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Issue 38 - Beside the seaside

Scotland Magazine Issue 38
April 2008


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Beside the seaside

Sally Toms is getting ready for the summer.

It feels like spring has finally sprung here at Scotland Magazine, and what better time to plan your excursions for the coming year?

Reading the pages of this issue, you can tell we’re already thinking about summer, and beach holidays in particular.

A good beach holiday can take many forms, but I’m particularly fond of those wonderful Victorian seaside resorts as described by Andrew Ross in his visit to Nairn. The kind with a pleasure pier, deck chairs, a bandstand that never gets used and a promenade perfect for strolling along eating chips from a newspaper cone. The kind of place where they still sell those sticks of rock that break your teeth, and you can lose all your money in those penny arcades that nowadays cost considerably more than a penny.

I’ve always felt you can tell the oldest resorts by the ferocity of the seagulls. It’s almost as if they’ve been training over generations how to terrorise us perfectly: how to steal an ice cream from a toddler’s grip at 40 miles an hour, or dive bomb pensioners in their deck chairs just for the thrill of it.

Crafty birds. They can be quite entertaining, though.

I remember a story from last year about a particularly cheeky seagull in Aberdeen named Sam. Not satisfied with the odd mouldy chip, this bird had turned to thievery to satisfy his appetite for junk food. He would lurk outside his local corner shop, wait until the shopkeeper had turned his back, waddle in and make off with a packet of cheese Doritos. I assure you it’s true, he did it regularly and always went for the same bag of crisps. There are even videos of him on the internet, in flagrante delicto. Sam was so popular with the locals that people actually started paying for his crisps.

Seagulls aside, seaside resorts such as those in Nairn, Oban, Dunoon and Rothesay sprung up all over Britain in the late 19th and early 20th century, mainly thanks to the growth of the railway.

Historians say that as the Industrial Revolution progressed, working hours decreased, and the introduction of Bank Holidays meant that people had the time to take trips away from the cities to the seaside.

And the legacy they have left us is an absolute treat.

At Rothesay in particular you will find one of the most unusual survivors from this period – the gents’ lavatory at Rothesay pier is without a doubt the most remarkable toilet in Britain.

The interior is magnificent, all shining copper pipes and the walls clad in decorative ceramic tiles, ornately patterned in rows. The floors are designed with ceramic mosaic, with the crest of the Royal Burgh of Rothesay at the entrance.

It was installed in 1899 and is still used as a fully functioning public convenience. So ladies, don’t go barging in or you might give the poor men a bit of a shock.

Seagulls and Victorian toilets might not be everyone’s idea of a good beach holiday but, as always, Scotland has plenty to offer. It’s certainly not short of more rugged, hard to reach places if that’s more your cup of tea.

I find these are best for a bit of quiet sunbathing (it sometimes happens in Scotland) or a walk with the dog on a stormy day when the sea is rough and the sand stings your eyes. Scotland truly does have something for everyone, and all in quite close proximity.

If you wanted to you could have a stroll along the prom in the morning, and do a bit of beachcombing in your own secluded cove in the afternoon.

Although, finding your own private beach usually involves trudging for an hour across sand dunes, or scrambling down rocks weighed down with buckets and spades and picnic baskets. But it’s a small price to pay and at least the seagulls leave you alone.

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