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Issue 65 - 10 Best Coastal Walks

Scotland Magazine Issue 65
October 2012


This article is 5 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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10 Best Coastal Walks

Keith Fergus takes us on 10 of his favourite coastal strolls

1. The Mull of Galloway, Galloway
(Start/Finish GR NX155304)
The Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s southernmost point, its stunning and rugged coastline home to outstanding views and an exceptional array of wildlife. From the car park descend by the front of the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop, go through a gate and turn right onto a grassy path. Follow an exhilarating cliff top walk, keeping a fence to your right above steep cliffs all the way through a gate at West Tarbet. Once across a short section of field, turn right onto a road, follow this for a few metres then turn left and follow a track down to East Tarbet. Beyond another gate, a path climbs steeply to the right of an old cottage, which soon levels out and continues along cliffs, granting a spectacular walk. Follow this along the Mull’s northern coast as it undulates for around one mile to reach a wall near the lighthouse. Turn right through a gate and follow the field beside the wall, climbing steeply to another gate, which leads back into the car park.

2. St Abb’s Head, Scottish Borders
(Start/Finish GR NT913674)
The cliffs at St Abbs Head are an area of outstanding beauty and bestow a thrilling vantage point to enjoy the magnificent seabird colony that is resident here. Exit the car park by an information board onto a path, which descends past a visitor centre. At a gate go left and follow a path as it climbs gradually around Starney Bay and then to Horsecastle Bay. Once over a stile, well-worn paths climb along the cliff tops to reach the dramatic and scenic setting of St Abbs Head Lighthouse. Walk around the front of the lighthouse to gain a singletrack road. Follow this a little inland, dropping down towards Mire Loch. At a cattle grid turn left onto a path and follow it by the loch, where a fantastic variety of flora and fauna exists, to a gate. Turn right onto a broad track and follow this to a road. Turn left, continue over a cattle grid and then follow a track down through beautiful countryside to the car park.

3. Gullane & Yellowcraigs, East Lothian
(Start/Finish GR NT482826)
The beaches and dunes at Gullane are a little ecosystem for a fantastic variety of wildlife, while near Yellowcraigs lies the island of Fidra, thought to be the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. From Gullane town centre walk along Sandy Loan then through Gullane Bents car park. At an information board turn right down to the beach then walk northeast then east along several beautiful and secluded beaches to reach Fidra at Yellowcraigs. Turn right away from the beach, onto the John Muir Way. Just before Yellowcraigs Car Park turn right onto a woodland path and follow the John Muir Way signs into Dirleton, the village dominated by its castle. Turn right from Manse Road through a gate and walk along a narrow road through Archerfield Links Golf Course. At a junction, turn left then after 20 metres cross the road and bear left onto a waymarked track. Walk through a lovely strip of woodland, exiting via a gate onto a pavement. Follow this beside the A198 back into Gullane.

4. Helensburgh & Rhu, Argyll & Bute
(Start/Finish GR NS295822)
This terrific walk leaves from Helensburgh and climbs steeply into the historic Highlandman’s Wood. It drops back to the coast at Rhu from where a picturesque stroll above the Firth of Clyde leads back to Helensburgh. From Helensburgh Pier, climb Sinclair Street onto Kennedy Drive then Upper Colquhoun Street, to reach the Charles Rennie McIntosh designed Hill House. Once through a car park turn left into woodland, signposted for Rhu Marina. Walk through the beautiful woodland into the Highlandman’s Wood to reach the Highlandman’s Road, an ancient Right of Way, which runs between Rhu and Glen Fruin. Turn left, follow the track, dropping down onto a road by Torrs Farm and onto Station Road. Bear left onto Pier Road and descend to the A814 at Rhu. Turn left, follow the pavement by Gare Loch and Rhu Marina onto the promenade above the River Clyde, a scenic and easy stroll, passing the statue of John Logie Baird (born in Helensburgh in 1888) back into Helensburgh.

5. Tobermory Circuit Mull, Argyll & Bute
(Start/Finish GR NM505550)
The colourful town of Tobermory on Mull is a busy place but only a short walk along the coast is Rubha nan Gall lighthouse and a tranquility that sits in sharp contrast to the bustle of Tobermory. Walk along Tobermory Main Street and behind the Tourist Information bear left where a path climbs through woodland. Stick to the path as it passes an old cannon and continue above the coastline soon reaching a fork. Take the right fork and follow the path all the way to the lighthouse, a good point for wildlife watching and some great views to the mountains of Morven. Retrace steps to a fork, go right and climb a steep path heading back towards Tobermory along the cliff top. Keep straight on, eventually reaching a golf course. Follow the edge of the course and beyond a metal gate bear left down to a road. Turn left to follow the road and descend a flight of steps, turn right and follow Main Street back into Tobermory.

