My first walk in the coast of Angus started from the city of Dundee, a place I was very quickly coming to dislike. Part of that was, I suspect, due to the timing of this visit. I had booked a 4 day trip to this part of Scotland 3 months earlier. I had completely forgotten that the Scottish Independence referendum was taking place 4 days after this walk. I hadn’t expected it to effect me much, but it was.
I was staying in the Travelodge Strathmore Avenue Travelodge (which cost me only £74 in total for 3 nights). I had travelled to Scotland from home the previous day and stopped to visit Inchcolm island on the way and walked around that. Today was my first longer walk of this trip.
In my experience most Travelodge hotels do not offer any sort of restaurant so the only possibility for breakfast is an un-appealing “breakfast box” to eat in your room which is very expensive for what is offered so I usually skip this option and buy something elsewhere. However this particular hotel actually had a restaurant with a proper all-you-can-eat buffet cooked breakfast (for an extra charge). I planned to make use of this. However I entered the restaurant to find I was the only customer. The staff meanwhile were chatting loudly about the forthcoming referendum and seemed to be ignoring me. When one commented loudly how it would only be a few days until they “were free of the English” I decided to leave. I’m English – and I didn’t feel welcome in this place if this was the attitude of the staff.
Instead I decided to head into the centre of Dundee and get breakfast there. So I headed outside to the bus stop. I had discovered the previous evening that Dundee is another of those places where the buses are unfriendly. On the city buses it is cash only. No change given. (I believe they do also accept contactless payment now, but they didn’t then). In addition the fares were not listed at the bus stop and I couldn’t remember exactly what I had been charged the previous evening to get the right money ready. When the bus arrived I got on first and asked for a single to Dundee (since I wasn’t sure how I’d be getting back to the hotel at the end of the walk). The driver quoted me a price which was higher than I recalled paying the previous evening. I was about to pay it anyway when the lady behind me intervened. She pointed out to the driver “that’s the price of a day ticket, he asked for a single”. The driver muttered something about not understanding what I’d said to which the lady responded “well I heard him quite clearly and I’m standing behind him”. So now I was quoted a cheaper fare (the one I’d actually asked for) by the driver – which I paid and took my seat and thanked the lady when she passed me for intervening. She told me I was welcome and that she didn’t want like to see bus drivers ripping visitors off. I did wonder if racism was a factor here if the driver realised I wasn’t Scottish by my accent and thought he’d take the opportunity to rip me off. Either way I was not impressed (but grateful for the helpful intervention of a local to stop it).
So I was not in the best of moods when I reached Dundee city centre. Here I stopped in the Whetherspoon for a cooked breakfast instead (for only £2.99, too!) The place was quiet enough I could sit away from others to avoid getting dragged into any discussions on the independence referendum since this seemed to be the only thing discussed anywhere, as well as on the TV and radio all the time. My impression was that everyone in Dundee wanted Independence. I didn’t (but not being Scottish I don’t get a say) and didn’t want to be pulled into an argument about it.
Having had breakfast I headed back down to the river side to being walking east.
Angus, unlike Fife, does not have a marked coast path so I’d be having to find my own route again. I knew from my last visit that the waterfront of Dundee was fairly industrial. However the map suggested that there was an off-road cycle path along the coast the whole way to Arbroath. That looked to be a good route for most of the way but it kept beside the railway line between the Monifieth and Carnoustie a little inland because the coast south of this is marked as a “Danger Area”, part of an army firing range. I believed access is permitted through this when the range is not in use and being a Sunday I hoped that would be the case and I’d be able to find a more coastal route here. In Dundee itself it would keep me from having to walk alongside the busy A92 alongside the industrial docks, which would be very welcome.
I set off back to the RRS Discovery where I had left the coast before, and the Tay Bridge.
The ship itself looked to be closed and now behind temporary fencing. However it was too early in the morning for it to be open anyway. I continued on the path beside the river to soon reach the monument commemorating the opening of the Tay Road Bridge in 1966.
I passed under the bridge enjoying the symmetry of looking along to all the supports under the bridge.
Unfortunately I knew if I continued alongside the river it was a dead-end due to a dock ahead so I had to turn a bit inland to run along the road along the side of the dock. This area, Victoria Docks is no longer working docks but a “mixed development” with a retail park, offices and hotels around what was once the working docks. A light ship was an interesting reminder of the past, now moored up in the dock, the logo on the front suggested it was now a hotel (or at least owned by one).
