278. Arbroath to Montrose

September 2014

This was the 3rd day of a 4 day trip based in Dundee and today I had a long route planned, from Arbroath to Montrose. I walked from the hotel I was staying in on the edge of Dundee to the city centre of for breakfast and then headed to the station in order to catch a train to Arbroath.

I had trouble buying a ticket because the first two machines told me I had removed my card during payment when I hadn’t touched it and it was still in the machine! Thankfully it was 3rd time lucky when machine no 3 emitted the required piece of orange cardboard to allow me to travel.

It only takes a few minutes to reach Arbroath. I made my way from the railway station back down to the harbour. Thankfully today the shouty SNP were not present beside the harbour and so all was calm and peaceful.

Arbroath harbour

The harbour area was quite pretty with bright-coloured buildings behind the harbour whilst the harbour itself seemed entirely given over to leisure craft.

Arbroath

Arbroath is known for it’s “smokies” (smoked haddock) and I passed a place selling them but I’m not keen on sea food (despite spending much time beside the coast) so I didn’t partake.

Arbroath

Instead I followed the coast road east from the harbour and soon the houses on the right ended so I had a view back over the bay. Soon the houses ended on both sides and I could continue on grass along the edge of Victoria Park whilst on the adjacent road (Kings Drive) were some odd white pillars. Perhaps the entrance to an old mansion perhaps?

Kings Drive, Arbroath

To my right now was the beach, a mixture of rock, sand and sea weed. It was not the most appealing of beaches.

Arbroath

Nearing the end of the park I came across this sign on the beach. This was mostly good news because it confirmed (as I’d suspected from the map) that there was a path right along the coast to the next settlement, Auchmithie. Though I did find the signs somewhat bizarre. Whilst the text encourages you to explore the coast, that part occupies only about 1/4 of the sign. The other 3/4 (and another underneath) went on about the dangers of the coast and a myriad of “don’ts”. It didn’t seem the best way to encourage people to explore the coast if that was the intention.

Arbroath

Sure enough when the road ended at a car park there was a good tarmac path heading up the gentle cliffs and following around the coastal edge of a field. After this first field, suddenly things became very spectacular in a way I hadn’t expected.

The cliffs now were red, like those in South Devon but had been eroded over the years, causing lots of gullies and little rocky islands to form and even a rock arch.

The coast near Arbroath

The coast near Arbroath

The coast near Arbroath

It was really beautiful and unexpected to me (I hadn’t realised the coast of Angus was so pretty).

The coast near Arbroath

In one point a collapsed cave meant there was a hole in the cliff top (with land all around it), that dropped right down to the sea! After passing an admiring these I soon had a long thin little bay to walk around, Dickmont’s Den according to the map and I did wonder if it had been partly man-made to form a harbour at the time (but in hindsight I think it is all natural).

The coast near Arbroath

It was spectacular and there was another large hole part way up the cliff face on the north side of the bay, another collapsed sea cave, presumably.

The coast near Arbroath

Rounding the cliffs the scenery continued to impress with more beautiful little craggy coves and rocks and one part where a rock stack locked to be forming.

The coast near Arbroath

The coast near Arbroath

It was quite beautiful and would look much better in sunshine under blue skies which would contrast so well with the red cliffs and make for an even more beautiful scene.

Soon I reached a larger bay, Cove Haven.

Cove Haven near Arbroath

This is a shingle beach but with more impressive red-coloured cliffs at either side which had been eroded both by the sea and wind and when I reached the north side I realised one of these had another natural arch that had been eroded underneath it. The coast really was spectacular and I was surprised at how little known this part of the coast seemed to be given how spectacular the scenery was.

Carlingheugh Bay

Rounding the rocky outcrops at the end of Cove Haven I rounded the corner into the next beach, the larger Carlingheugh Bay.

Carlingheugh Bay

Here I dropped down onto the beach (a mixture of sand and shingle) for a closer look at the fascinating geology and then followed the beach north.

Carlingheugh Bay

I reached the northern end of the beach where there were cliffs ahead. Here I thought there would be a path back up to the coast path but I couldn’t see one.