6. Anstruther to Crail, Fife
(Start/Finish GR NO566036)
The Fife Coastal Path is a wonderful long distance trail connecting the Forth and Tay estuaries. One of the finest sections is the four miles between the idyllic villages of Anstruther and Crail with gorgeous views along the coast. A number of restaurants in both villages offer some of the finest fish suppers in Scotland. From Anstruther Harbour make your way onto the narrow John Street and northeast along the coast into Cellardyke, which has a lovely harbour. Continue by the harbour cottages and once through a gate a coastal path proceeds easily, where beautiful views to the Isle of May can be enjoyed. Follow this for a couple of miles, by some interesting rock formations en route, to reach a fork on the outskirts of Crail. Keep along the coastal path into Crail and follow the signposts down to the village’s lovely harbour. To return to Anstruther either retrace steps or utilise the excellent bus service from Crail.

7. Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
(Start/Finish GR NO874859)
Surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs Dunnottar Castle holds one of the most spectacular positions of Scotland’s castles granting some outstanding views. From Market Square walk towards the sea then turn right and cross the Carron Water. Continue around by a beach, then through a car park turning right by the old Tolbooth. Turn left along Shorehead then follow the harbour and turn right onto Wallace Wynd. At Castle Street turn left from where a steep path ascends to a road. Follow this left onto a fenced path, above Strathlethan Bay, making a short diversion to the Black Hill War Memorial, a stunning vantage point. Continue along the coastline bearing right at a signpost above Castle Haven. The remarkable outline of Dunnottar Castle draws ever closer as the walk progresses and a final steep climb leads to the castle entrance. There is an admission charge, but a visit to the castle is a must. From the castle, follow the wide path to a car park beside a minor road. Turn right, walk along this quiet road, enjoying more great views of the North Sea, to gain the outward-bound route just before Stonehaven Harbour. From here return to Market Square.

8. Findhorn, Moray
(Start/Finish GR NJ036648)
The peaceful village of Findhorn, on the Moray coast, provides the focal point to this lovely, simple walk around Findhorn Bay. There is a tremendous amount of wildlife to enjoy and some wonderful views to Culbin Forest and along the Moray coast. From the main B9011 road walk along the seafront at Findhorn bearing left onto a path just before the first of two stone piers. Keep along the shore, passing a café then a boathouse to reach a lovely sandy beach. Walk along the beach and take one of the paths through the dunes onto Findhorn Bay. Turn right to head east above the beach and along the dunes, enjoying the fantastic array of wildlife, including common seals and oystercatcher. Keep to the beach until a flight of steps are reached at East Dunes Car Park. Bear right from the beach, walk through the car park onto Dunes Road and continue all the way to return to the B9011. Turn right and walk back along the main road into Findhorn.

9. The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye
(Start/Finish GR NG509529)
One of the finest and dramatic viewpoints in Scotland, The Old Man of Storr, on the Trotternish peninsula, is the culmination of a steep climb, along excellent woodland and hillside paths. From the car park just off the A855 make your way steeply up a well-maintained path passing through a pocket of woodland. Once through a gate the path continues up open hillside, with the remarkable pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr rising spectacularly above. The path climbs to the right of the pinnacles and then another path branches left to makes its way southwest, meandering its way through this unique and atmospheric landscape beneath Coire Faoin. The views throughout are remarkable, extending across Skye to the Cuillin and Raasay and across the Sound of Raasay to the distinctive outline of mountains above Applecross. Descend the obvious path southeast from the pinnacles back into woodland and continue back to the car park.

10. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
(Start/Finish GR NC197603)
Sandwood Bay is regarded by many as the finest beach in Scotland and this eight-mile walk (there and back) through exposed moorland concludes at Sandwood Bay. The path is the only route in and therefore the tranquility is unrivalled as is the wildlife, which includes dolphins and porpoises and at the western end of the bay sits the magnificent sea stack of Am Buachaille. Beginning from Blairmore go through a gate onto the moorland track and follow it northeast by Loch Aisir. The land here is owned by the John Muir Trust and therefore conservation of the land and wildlife is paramount. The track soon passes over the outflow of Loch na Gaimimh and then turns north to proceed by Loch a Mhuilinn where the track narrows to a path, turning northeast again by the larger Sandwood Loch to reach the stunning surrounds of Sandwood Bay and the great Atlantic Ocean. A walk along the beach exploring is a must as is time spent relishing this incredible place. The return to Blairmore is by the outwardbound route.