Coldingham and St Abbs

Coldingham Sands from the Coast Path

26th March 2017

Well, it’s been a while but yesterday we ventured out in the beautiful spring sunshine and did a 7 mile circular walk from Coldingham via St Abbs Head.  You can read more about walks we did in the area here: Coldingham Walk ; and more about St Abbs Head and Mire Loch here: St Abbs Head.

So today we did the whole circuit combining the Coldingham and St Abbs Head walks, in the glorious sunshine and accompanied most of the way by the incessant guttural cacophony from thousands and thousands of Guillemot which were perched precariously all along the rocky coast.

Those black blotches are birds;  crowded on this cliff edge are Guillemot and they nest on these bare rocky ledges.


Thousands and thousands of them!! These cliffs are home to the largest colony of cliff nesting seabirds on the southeast coast of Scotland and is a National Nature Reserve being important, not only for seabirds but also coastal flora and marine life..  The birds include Kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, shags, herring gull, fulmers and puffins, but the ones we saw today seemed to be all guillemots (a word of French origin apparently derived from the name William – French, Guillaume).  I was wondering why they are all facing the cliff, rather than looking out to sea – Mr RR made the obvious point that they fly in and land facing the cliff and so that’s how they stay – not being remotely interested in the stunning views!

The birds nest on rocky outcrops and cliff faces like these because it protects their eggs and chicks from animal predators.  They are still at risk from humans though – research has shown that human disturbance reduces breeding success by causing stress and raised heart rate in the birds.

Safer from interference by humans these guillemots crowd together on a rocky outcrop.  In the water are Eider Ducks. These are the UK’s heaviest but fastest flying sea duck rarely seen except on coastlines as it is dependent for food on coastal molluscs.

The walk follows part of the Berwickshire coast path which has the second highest cliffs on the east coast of Britain. St Abbs Head itself was formed by active volcanos 410 million years ago and is now managed by The National Trust for Scotland and is a designated site of Special Scientific Interest.



It’s a lovely clear day and as we walk along the coastline we can see Torness Nuclear Power Station near Dunbar in the distance and at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock.

Bass Rock is difficult to see in this picture – but the peak in the middle is Berwick Law in North Berwick.

We’re rarely out of sight of the North Sea on this ramble and when we turn inland at the delightfully named Pettico Wick to reach Mire Loch and sit down for a cup of tea, we can glimpse the bright blue sea on both sides.

Mire Loch with a glimpse of the North Sea on our left…..
and on our right.
The sea at both sides of the Loch
The coastline at Pettico Wick where we turn towards the Loch.

The Loch is around 400 yards long and provides food and shelter for a host of migrant birds in spring and autumn.  Today we can just see swans, moorhen, coots and a few Little Grebe but on occasion hundreds of gulls, kittiwakes and fulmers can be seen on the water.

We see our first butterfly of the year on the high moorland beside the loch – a red admiral I think, though we couldn’t get near enough to check:


St Abb’s Head is home to the nationally rare Northern Brown Argos butterfly and some of the land here is fenced off to protect the Wild Thyme which provides the nectar they need and the Rock Roses on which their caterpillars feed from grazing sheep.  Nothing keeps out the rabbits though!  There are plenty of those around and they are enormous!  We hazard a guess that there are very few rabbit predators around here due to the lack of trees for birds of prey to perch or roost in.

DSCN4865.JPGLeaving the Loch we make our way uphill onto moorland where sheep and lambs are enjoying the sunshine.DSCN4884.JPG

Number 53 was especially curious about us:

The gorse is in flower here….as always it reminds me of Cornwall, where no doubt the gorse has been flowering since about December!


We also see other spring flowers beginning to show themselves – lots of daisies, dandelion and celandine and a few Common Field-speedwell:

Common Field-speedwell with its white splotch in the centre which distinguishes it from the Germander Speeedwell which is pure blue with just a thin white ring.  The Common Field-speedwell loves the sun so its very happy today.

As we pass along the track heading back towards St Abb’s village we pass Northfield Farm run by the National Trust, where lambing is in progress.  These tiny, very new ones were taking in the big wild world:


We stop for another cup of tea at the cafe by the National Trust visitor centre and have a wander around Number Four Gallery which sells some lovely local artwork.  And then its back along the Creel Path to Coldingham, catching site of a hare on the way:



5 thoughts on “Coldingham and St Abbs

  1. Jean Francis March 26, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    Thank you- beautiful pictures as always. I saw a red admiral from my kitchen window this weekend.


    • ricketyrambler March 28, 2017 / 5:39 am

      Thanks Jean, I love it when Spring is here and the first butterflies appear….we had a bumble bee in the garden the other day as well.


  2. Suzy B March 28, 2017 / 5:10 am

    Lovely pictures. What a beautiful day and thanks as always for sharing it. Oh and the hare!! Looking forward to the next one. Xxx


  3. ricketyrambler March 28, 2017 / 5:43 am

    Thanks. Yes…the hare! There was one sunbathing in the field opposite us for such a long time yesterday. x


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