Carlingheugh Bay

Double checking the map it seems I was supposed to have taken a path up the middle of the bay beside a small burn. I’d passed that now so I made my way up the thick grass back to the cliff top instead, to rejoin the path that way.

Now back on the coast path things were easier again and the cliff tops offered a wonderful view back to the large bay I had just rounded. Ahead were more impressive high red cliffs with rocks at their base.

The coast near Auchmithie

The coast near Auchmithie

The farmer was working away in the adjacent fields in a tractor so I was glad of a proper coast path as I’d likely otherwise have tried walking around in his fields! Soon I reached another impressive little headland and rounded it to enter Castlesea Bay.

The coast near Auchmithie

The coast near Auchmithie

This was another impressive bay with a mixture of grey shingle and red rock forming the beach, and the odd bit of sand.

The coast near Auchmithie

On the cliffs at the far side I could now see the village of Auchmithie ahead and zooming in I could see how the soft sand-stone cliffs at the far end of the bay had been eroded, undercutting the cliffs and forming lots of caves. No doubt when these collapse in years to come it will form more impressive rock stacks, like those I saw earlier on this walk.

Another small burn flows out to the sea at the back of this beach and this causes a bit of a valley at the back of the beach which I had to follow inland to Tanglehall Cottages to get around before resuming the route along the cliff top to the cottages at Meg’s Craig.

The coast near Auchmithie

Here the map suggested a coastal path continued around the next field, but I could see no sign of it, so I followed the access track from these cottages to the road at the start of the village of Auchmithie.

I turned right and followed the road back towards the coast into the village. The road split with a fork off to the right heading to the harbour. A sign warned this latter road was “Dangerous” as it was no longer maintained, so I decided to follow the “dangerous” road down to the beach. Whilst it was a bit rough I didn’t really see that it was dangerous.

However the harbour was not very pretty. It was all derelict with a large shed with the roof peeling off. Auchmithie might once have been a fishing village but it certainly hadn’t been for a long time. As I was down on the beach the drizzle that had been falling for most of the walk so far got heavier, becoming rain and with the wind it was not very pleasant. I did briefly toy with the idea of calling it a day here (the rain was forecast to continue off and on for the rest of the day) but decided I hadn’t come all this way to just give up, so I continued.

Auchmithie

Sadly the map suggested onwards there wasn’t a proper coast path any more so I had planned a route along tracks marked in white on the map as far as West Barns. It was nice therefore at the end of the road to see a sign that told me that I was on the “Angus Coastal Path” with the village of Ethie 1.5 miles ahead. I had hoped this meant I had another lovely path right along the cliff tops to follow. Sadly that was not to be, it simply followed the same tracks I had already planned to follow.

In fact when I saw this sign I hoped that meant Angus did have a proper coast path too, that I had been unaware of. Sadly I think I only saw one more sign for it and none after that. There is very little information online too and I suspect this was perhaps the start of a plan to create a coast path that was never completed – a shame, as it had been good so far.

Sadly the heavier rain had another negative to it, apart from simply getting me wet. Mist. Visibility soon dropped so I could only see about 50 metres in front of me. So I could see very little of the coast and so just followed the track to West Mains.

The Angus Coast path near Ethie

Here I cut inland to Ethie Barns. Over to the left here is Ethie Castle. This is now a hotel which looked rather nice from the internet but sadly with the mist I couldn’t see it!

I continued to follow the road inland (I was now about a mile from the sea – yet this was the route of the “coastal path” I had followed the signs for), soon passing some woodland and reaching the public road at Ethie Greens. Here I turned right along this to North Mains where the public road ends. I then took the track just beyond this to the left towards Ethie Haven, where the track takes me back to the coast, at last.

Ahead I should have the large expanse of Lunan Bay which stretches for around 2.5 miles ahead of me. Sadly I could only see about the first 100 metres of it in the mist, and the odd mix of houses, shacks and caravans that make up the small village of Ethie Haven, built into the base of the cliffs.

Lunan Bay

Corbie, Lunan Bay

The path then descended past some caravans, in varying states of repair and then down onto the lovely beach at Lunan Bay. After following the tracks and minor roads for several miles I was very glad to be back on the coast and now on a lovely beach.

