was very close to the tourist information centre so if I’m right it’s odd they didn’t know where it was!

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