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Home > Trips&Photos > Trips > The North-East Coast and Staple Island

The North-East Coast and Staple Island / 4 days / 51 miles (82km)

Dates: 10 - 13 May 2005

Another coastal trip for May, the best time for observing the seabirds. We studied the logistics of a continuous backpack along the NE coast in the Borders region but it was beset with problems, involving long demoralising road tramps especially around Holy Island. We decided it was best tackled as a series of day walks, travelling by car between them and using the backpacks to walk out to a wild pitch for the night. This enabled us to walk the best parts of a much longer stretch of coast, ranging from St. Abb's Head in Scotland to Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. We had virtually unbroken sunshine every day.


Day 1Bamburgh to Craster14m (22.5km) {+ 1½m (2.4km) for pitch}
Day 2Eyemouth to St. Abb's Head12m (19.3km) {+ 3½m (5.6km) for pitch}
Day 3Staple Island & Lindisfarne3m (4.8km) {+ 3½m (5.6km) for pitch}
Day 4Filey Brigg & Flamborough Head12m (19.3km) {+ 1½m (2.4km) for pitch}

Tide information: Easytide - UKHO Free tidal prediction service


Day 1 - Bamburgh to Craster

Maps: Explorer 340 Holy Island & Bamburgh and Explorer 332 Alnwick & Amble.

Inner Farne from Bamburgh beach

This coastal section is very easy walking on expansive sandy beaches, with castles and harbours to add interest. We parked in Craster car park adjoining the Tourist Information Centre just before entering the village - this is the only public parking allowed, but is well priced at £1.50 for the day.

Having made good time on the journey up, we had an hour wait for the bus to Bamburgh (a 30 minute trip). This gave us time to potter around the village and harbour, with the air tinged by the pungent aroma of the fish-smoking house. Craster apparently has a wide reputation for seafood, but we had no opportunity to sample it on this trip.

Alighting in Bamburgh, we made our way towards the castle (official website:- Bamburgh Castle), which dominates the landscape around the village and attracts many tourists. Following a path around the L of the castle, we gained the beach and the coastline stretched ahead S, and as on so many coastal walks the map was almost superfluous - we just played it by ear. We also kept a watchful eye on the coastal strip for a secluded tent pitch, though it would become clear later that the real problem was suitable parking.

The Farne Islands are in view throughout this walk, and at Seahouses we enquired about sailings to Staple Island for the next day, which depend on weather conditions (see Staple Island description). Today was windy and there had been no landing, but we made a provisional booking in the hope that the predicted rise in pressure would materialise in time.

At Beadnell there is the harbour and a preserved limekiln, later used for curing herring. At Newton Point we noted the best pitch spot so far and rounded the headland to Embleton Bay with Dunstanburgh Castle ahead (National Trust property website:- Dunstanburgh Castle). An easy stroll led us back to Craster.

The car parks marked on the map at Newton Links (235260) and Low Newton (240248) are typical hereabouts - no overnight parking. Eventually we found a good place on the E side of Embleton where the road widens out and is signed as a car park, though not marked on the map (233227). From here the narrow lane E leads down to the golf club by the dunes, and a good footpath heads out around Newton Pool nature Reserve (public hide) to Low Newton-by-the-sea and on to our pitch near Newton Point.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle (10 May 2005__12:03:12)
Rocky shore near Bamburgh with Inner Farne beyond
Rocky shore near Bamburgh with Inner Farne beyond (10 May 2005__12:26:06)
Seahouses harbour
Seahouses harbour (10 May 2005__13:07:59)
Marram grass & waves at Football Hole
Marram grass & waves at Football Hole (10 May 2005__15:22:49)
Waves at Newton Point
Waves at Newton Point (10 May 2005__15:46:10)
Embleton Bay & Dunstanburgh Castle
Embleton Bay & Dunstanburgh Castle (10 May 2005__16:14:56)

Day 2 - Eyemouth to St. Abb's Head

Map: Explorer 346 - Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Shore near St. Abbs

After an enjoyable morning walk along the beach route back to the car, we returned to Seahouses. The wind had eased but it was still fairly breezy and the boat crew were not hopeful of a landing on Staple Island, at least not on the 10:00 sailing. We changed our booking to the next morning and set off for Eyemouth. There is a good free car park on the E side of the harbour inlet (946641).

The route includes the best section of the Berwickshire Coastal Path (BCP), a fine and varied undulating walk along clifftops and rocky shores to St. Abb's with much to see. The BCP turns inland here, but this route continues to culminate on the seabird cliffs and stacks at St. Abb's Head. For the return we simply reversed the route.

The BCP is signed from the bottom of the car park over a footbridge and around the inlet to the W side, amid the trappings of a busy fishing harbour - nets, ropes and hoisting gear. As on day 1, we seldom looked at the map and followed our instincts to gain the BCP near a caravan site. The walk begins in earnest at a pair of old cannons pointing seaward on a promontory, and the grand prospect towards St. Abbs comes into view. The good path leads around rocky coves and descends to the beach at Linkim Shore, then climbs out to Yellow Craig Head. It leads around Coldingham Bay to enter St. Abbs.

At St. Abbs, the way on to St. Abb's Head is not at all obvious: walk W out of the village up the B6438, and where it levels out there is a signed footpath on the L inside the wall. Where this emerges back onto the road, the path to St. Abb's Head is directly opposite. The path ascends around Starney Bay, descends to a valley and climbs gently around the slopes of Kirk Hill and on to the lighthouse. The interest mounts as the main breeding area is reached on the northern side, with colonies of seabirds thronging the cliffs and rock stacks.

Returning by the same route, we then drove back to Embleton and used the same pitch spot as the previous night.