Lunan Bay

Once past the village I stopped at the back of the beach for lunch and then continued north along it. The mist was a bit less dense down at sea level so I could see a bit further ahead along the beach than I could from the cliff tops.

Lunan Bay

Lunan Bay

I followed the beach for a little over a mile until I reached the river of Lunan Water that flows out onto the beach roughly mid-way along it.

Lunan Bay

I knew this was here of course, it was on the map but I had naively there might be a footbridge or something to help me get across. I’d not seen any more signs for the “Angus Coastal Path” either, so I was on my own in terms of route finding now. Above the river to my left was a tall tower, the remains of Red Castle, according to the map.

Lunan Water, Lunan Bay

The map suggested I could follow the river inland, along various twists and turns which would make it about 500 metres inland to the nearest road bridge. However that was easier said than done. The edge of the river was soon overgrown so there was no way through short of walking in the edge of the river! Boulders had been put along the back of the beach and beyond that the dunes fenced off. The only gap would see me struggling up a near 45-degree slope to the castle, not ideal in the wet where it was quite likely I’d slip.

Some old World War II tank traps had been placed over the beach here and clearly crossed the river. (I expect they were intended to block tanks from driving up the course of the river to the road). The water was a bit murky but these gave me an idea of the depth of the water. It was not flowing that fast, so I decided to ford it. I could see another mile or so of beach ahead I wanted to walk on, rather than divert onto the road already. So I took my shoes off and rolled up my trousers and headed down nearer the shore where the water spread out into a few different channels and was shallower. The water did not come above my knees so it was not too bad to cross and soon I was on the beach the other side, putting my shoes back on.

Red Castle at Lunan Bay

I was pleased to have made it across! On the other side the beach had absolutely huge numbers of seagulls on it. I suspected they were used to having this place to themselves, given the difficult access and so I kept to the back of the beach (despite being harder to walk on) to avoid disturbing them all, as much as I could.

Lunan Bay

Lunan Bay

About 500 metres further up the beach however was a car park providing access to the beach so it was not as remote as I had first thought! There was a bit of a path through the dunes once past the car park which I followed for a while before returning to the beach to reach the far end of the bay.

Lunan Bay

Lunan Bay

Here there were more holes in the cliffs and little rock stacks where the cliffs have eroded over the years. It was a lovely spot and I stopped here for another rest. I also needed to plan my onwards route.

Lunan Bay

Another hazard along the coast now is the railway line which, from the map, looked to run right along the coast for a mile or so beyond here. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep to the coastal side of the line or have to see if I could cross it. However before that I needed to get off the beach! The cliffs at the north end of the beach straight ahead of me were sheer so it was not possible to climb. But off to my left is the valley of Buckie Den which provided a gentler route off the beach.

The railway line at Lunan Bay

I had hoped there would be a proper path here but there wasn’t but there was a very narrow steep and muddy “sort of” path along the left side of the valley where I think a few people had done the same. It was a bit of a scramble through the undergrowth but I soon neared the top of the cliffs and then reached the level of the railway line that crosses this valley on a tall bridge.

The railway line at Lunan Bay

Now of course I was on the west side of the valley (there was no way to get off the beach on the eastern side). I had reached the top level with the railway bridge. However I needed to cross the valley and there was no footbridge, only the railway bridge. I passed under it and it was awfully tempting to walk along the bridge trespassing on the railway line to do so (which unusually is not fenced here). Of course that is very dangerous, it is a busy line with trains up to Aberdeen and Inverness and I know even checking the timetable is not enough to ever be safe. Trains might be running late and there might be freight trains not in the public timetables. Tempting though it was, I knew it was illegal and dangerous so I had to rule that option out.

The railway line at Lunan Bay

Instead I passed under the railway line in the valley below and then headed into the edge of the field to my left and followed this, which soon became a track that lead to the minor road at the village of Braehead of Lunan. Here I turned right and followed this road to Nether Dysart. The road was surprisingly busy and with no pavement I had to keep heading onto the verge to dodge traffic. I continued to the junction for the road signed to Boddin and Usan and turned right along this. The road now rounds the edge of Dunninald Castle. This is occasionally open to the public – but today was not one of those days.