Railway tracks embedded in the cobbles gave an idea that this was once a busy working quay, even though it was quiet now.
On reaching the north side of the dock I turned off onto the foot and cycle path, signed as a shared use path and part of National Cycle Network 1.
This ran alongside the car park of a retail park (City Quay), with the railway line heading towards Aberedeen now behind the wall to my left.
Whilst much was new, as I reached the end of the retail park there was a lovely old original dock building, still with the clock tower. It looked like it was now used as offices.
At the end of the retail park I was now heading into an area of docks that had not been re-developed. The cycle path was no longer a dedicated cycle path but simply a white line painted along the edge of the now wide and dirty road whilst the railway to my left was now just behind a metal fence rather than a brick wall. Reassuringly the route ahead was again signed as a shared use (pedestrian and cyclists) path.
The surroundings were becomingly increasingly unpleasant, passing along dirty roads with fly-tipped rubbish next to derelict or run-down buildings and although the cycle path was sometimes along a pavement this was being parked on for much of the length, forcing me into the road in places. I don’t enjoy walking through areas like this.
Soon I came to a mini roundabout where I had a choice of a lower road to the right or an upper road to the left. I followed the signs for the shared use path ahead which was signed along the lower road. Soon I came across a “cyclists dismount” sign and here I came across a gate over the path which informed me that you needed to show photographic ID to continue ahead as this was part of the Port of Dundee. I’ve written about what happened next here before. Suffice to say the security guard rudely informed me that I couldn’t proceed because I didn’t have a bicycle with me and this was a cycle path and felt the need to add “why do you think it’s called a cycle path”.
I’ll not go over the same points (you can read it again in the previous post I made linked to above). Suffice to say I wasn’t going to get into the port area. Quite what makes a pedestrian a security risk and a cyclist not I don’t know, and I never could get an explanation from them about that. However it was clearly signed as a shared use path so how the public is meant to know access on foot actually isn’t allowed (given the signs show that it is), I don’t know.
So I followed up with a complaint to both the local Council who had paid for this cycle path to be provided. However it turns out that whilst the Council paid for the path the port authority subsequently stated there was security legislation they had to comply with and they had prevented pedestrians from using it. Since the Council it seemed had paid all the money to provide the cycle path through the port they’d never actually got a legal agreement to keep it open once built! At one point the port were also insisting all cyclists using it had to apply and pay for a permit (but this was later dropped). All in all it is a huge waste of public money. My complaint did get the following response from the Council however.
With regards to the signage it is not technically illegal as this section it is not on the list of public roads and not subject to the same rules/regulations as stated in ‘Roads (Scotland ) Act 1984’. We do however in best practice and where possible adhere to ‘The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002’ manual when erecting signage. If it is found that the signage does require changing then we add this to our list of remedial works programme, however current funds are exhausted and this would need to be carried through into 2015.
I don’t know if they ever did update the signage, however.
The port on the other hand provided this response which I though rather rude (well the last paragraph anyway).
I did reply indicating it was signed as a shared use path. This got the response “I’ll get the Port Engineer to review the signage that pertains to our section. If it requires clarification then we will do that.”
Sadly at the time of writing Google Streetview still shows the same shared use signs in place when approaching the port from the west as I did. On the other hand at the eastern end of the path I can see new signs have been put in. These show the time taken to both walk and cycle west to Broughty Ferry as 15 minutes to cycle and 30 minutes to walk whilst in the direction of the port it shows City Centre via Port Cycle Path” as a 20 minute cycle and the pedestrian symbol is crossed out with a red diagonal line (and no timing provided). So at least it seems the signs at the eastern have been amended even if those at the western end haven’t.
I should add that I wondered if the rather rude response I got when I pressed the buzzer and asked to be let through onto the cycle path might have been because from my accent I clearly wasn’t Scottish. I don’t know for sure if that was the case, but the expletive-filled response fellow coast walker Pete Hill got when also trying to walk along the same path 6 days after I did left him in doubt it was his nationality that had prompted the very much ruder response he got! (I did wonder if it was the same man I spoke to).
So back to my walk. I now had to head for the path described in the response to my complaint from Forth Ports (Port of Dundee) as “a suitable public footpath constructed to highway standards (kerbed and tarmac top) that runs immediately parallel to the Port of Dundee which is specifically designed for pedestrians and within the Public Domain along Broughty Ferry Road”. From the gate there was at least steps up onto the main road above.
This all sounds rather good doesn’t it? And here is the reality of what Mr North describes in his extremely wordy description (taken from Google Streetview as I didn’t actually take any photos on this bit).