Early sun on Newton Point beach (through shades)
Early sun on Newton Point beach (through shades) (11 May 2005__06:52:13)
Callercove Point
Callercove Point (11 May 2005__10:46:08)
Callercove Point
Callercove Point (11 May 2005__10:51:00)
Callercove Point
Callercove Point (11 May 2005__10:58:52)
Yellow Craig
Yellow Craig (11 May 2005__12:00:27)
Cliffs North of St. Abbs
Cliffs North of St. Abbs (11 May 2005__12:43:07)
Cliffs North of St. Abbs
Cliffs North of St. Abbs (11 May 2005__12:49:46)
Rocks at Horsecastle Bay
Rocks at Horsecastle Bay (11 May 2005__13:02:54)
Cliffs and stacks at St. Abb’s Head
Cliffs and stacks at St. Abb’s Head (11 May 2005__13:35:23)
Cliffs and stacks at St. Abb’s Head
Cliffs and stacks at St. Abb’s Head (11 May 2005__13:43:32)
Stack and guillemots at St. Abb’s Head
Stack and guillemots at St. Abb’s Head (11 May 2005__13:43:53)

Day 3 - Staple Island & Lindisfarne

Map: Explorer 340 Holy Island & Bamburgh.

Staple Island description →

Lindisfarne website: Lindisfarne

Safe crossing times for Lindisfarne causeway: Safe crossing times

Stacks & guillemots at Staple Island

There was a lovely sunrise from the morning beach walk, and after taking a normal photo, we tried a camera experiment: lacking a filter capability, I held my shades in front of the camera lens, which produced a startling result in orange hues. Back at Seahouses again, the wind had dropped and we had a landing at Staple Island (see description link above).

On return, the safe crossing times gave an opportunity for a quick look at Lindisfarne priory and a walk out to the castle. Another magnet for tourists, the huge car park at the W end of the island is about a mile from the castle.

Although historically interesting, we found the area strangely lacking in atmosphere, and the most memorable aspect of the brief excursion was the causeway: driving along the middle of this vast tidal flat was quite peculiar. We note that the 62-mile St. Cuthbert's Way follows this road and ends at the priory, and although you can walk off the road, it must be a really monotonous grind at the end of the route.

We drove down to Filey for the last night and parked on Filey promenade (free). We walked out to the pitch spot at North Cliff that we used on our Cleveland Way trip.

Sunrise from Newton Point pitch
Sunrise from Newton Point pitch (12 May 2005__05:12:15)
Early sun at Newton Point
Early sun at Newton Point (12 May 2005__06:26:37)
Seahouses harbour
Seahouses harbour (12 May 2005__08:37:47)
Staple Island access area
Staple Island access area (12 May 2005__10:47:58)
Stacks & guillemots
Stacks & guillemots (12 May 2005__10:51:26)
Female shag on nest
Female shag on nest (12 May 2005__10:52:08)
Guillemots
Guillemots (12 May 2005__10:53:20)
Western cliffs
Western cliffs (12 May 2005__10:54:33)
Stacks & guillemots
Stacks & guillemots (12 May 2005__10:56:33)
Puffin, kittiwakes, guillemots & shag
Puffin, kittiwakes, guillemots & shag (12 May 2005__11:20:38)
Male shag
Male shag (12 May 2005__11:23:57)
Cliffs from the boat
Cliffs from the boat (12 May 2005__11:47:45)
Cliffs from the boat
Cliffs from the boat (12 May 2005__11:49:31)
Seals and lighthouse
Seals and lighthouse (12 May 2005__11:58:43)
Seals on rocks
Seals on rocks (12 May 2005__12:04:28)

Day 4 - Filey Brigg & Flamborough Head

Start: Bridlington promenade (parking 70p per hour).

Map: Explorer 301 Scarborough, Bridlington & Flamborough Head.

High Stacks

It was a lovely walk out to Filey Brigg in the early morning light before setting off for Bridlington. From the promenade we walked NE past the coastguard station and followed the Headland Way, a waymarked route that follows the coast to Filey. The path is at first lined by personal memorial benches on the clifftop and later dips down steps into several small deeply cut valleys on the way to Flamborough Head. This is a delightful headland with limestone cliffs, stacks and arches, though far fewer seabirds than St. Abb's Head. We saw 2 pairs of puffins here, the first time we have seen them on the mainland.

High Stacks is an impressive formation, joined to the shore by a thin strip of rock and with an arch. At Selwicks Bay we descended to the beach of smooth white rocks enclosed by the cliffs, a delightful spot with a sea stack just offshore.

From Stottle Bank Nook we reversed the route, except that at Danes' Dyke we followed the short sculpture trail inland before descending to the RNLI station. There is an interesting large metal footbridge on the trail in the shape of the ribs of a whale, with the name of a whale species engraved on each rib.

Dawn sky from North Cliff pitch
Dawn sky from North Cliff pitch (13 May 2005__05:11:03)
Early light on Filey cliffs
Early light on Filey cliffs (13 May 2005__06:35:01)
Early sun on Filey Brigg
Early sun on Filey Brigg (13 May 2005__06:38:46)
Beach near Danes Dyke
Beach near Danes Dyke (13 May 2005__08:31:05)
Beach near Danes Dyke
Beach near Danes Dyke (13 May 2005__08:32:02)
High Stacks
High Stacks (13 May 2005__09:51:28)
Selwicks Bay
Selwicks Bay (13 May 2005__10:20:29)
Cliffs and stack at Selwicks Bay
Cliffs and stack at Selwicks Bay (13 May 2005__10:50:59)
Cliffs at Selwicks Bay
Cliffs at Selwicks Bay (13 May 2005__10:57:08)