Just passed the access drive to the castle I turned right off onto the quieter dead-end road leading down to Boddin Harbour (signed for Boddin Farm). I followed this road back over the railway line and ignored the private drive off to Boddin Farm on the left and continued ahead to the few cottages at Boddin Harbour. The harbour was derelict, like at Auchmithie.

Boddin Harbour (ruins)

At the end of the little headland is I think an old military fort now signed as dangerous (though the map suggests it was actually lime kilns). All in all the area was not very pleasant with everything seeming to be now abandoned or derelict other than a couple of cottages.

Lunan Bay

Returning from the end of the point to the cottages I could turn right and follow another track behind the last of the houses (and some derelict buildings to the right) where a feint “sort of” path took me onto Elephant Rock.

The coast at Boddin, Angus

This is another impressive natural rock arch formed by the waves breaking through the base of the cliffs. It was another beautiful and unexpected sight.

Elephant Rock, Boddin

Inland from here a track now continued which soon took me to the remains of a church or chapel, with grave stones still dotted around it. Presumably once the church for Boddin and another thing that was now derelict. I headed inside it for a quick look around.

Old church near Boddin

Old church near Boddin

Now for my onwards route I had a decision to make again. The simplest was to follow the track from this derelict old church back to the road and follow that to Usan. But the road was quite busy, as I had found out earlier, so I decided to use the “right to roam” that exists in Scotland and make my own way along the coast.

Old church near Boddin

The crop in the field had just been cut so I was able to make my way around the edges of the fields to approach the village of Usan, where I had to climb over the fence to emerge by the entrance to Usan Fisheries (where the road to my right was now private).

Just in the entrance here were the sad remains of what I presumed to be a derelict church tower, now window-less and with visible cracks and the roof of the main building missing.

The coast near Usan, Angus

It was sad to see it had been abandoned and become derelict, like so much seemed I had seen so far today. (I later found out I think it was actually a tower built as a landmark for shipping and although it looks like a church, it wasn’t).

Now wanting to trespass through the fishery I turned left into the village of Usan where I planned to take a track to the right leading to Rashick Knap. I found this track but the gate over it was locked, so I had to climb over it. I then followed the track east back towards the coast. When the track ended I was able to follow another “sort of path” north to more derelict and roofless buildings near Mains of Usan. I could follow the track that once served these to head to the end of the public road at the village of Mains of Usan.

Thankfully beyond here there was a proper path again along the coast, which follows the coastal margin between the fields and the coast itself.

The weather had become very unpleasant now with heavy rain and a strong wind, making it hard-going and not so pleasant but it was nice to have a proper path to follow. Although it was several hours before sunset the dark rain clouds made it feel like it was getting dark, and the light of the lighthouse shone out brightly as I approached it (it was nice to find it is still in use).

The coast near Usan, Angus

The coast near Usan, Angus

I was very wet again by the time I reached the lighthouse, though other people had also walked here despite the weather and were reading the information signs.

Scurdie Ness Lighthouse, near Montrose

I did try to shelter but this is an exposed place and there was nowhere really that offered much shelter from the wind and rain. The best option was to continue, because I was nearing Montrose.

The lighthouse marks the southern end of the entrance to Montrose Basin. This serves the large marshy area of Montrose Basin which is about a mile inland on the coastal side of Montrose. I presume the sea breached the land here and flooded in on the flat parts of the land behind, though I don’t know for sure. (I later found it was actually created by a Tsunami in 6100BC, according to Wikipedia, anyway).

Although the entrance to the basin is only about 150 metres wide I could barely even see the opposite shore!

The path now continued along the southern side of the entrance to Montrose Basin passing another couple of beacons, presumably for shipping heading into Montrose.

The River South Esk

Scurdie Ness Lighthouse near Montrose

Soon the path I was following widened to a road as I entered Ferryden Farm (presumably so called because there was once a ferry here). The road ahead now had buildings on both sides and the industry of the harbour at Montrose off to my right.

Montrose Harbour

It looked like the harbour was being dredged and there was a large ship moored up at the harbour presumably loading or unloading cargo as it was clear this is still very much a working port.

