We drive north from Berwick on Tweed, the sea continues silvery blue and the sun shines. I love this Northumberland coast. We head for North Berwick with some regret, but need not have worried.
We stopped at Cove on the recommendation of Georgie in Northumberland. They had been to a wedding reception there and said it was enchanting, and accessible only on foot. The village sits at the top of a cliff with the harbour at the bottom and I set off down the path surrounded by red cliffs and, at the bottom, more slithery rockpools than sand exposed by the tide.
It felt very Cornish, though I don't think Cornwall has
red sandstone cliffs. The path leads through a creepy tunnel under
the cliff, otherwise the harbour can be reached only by boat. It's
very Daphne du Maurier, with just one house on the beach and two
cottages on the edge of harbour which has a large, enveloping wall
protecting the boats.
North Berwick is charming, with a street full of good shops and a harbour full of boats and handsome solid houses rising above it. A large pointed hill rises up from the town.This has always been a smart and fashionable place to live, Edinburgh commuter belt I guess. We camped looking out towards the Bass Rock where, as we were parked, hooked up and cooked supper, we watched the last of the sun peer down behind the clouds and light up the Firth of Forth, as still as a mirror. The Bass Rock is a tall straight-sided rock – the plug from a volcano thousands of years ago – which is now home to the biggest gannet colony in Europe. As the light went, it looked increasingly like a large chocolate brownie with mould on the top ... the mould being the nesting gannets and their guano.
|Mr and Mrs Gannet|
The next day brought rain, and the boat trip wasn't until 1.30pm... and we wanted to get on. We were wavering, having just been around the Farne Islands (didn't see gannets there though) and it was pretty miserable. But I'm so glad we did go.
|Gannets on the Bass Rock|
The gannet is the biggest seabird, with a 6' wingspan, and a yellow collar, and (when mature) black wing-tips. They lay their eggs in the same place every year and both parents share sitting on them – not like the feckless male eider ducks. They leave in September for North Africa and come back in March or April to the exact same place on the rock. The males and females look very similar but you can tell the males because they are the ones who make the nests and fly around with seaweed in their mouths. We also saw puffins and guillemots and kittiwakes, and a peregrine eagle perched on the lighthouse rail. The chances of coming out unscathed with large seabirds flying overhead in such vast numbers must be remote, and I had my camera poised. But only one of our companions copped it. He said "Och! I'll be off to buy a lottery tucket just as soon as soon as we get back!"
Leaving North Berwick we made for the Forth Road Bridge, with a token nod to Muirfield for Nick (it being one of the five top golf courses in Scotland, and there are thousands of lesser ones around every corner). We were deviating from my coastal route and heading for Aviemore for the night on the way to a town called Keith, east of Inverness.