Yes – it is was what most people would call it a pavement. A rather narrow one. Alongside 4 lines of traffic, with no protection and a solid wall on the other side. This is why I’d have far rather walked on the quiet road (on Sunday, as it was, anyway) through the port, which is also a segregated path. But it wasn’t to be.
I had to follow this unpleasant pavement beside this busy road for another mile after which I could turn right on a more minor road back over the railway line and, at last, back to the water front now I was passed the unfriendly Port of Dundee. Now I was able to follow this more minor road back down to the banks of the Firth of Tay where the road soon had a pavement again. This was more like it.
Now I had fine views, with a view back to the Tay Road Bridge behind me whilst across the bank I could make out the lighthouse at Tay Port I had passed on my last walk.
At a small car park ahead the road turned left to cross back over the railway line but now a foot and cycle path continued right along the water front. This was squeezed between the railway line and the shore but soon widened as I reached the Royal Tay Yactht Club. At the end of this a road joined from the right and I was back to walking along a pavement again.
To my left I soon had the colourful terraces of the suburb of Broughty Ferry.
This was once a very wealthy area and earned the title of “the richest square mile in Europe”. The ferry in the name refers to a ferry that once ran across the Firth of Tay here to link the railway lines on each side of the Tay but which closed when the Tay Rail bridge was opened.
I soon passed the life boat station and then the little bay at the end of which was a castle. At last things were improving and I had the feeling I had nearly left Dundee behind me.
I followed the bay around to reach the castle, Broughty Castle. I was pleased to find that this was open to the public and free of charge. I was less pleased to find that on Sunday, as it was, it didn’t open until 12:30pm – 2 and a half hours time.
I didn’t want to wait around that long, so I gave it a miss. Fortunately behind the castle there was now a lovely sandy beach. After all the pavement-pounding I had done so far, I was pleased to be able to walk along this beach.
This soon became backed by dunes and was rather nice, but soon the beach narrowed and was backed by rock-armour coastal defences. Less pleasant but the beach was still wide enough I could continue along it until I could see a stream ahead.
At this stream, I rejoined the path above the beach now in Balmossie so that I could cross the stream via the bridge beside the railway line.
I had now official left Dundee (at last!). However Dundee ends just as the town of Monifieth begins. All that separates them is this stream. So I still had another mile of urban walking to go.
Initially I stuck to the path again squeezed between the railway line and the shore but soon I began to have dunes on the right, separating me from the beach. Soon a tempting board-walk provided an easy route over the dunes to the beach beyond. I headed on this and now followed the beach eastwards.
The beach was backed by the railway line and soon a long East Coast train passed heading on it’s way to London.
I was able to continue along the beach passing a caravan park that marked the end of Monifieth. Another stream flowed out over the beach here but I could get around it in the dunes behind.
Now at last things had improved. The miles of urban walking were behind me and I hoped for a better second part of the walk as I was now back into a rural area. However I now had another issue to contend with.
Directly at the end of the caravan park I was now entering a military “Danger Area” part of a firing range. I had hoped to continue on the beach but if the range was in use I’d have to follow the cycle path beside the railway line instead.
From the beach however there were no red flags flying or red lights and no noise so continued along the beach. From the map I calculated the distance to reach the other end of the Danger Area along the beach was around 6 miles. I could see a few streams too existed within the range (marked as Barry Links) but these all seemed to end as they reached the beach, so I hoped I that would be the case and I would not find them impossible to cross as it was a long way to come back!
So I set off along the beach.
For a while there were plenty of other people on the beach but soon they disappeared until there was no one else visible around. Most of the footprints also disappeared – it was clear few people came here!
Still the wide beach was beautiful, wild and unspoilt and it offered lovely views over to Tents Muir forest on the other side of the Firth of Tay and all the way back to the Tay Road Bridge the other way.
The first stream I encountered, Buddon Burn was no problem to cross.
I did take my shoes off but it was no more than a few inches deep and being September, not that cold.
Once over I could continue on the beach again and soon noticed other sets of footprints going the same way as me over the sand. I was glad to see other people had walked this way since the last high tide as it gave me more confidence I’d be able to get through.
Soon I spotted the double lighthouses at the southern most tip of Barry Sands at Buddon Ness. I didn’t head inland to explore as I wasn’t sure access on the range was permitted.
Still I was now round the corner and heading north east again. I could see the tops of a few other buildings in the ranges beyond but soon I dropped back down onto the beach again.