Montrose Harbour

Montrose Harbour

I continued on the road to enter the village of Ferryden where there were now houses on both sides of the road.

Ferryden

The rain now was torrential and I was glad to be nearing the end of the walk so I could get out of the rain. It was soon the sort of rain that was bouncing back off the road and at the end of the road through the village I was approaching the A92, at a large roundabout. Here there was a bus shelter and I decided to seek shelter in it to let the worst of the rain pass.

When the rain had reduced from torrential to merely heavy again, I continued now turning right to follow beside the busy A92 (thankfully with a pavement) that soon crosses the mouth of Montrose Basin (the river South Esk) with the railway doing the same on it’s own bridge just off to my left.

The railway line crossing Montrose Basin

Having crossed the river I decided to forgo any exploration of the town in the miserable weather and continue directly ahead alongside the A92 to the station half a mile or so ahead. Here I could get out of the rain at last and take the train back to Dundee.

Montrose Basin

The heavy rain continued and so I took the bus back to my hotel rather than walk (and at least the driver did not try to overcharge me this time – I was wise to that trick now!).

This was an interesting and varied walk. The first part from Arbroath was spectacular with beautiful scenery and an excellent path right along the coast. Sadly after that I was left to my own devices to find my own route which had proved a bit challenging at times with rivers to ford and field fences to cross. But I was pleased to have made it and finished at Montrose unscathed. On the way I’d had some lovely beaches but sadly a couple of rather run-down villages and the last part of the walk in the torrential rain had not been all that pleasant.

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

Trains run regularly between Montrose and Arbroath and take a little under 15 minutes to travel between the towns. For details see the full timetable. In general trains run between 2 and 3 times an hour Monday – Saturday and 1-2 times an hour on Sundays. Most trains are operated by Scotrail generally running between Aberdeen or Inverness to the north and Glasgow or Edinburgh to the south. There are also a few longer distance trains that operate to/from London, operated by LNER and to/from Birmingham or the South West, operated by Cross Country.

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

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5 Responses to 278. Arbroath to Montrose

  1. owdjockey says:

    Your first paragraph had me stratching my head? Perhaps a simple typo? Some very good information here, which will be very helpful in a couple of months time.

    Unable to get to Scotland in February, so concentrating on getting my 6 or 7 days in walking along the Thames.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks, I’ve tidied the 1st paragraph up a bit as it didn’t make a lot of sense! I’m glad you found it useful anyway, it is a lovely stretch of coast it was just a shame I didn’t get to see it in good weather really.

      Yes the weather has been so bad recently, not good to walk anywhere really with so much wind, rain and flooding. I hope we see some Spring like weather soon. I have my first trip to Scotland next month so not too long to go for me now.

      Regarding the Thames I had forgotten your no ferries rule so yes I can see you will have to go a long way in to cross on foot. It does look very industrial on the north side. The south bank is better because although the Thames Path only goes as far as Woolwich after that there is the “Thames Path Extension” to the river Darent which you can follow into the edge of Dartford and hence be into Kent. So really there is a path most of the way beside the Thames on the south side of the river. I don’t envy you doing the parts around Dagenham, for example, on the north side though.

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, I am probably going insane or just the affects of old age…. but I still cannot understand that first para. You stayed in Dundee, got a train to Arbroath, walked to Montrose and than got a train back to Dundee as I understand it? It was just that “…. order to catch a train to Montrose.” which I could not understand LOL.

    Off to the SE tomorrow and hope to walk in and out of London over two days. The Northern route had taken quite a bit of planning and checking of footpath avilability etc.. My first bridging point is the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. The southern route I employed a free route plaotting site called Plotaroute. That gave me a walking route through the suburbs to Gravesend. I was not bothered about sticking to the riverbank and the auto plotted route was some 5 miles closer.

    The irony is that I will make use of the free parking at Tilbury Fort and then use the ferry and train on both days to get me to Woolwich Arsenal.

  3. You’re onto a bit of coast now that I don’t know at all. Can’t say I’m enticed, but maybe that’s just the weather!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes the weather was pretty terrible for this walk sadly. However the coast path between Arbroath and Auchmithie really is lovely and the coast quite spectacular so I do recommend that bit at least.

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