Portobello to Eyemouth / Berwick to Tyne Tunnel / South Shields to Hayburn Wyke


We covered the north east coast in two trips and in two different vehicles. The first sortie was in a camper van and was the second part of our trip up to Oban. We drove from there across the lovely Grampian Mountains to Perth and Edinburgh to spend the rest of the time driving home through Northumberland and Yorkshire. A second visit, by car, allowed us access to the little bays we had to miss out first time, and to fill in the gaps right down to Scarborough.



EAST LOTHIAN

The area has a dramatic coastline with rocky bays and small islands with seabird colonies. It is the driest and sunniest part of Scotland and the grassy foreshores are crammed with golf courses.



Portobello


PortobelloA north western suburb of Edinburgh, this is a small Edwardian resort that has been restored in recent years. The beach used to be very polluted but is now cleaned daily so that Edinburgh day-trippers can enjoy the promenade and amusements.

We took one of the roads leading to the promenade but had to do a several-point turn as it is closed off to vehicles now.



Musselburgh


MusselburghA Roman bridge took us over the River Esk where attractive gardens provide riverside walks. A famous shellfish eating centre, it owes its name to mussel beds at Fisherrow Sands. The local dish is mussel and onion stew.

We passed the racecourse, which surrounds a golf links and we were going to visit the nature reserve surrounding the ash lagoons. The plan was thwarted because of the usual low car park barriers. Sometimes this is tedious when other parking places are not available in the vicinity. If these town councils don’t want our time and money then blow them!

We passed an industrial museum at Prestongrange and drove along the concrete promenade of Prestonpans. The odd name derives from the location of salt pans near a village once named Preston. The town is famous as the site of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s victory over the redcoats in 1745 and there is a memorial to the east.



Cockenzie and Port Seton


Cockenzie power stationTwo things made this place notable to us, the huge power station on the shore and the excellent car parks around Seton Sands. We stopped in park number 3 to photograph the view back over the Firth of Forth in the evening sun.

Seton SandsThere are some lovely sandy bays along the coast from here, Gosford Sands, Aberlady Bay and the two bays either side of Gullane which are nature reserves. The dunes have been stabilised with the planting of coastal grasses and bushes. Aberlady used to be a port until its river silted up in the 16th century.

Gullane houses several golf courses and the houses and hotels are posh. Muirfield golf course is the most famous as it is one of the homes of the British Open Championship – there are 160 bunkers - which I presume is good! The area is reminiscent of Troon and Turnberry on the West Coast.



Dirleton


Yellowcraig campsiteYellowcraig campsite was once visited by Her Majesty and there is a plaque to prove it! Phileep is the President of the Caravan Club but I don’t suppose he’s ever been in one. It is set on a grassy headland north of the village of Dirleton. The site is divided with grassy, sand walls and planted with a profusion of daffodils.

Fidra IslandWe untied the bikes and set off for a short evening ride.

From the beach, it is a stone’s throw to Fidra Island, said to be Robert Louis Stephenson’s inspiration for Treasure Island. Its lighthouse has the reputation for being the first fully automated one in Britain and there is also a puffin colony.

Dirleton Castle

We rode along the flat road into Dirleton to see the 13th century castle ruin which dominates the little triangular green with its parish church and pub. The map showed us a track to get back but we somehow ended up in a farmyard.



North Berwick


Berwick LawOnce a Royal Burgh, the town was given its charter by Robert ll in 1373. Dominating the skyline for several miles is a high conical hill known as The Berwick Law. It is a volcanic outcrop with an arch of whale jawbones on the summit. (a ‘law’ is a hill in this part of the country).

Bass RockThere are two sandy bays on either side of the harbour which houses lobster boats and yachts. We noticed the bright red terracotta tiles on all the roofs in this area, which made the villages rather pretty.

Bass Rock stands off the coast and has served as a hermitage, garrison and prison before becoming a haven for gannets. It was also a volcano with perpendicular cliffs and is a mile around.

Tantallon Castle

The best view is from the red ruin of Tantallon Castle, which once belonged to the Douglas Clan and can be reached by a short footpath.

The village of Whitekirk amused us as the 'kirk' was very obviously built of red stone but apparently the original was burnt in 1914 and rebuilt.