Things were looking encouraging, except that as I headed further north soon the un-fenced dunes to my left became lined with rock-armour defences. That wouldn’t be a problem except that beach soon became narrower and narrower until larger waves were reaching the front of this rock.
By now I’d nearly caught up two men ahead of me who continued, timing it right between the waves and then rounding the corner. They didn’t come back so I continued, also managing to time it right between the waves to keep dry feet. But a few minutes later and I’d have had no choice but to try to climb over them or go back and walk through the edge of the range. I was glad to have made it along the beach.
Soon the dreaded rock-armour ended and I now reached Barry Burn. Again by taking my shoes off, I was able to wade through the water which was not very deep. I was now alongside the famous Carnoustie Golf course and admired the grand club house building beyond.
This is another famous golf course and I believe the Open championship has been held here a few times. Now at the end of the golf course (most of it had been out of sight earlier when I was down on the beach) the cycle path now continued right along the coast past a children’s play area and soon passed Carnoustie station on the left. Here I was intrigued to notice that the path ahead was signed as “Angus Coast Path” to Westhaven (also part of the cycle network). Perhaps Angus had a coast path after all?
I opted however to leave the cycle path and drop down to the beach again. The tide was far enough there was firm sand and the beach was backed by dunes. The beach became a bit rocky in places and even had a sort of harbour, that was natural.
Inland of here a sort of temporary jetty had been built to have the “Yes” (to independence) flag displayed prominently. I was seeing this everywhere on this trip and becoming rather sick of it (there were very few No signs, against independence to be seen). I even saw people had painted “YES” onto rocks along the beach!
This was a pleasant walk along the beach for about a mile I reached Craigsmill Burn. Here I had a problem. The official coast and cycle path went inland of the railway line. On the beach, I was the coast side of the railway. The railway line had a bridge but there was no footpath so it was not possible for me to cross using the bridge. Up by the railway line the water was quite deep and fast flowing. There was also a lot of sea weed.
I considered my options and decided that if I headed further out onto the sands and took my shoes off it was easier to cross. This is because the burn split out into a number of shallower channels as it flowed over the sands. So I took my shoes off and was able to make it over the river without getting into deep water, though it was a bit rocky to cross in places.
Another small burn flowed out to sea a short distance ahead but this one was shallow enough I could simply step over it and soon I saw the houses of the small village of East Haven ahead.
Beyond here the cycle path along the shore returned to the coastal side of the railway line so I knew that if I got into problems on the beach I could now head back to that without the railway line being in the way!
I continued initially along the beach but as it became rocky I headed up onto the pleasant cycle path. This provided easy walking along this flat stretch of coast. The railway beside the path was busy, both with passenger and freight trains, which seemed to pass very regularly.
Some of the passenger trains were long distance services to or from London and other shorter local trains.
When the beach became less rocky I dropped down onto it again for a while but soon headed back onto the cycle path.
When the cycle path turned away from the coast however I stuck to the shore on a slightly rougher path alongside some old World War II concrete tank traps.
I was able to follow this until Elliot Water, a small river flowed out onto the beach. Here the path turned inland to reach the cycle path again where a bridge crossed it.
I was now approaching my end point, the town of Arbroath. Once over Elliot Water the cycle path returned right alongside the shore but I decided to drop back down onto the beach again. It was a lovely sandy beach and I could see it was now clear to walk along all the way to Arbroath harbour.
This was a lovely walk and I continued along the beach until there became a concrete wall behind the beach as I approached the harbour, so I returned to the promenade above it.
Arbroath had the air of a resort about it, with a miniature railway, paddling pool and large indoor complex called Pleasureland, as well as various other things to do.
I followed the path to soon pass another lighthouse which turned out to be the Signal Tower museum.
It looked quite interesting but I was soon defeated since the sign showed it was open Monday – Saturday (and free to enter) – but today was Sunday, so I couldn’t visit again because it was closed.
Still I could admire this attractive building from the path, which went the land-ward side of it.
Beyond it I reached the harbour at Arbroath. Looking at the boats in the harbour it was clear the harbour was now given over to pleasure boating rather than fishing and other working vessels. Behind the harbour were some nice grand stone buildings.
Arbroath looked a nice town. I thought about having dinner here rather than heading back to Dundee. It was a bit early but I could always stop for a drink first. However as I rounded the harbour I could soon here what sounded like some sort of protest going on.
