What a stunning week! Back to camping at the beginning of the week saved a bit of money (which is good as I’ve just taken the plunge and bought a new tent, yikes!). I have not walked as far this week as my priority has been sight-seeing; I’ve now seen the parts of Northumberland that have been on my list for a while. And I’m so pleased I have seen them because the Farne Islands and Holy Island in particular are fantastic places to visit; so beautiful and so much wildlife and history.
My main frustration of the week was the lack of phone reception and wifi in Northumberland. Doing this trip I am more dependent upon my iPhone than I have ever been (and than I like to be). I use it for accessing the Internet to plan, get the weather, find and book accommodation, not to mention take photos and write my blog. All of this requires a charged-up battery, and most of it requires Internet access. This is why I go to pubs so often, not because I need the alcohol but because I need to find a plug socket and get access to wifi. Three days without wifi this week put me behind in my planning, logging of photos, and blog writing. I have to say that I found this a little stressful and always felt like I was playing catch-up. Goodness only knows how I’m going to cope in N Scotland!
Yet again I met some lovely people this week, was hosted by friends of friends who were amazingly kind to a stranger, and met up with an old friend. All this people made a very positive impact on my morale and encouraged me to keep going as I was having a few doubts about the wild parts of Scotland that lie ahead.
I have been very lucky with the weather and can’t believe that I can see any places more beautiful than this week, but apparently there are more ahead! I am very lucky.
Coldingham to Cockburnspath (Berwickshire)
Hosted by Ali
Another beautiful sunny morning and a wonderful view overlooking the beach while I ate smoked haddock for breakfast. I was late starting walking again as I was taking advantage of the wifi and trying to catch up with blogging and logging photos.
The small town of St Abb’s was just around the corner and I stopped to have a look at another of the 1881 storm memorials and admire the view.
As I walked around St Abbs Head the wind became stronger, the ground steeper and rougher, and the views more magnificent. I passed the lighthouse right on the Head and then rounded the corner to a cliff full of sea birds.
The walk today was ridiculously hilly, non-stop up and down some very steep slopes. In some places I had to zig zag up the grass cliff in front of me. The path was well signposted but perhaps it needs a health warning – fit people only! Thank goodness for walking poles!
When I looked back I could see weekend fishing in canoes on the Coldingham Loch.
Another stroke of luck, after St Abb’s Head I only met one other person all morning and he advised me of the one place on the route where there was no signpost to direct you and the route wasn’t obvious. If it hadn’t been for him I’d have had a much longer walk with more road. The views were outstanding and I could clearly see Torness Power Station and right up to Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Most of the coast path seemed like sheep tracks, narrow paths along the cliff top, but it did head inland at one point and I had a quick break admiring the view with the sheep.
By this point I was pushing the pace as I hadn’t been able to find any accommodation in Cockurnspath (no guest houses and no campsites) so I needed to catch the bus to Dunbar where I was hoping to find something. The only afternoon bus was at 16:44 and I couldn’t afford to miss it. I dropped down into Pease Bay and back up the hill, past the caravan site, and I was nearly there.
In the end I reached Cockburnspath with 45 minutes to spare so I popped into the local shop for some well-earned sustenance. As I had time I decided to call my friend Ali, who lives in Edinburgh, to discuss when I would be arriving. Another stroke of luck, she doesn’t live too far from Dunbar and offered me a bed for the night. Problem solved and I get to catch up with an old friend. Perfect. By the time Ali picked me up from the bus I had decided to take the following day off and spend it with friends.
Berwick, England to Coldingham, Scotland
Dunlaverock Guest House
A great start to the day as Yvonne cooked me a Craster kipper, which I had missed out on in Craster. Delicious. She also made me a packed lunch. I could have stayed chatting all day but I had to get walking. Only 3 miles to the Scottish Border. I really liked Berwick and could see why Clive and Yvonne have decided to move from London to retire there. Somewhere else I’d like to come back to.
Clive walked me through the town and along the walls to set me off without getting lost and then I was on the headland and heading for the border. I reached the “welcome to Scotland” sign (there’s no “welcome to England” sign of I’d been coming the other way) just as a cloud came over and, as I took a photo of me at the border, it started raining. I hope that’s not a portent for the Scottish part of my trip! Fortunately after about 10 minutes the rain stopped and then it was sunny for the rest of the day.
This stretch of coastline, from Berwick North, is all headland and rocky coves, most of them inaccessible. So beautiful. The sea was a deep blue and very clear. Every headland I walked around I had an intake of breath as I saw another cove that, rather impossibly, looked more beautiful than the last (I’m sure I would have felt exactly the same if I’d been walking the other direction!). Stunning; and so tempting for a swim. I saw plenty of fulmars that were nesting on the cliffs.
Once in Scotland there seemed to be more flies and of course the coast path signs changed and were more consistent. I passed a ruin of an old smuggler’s bothy on the cliff and then the path veered a field away from the cliff edge and next to the railway line.
Suddenly the path signs sent me almost back on myself and headed for the cliff top. I almost tried to cut the corner and head across the field but I’m glad I didn’t as the path did actually go over the cliff (it didn’t look possible from 20 metres away) and suddenly there was a settlement on the sea shore below the cliff. Almost unbelievable. This was Burnmouth and a good place to stop and eat my packed lunch next to the shore.
I walked through this tiny lower section of the town with its old harbour for fishing boats and up the ridiculously steep road to get out and head to Eyemouth.
This area has a strong fishing tradition and both Burnmouth and Eyemouth had memorials to the 189 men who died in the great storm of 1881. There is also a smuggling heritage and the large and imposing Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth was the home of the wealthy and pseudo-respectable smuggler John Nisbet.
I stopped for coffee and cake and headed on to Coldingham. More stunning coves and then a beautiful little beach with Coldingham dribbling down onto it. This beach was the first I’d seen with lifeguards and swimming flags. Either the Scots are hardier or it provides more employment. My guest house was overlooking the beach and so it seemed natural to dump my stuff, do some quick handwashing, and then take a dip in the beautiful sea. It was cold. Lovely though. I managed 5 minutes and then had to come out because a crow was emptying my towel and clothes from the plastic bag they were in. Not far up the beach to a hot shower.
I had dinner in the local St Vedas hotel that only does restaurant meals at the weekend. I was lucky to get a table as it is full with locals because the chef is very good. I had a lovely chat with a local couple over dinner and I treated myself to celebrate a great day, scallops and then an award winning scotch pie. Delicious.