Hills & Mountains
Southern Scotland (East)
*I am in the process of redesigning this section to include notes and many more high-res shots*
Please bear in mind that all my images are copyright. They are not free to use and have embedded with a digital watermark.
This section includes any hills or lower level walks I`ve done south of the Rivers Clyde and Forth, apart from the Isle of Arran, as most of my walking has concentrated on the area to the north of this line. The following notes and images therefore cover everything from fairly high mountains to coastal walks and strolls through country parks. See also: Hills & Mountains: Southern Scotland (West).
St Abb`s Head lies approximately 13 miles (21km) north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It`s sheer cliffs, rising to a height of 300 feet, plunge dramatically into the North Sea and provide nesting sites for up to 60,000 seabirds. The headland and much of the surrounding area was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1983.
A circular walk to the lighthouse on the headland can be made from either St Abb`s village, (above) approximately 2 miles to the south, or the reserve`s Northfield Farm Information Centre just west of the village. St Abb`s is popular with fishermen, the yachting fraternity, and especially scuba divers who flock here whenever conditions are favourable. The limited harbourside parking spaces quickly fill therefore the free parking offered at the farm is the better option.
The waters off the Berwickshire coast contain a tremendous abundance and variety of marine life and in 1984 local fishermen, divers and conservationists created a Voluntary Marine Reserve to limit damage caused by human activity and preserve the area for future generations.
I`ve made several visits to the reserve and always started from St Abbs village rather than Northfield Farm, an early start ensuring a parking space. The busy harbour is overlooked by a line of cliff-top cottages that once belonged to fishermen but it is the church that sits in the most prominent position, it`s spire no doubt a welcoming landmark for the returning fishing fleet in days gone by.
Initially the cliff-top path follows the indented coastline as it winds its way northwards, offering numerous vantage points from which to view the crashing waves and birdlife.
Fulmar, Shag, Guillemot and Razorbill all nest here and I`ve seen Wheatear and Yellowhammers. On one occasion my wife and I watched a stoat wandering between the numerous rabbit burrow entrances on the hillside adjacent to Mire Loch.
In addition to large formations of Gannets from the nearby Bass Rock which lies to the north, autumn passage regularly includes Manx Shearwater, plus Great and Arctic Skuas. Over 250 species of flowering plant occur on the reserve, including several rarities.
Inland from the cliff edge reed-fringed Mire Loch sits in a relatively sheltered position, and its surrounding trees and scrub provide welcome cover for spring migrants. Large numbers can make landfall here, especially when fierce easterly winds combine with poor visibility.
Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe are present throughout the year and usually joined by Wigeon and Goldeneye during the winter months.
The path from Mire Loch continues northwards to join the vehicular access road to the St Abb`s lighthouse. The structure was built in 1862 by David and Thomas Stevenson to help safeguard shipping on this storm-battered stretch of coast. Unusually, it sits slightly below the cliff`s highest point rather than on the skyline.
During the breeding season, the vicinity of the lighthouse is the best place to view the majority of the nesting Kittiwakes. A walk through this reserve is enjoyable at any time of year and there`s usually something of interest.