Dunbar


John Muir Country ParkThe John Muir Country Park is 8 miles of beach and salt marsh. Now a nature reserve and recreational area, it was named after John Muir who was born in Dunbar in 1838 and was instrumental in setting up the US National Parks. He emigrated in 1890 and helped to establish Yosemite and Muir Woods near San Francisco. It is a lovely wild park with thoughtful barbecue areas set up for picnickers.

BatteryThe ruin of Dunbar Castle is extraordinary in that it was hacked in two to build the Victorian harbour and is now virtually a heap of rubble. The Battery sits on top of natural basalt columns.

Dunbar Castle and harbourThe main street houses a museum to John Muir and we were able to park there very easily, as it is quite wide. The hot sausage rolls and Jean’s Cake from a local bakers were very tasty.

The town is the site of a famous battle in 1650 between Oliver Cromwell and the Scots when the castle was bombarded.



Barns Ness


cement works The coast becomes craggy and at White Sands a geology trail passes the relic of the Catcraig Limekiln.

The coast to the south is dominated by Scotland’s largest cement works and the Torness Nuclear Power Station which produces a quarter of Scotland’s power.

Power Station signWe decided to go to the visitor centre where there is a small museum and film and then a guided tour inside the buildings. We climbed lots of stairs and stood above the reactors. The guide was really good and interesting.

Although security was strict and the viewing galleries were purpose built at the time of construction, we felt we were mingling with the workforce. We saw them coming out of the reactor halls and going through radiation detectors. At Sellarfield we had to stay outside in a bus the whole time.



BERWICKSHIRE

Dunglass Burn runs through a pretty ravine that marks the boundary between East Lothian and the Borders. The county has a varied coast with high cliffs and pebble beaches. Battlefields and ruined abbeys now mark the borders as a result of the enmity between the countries before James I became King of both. As the town of Berwick-on-Tweed is now in England, the county town is Duns, home of motor racing champion Jim Clark.



Cove Harbour


Southern Uplands Way

This is the eastern extremity of the Southern Uplands Way that runs from Portpatrick on the West Coast. There used to be a road to the harbour but it was closed due to a landslip. The hamlet is a ‘heugh-heid’ or cliff top community and there is a 60-yard tunnel cutting through the cliff that leads from the harbour to a disused curing house.

Cove BayPease Bay has red cliffs and is backed by the oak and ash woodlands of Pease Dean. The road is steep and winding and at the bottom is a caravan park. A ford crosses the road here and we hesitated about driving through the water, but we saw some children crossing by bicycle and it was only 2 inches deep.

We drove back up the hill to the main road from which we could see the ruins of a medieval castle at Fast Castle Head.



St Abbs


Start of the walkSt.Abbs takes its name from a princess who became a nun in a local priory. We stopped at Coldingham to park where there is a small visitor centre and a path leading north of the village of St.Abbs. We saw signs reminding walkers that boots are necessary!

St Abbs rocksIt was a steep walk up the grassy hills to the lighthouse on the headland. The tall cliffs were impressive against the blue sea and it was an hour’s uphill climb. A good number of people were on the path and we finally reached the bird colonies on the rocks.

600,000 pairs of birds nest in the area and they were pretty noisy.

Thousands of birdsThe lighthouse is now available to rent for holidays and has a good road to it. The road is open but only to be used for the disabled, elderly or infirm. The people we saw driving on it looked none of these!

St Abbs lighthouseHave you ever noticed how many people with disabled stickers get the best parking spots and are clearly not disabled!

We decided to make it a round trip and descended the road around a man-made lake where there were some hairpin bends. We passed a camper van - he did have a disabled sticker.



Eyemouth


Eyemouth fishing boatWe reached a real fishing port at last and walked along the quay watching the boats load up with crushed ice from vehicles that looked like cement mixers with long blue hoses.

Fish marketAlong the quay is a fish market where millions of pounds worth of white fish is sold. They have a festival each year when the fishing fleet escorts a newly crowned 'Herring Queen' in from St Abbs,

Housed alongside the tourist information centre in the Auld Kirk is Eyemouth Harboura small museum that houses a tapestry recording ‘disaster day’ - the Great East Coast fishing disaster, when 189 fishermen were lost in a storm – 129 from Eyemouth alone.

Just past Lamberton we drove out of Scotland - :o(



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