As I got to the far corner of the harbour this turned out to be an SNP stand set up around the harbour canvasing. Well actually it was more a rant. The man doing the shouting soon announced that “never again shall Scottish money be used by Ministers in London to bail out banks in London”. This got a huge cheer. Except of course this isn’t really true! For one it was not Scottish money it was British money (and Scotland is a part of Britain). The chancellor at the time of the bank bailouts in 2008 was Alistair Darling. He is Scottish and at the time was also the MP for Edinburgh South West. The Prime Minster at the time was Gordon Brown, also Scottish, and MP for Dunfermline and later Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. Prior to that he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 until he became Prime Minster in 2007. The primary recipients of the government backed bailouts were the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS (owned by the Bank of Scotland). So 2 of the 3 primary recipients of the bank bailouts were Scottish banks. Yet according to this SNP spokesmen it seemed this was all the fault of the English. The truth was it was British money being used by Scottish ministers to bail out mostly Scottish banks! I was tempted to point out the facts but I knew that if I did so I was likely to end up pushed in the harbour by the braying mob.
So I decided to leave Arbroath and headed to the station.
I didn’t have long to wait for a train. On board this train two members of staff, wearing uniform were sitting nearby and also discussing the forthcoming independence referendum. I couldn’t escape it! One of them had said he had been at Edinburgh Waverley station earlier and noticed the clock was an hour wrong. This promoted the other one to comment loudly that “well that’s managed by Network Rail isn’t it? So it’s not one of our stations, it’s the responsibility of those useless bastards in London – they can’t do anything right”. This promoted the other to nod and comment “thank god we’ve only got another 4 days before we can get out”. More anti-English sentiment.
Soon I was back in Dundee. I checked out the Whetherspoon but it was very busy and of course the topic of discussion as I walked through the pub was of the forthcoming independence referendum. I didn’t want to get involved on discussions about that in the pub, I just wanted a quiet meal before I headed back to my hotel. However I was not feeling comfortable in Dundee surrounded by people who seemed to want to leave the rest of the UK. The result of the referendum was, in the end, No (not that this has stopped the SNP from demanding another referendum on an extremely regular basis since then). However Dundee had the highest percentage Yes votes at 57.3% of the vote of any constituency in Scotland. I had, unknowingly, ended up in the place that most wanted to leave the rest of the UK in the days before the referendum and as I wasn’t Scottish I felt there was a lot of anti-English feeling about the city (and I must stress this certainly isn’t my experience in other parts of Scotland where I’ve found the Scots to be very friendly and helpful, often stopping to offer me lifts, etc).
So I opted instead to get some food from a nearby Tesco Express. Here I could buy from a self-service checkout and not have to interact with anyone and then walked back to my hotel (I didn’t want to use the bus again after my experience that morning) to eat it in my room. As I passed the pub nearest my hotel they had a sign outside declaring that Friday was to to be the “Independence Day Party”. Another chalk board outside stated “Yes voters – £1 per pint. No voters – £10 per pint”. I was feeling very unwelcome in Dundee and regretted having chosen to stay here. Of course, much of that was as a result of my timing and not realising at the time I had booked to come to Scotland just before this vote. I was not very happy and beginning to feel that I just wanted to go home and abandon the rest of this trip. This was probably going to be my last trip to Scotland this year anyway and I hoped that by next year the atmosphere would be less toxic. In the end I didn’t, – largely because my hotel was already pre-booked (and non-refundable) as was my train ticket and when I saw the price of a train the following morning for the close to 500-mile journey home it was far more than I was willing to spend. So I stuck it out for the remaining 2 days in the end (and my mood did improve!)
This walk was certainly a walk of two halves. The first part through Dundee was pretty unpleasant and I was very glad to leave the place behind. The second part of the walk was lovely along largely deserted and remote feeling beaches and with nice views over the Firth of the Forth too. Arbroath looked nice too, but with the political rally that seemed to be taking place there, I wasn’t in the mood to spend time lingering and exploring the town.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.
Trains run regularly between Arbroath and Dundee. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes and there are approximately 2-3 trains per hour Monday – Saturday and 1-2 per hour on Sundays. Generally they run from Aberdeen or Inverness south to Arbroath and Dundee and then continue to either Edinburgh (via Kirkcaldy) or Glasgow (via Stirling and Perth). Some trains are long-distance services that run through to London Kings Cross or to Birmingham and the South West. Local services are run by Scotrail. Long-distance services to/from London are operated by LNER. Long distance services to/from Birmingham and the South West are operated Cross Country Trains.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link