Round Britain: Carnoustie to Stonehaven

The campsite was quiet when we awoke but the nearby rookery was very noisy. After picking up supplies in Carnoustie we continued on Arbroath Road towards East Haven. The village won a Gold Award in Britain in Bloom 2018 as the best Coastal Village. The coastal path and National Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Shetland pass through. On Sunday morning there was a pop-up café run by a guy originally from Kent/Sussex who had been in the army and married a local woman he had met when she worked at the nearby military base. The café supports the public toilets here which were very nicely decorated. The town dates back to 1214 and is one of the oldest recorded fishing communities in Scotland. The first owner of the Barony of Panmure granted a charter to the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey, providing an acre to build a homestead on and the right to charge a toll on fishing. At that time the village was known as Stinchendehavene which is thought to relate to the smell of rotting seaweed. It has had various names over the centuries. There was a lot of kelp on the beach the day we visited. It became a burgh in 1541 with the right to hold a market. East Haven had a station but lost the railway due to the Beeching cuts.There are local sculptures nearby, the first by Ian Chalmers of Chainsaw Creations on the Black Isle.

The war memorial remembers the role of Airedale Terriers and is sculpted from granite by local sculptor Bruce Walker.

The café guy told us that there were plans to recreate an 1870 photograph of all the villagers.

Continuing north, we reached Arbroath and parked by the shore in Inchcape Park. Wandering into town we passed the Signal Tower Museum, formerly the Signal Shore Station for the Bell Rock Lighthouse which is 11 miles off the coast. However, it is closed on Sundays.

The football stadium is right on the sea-front which must be cold in winter. James recalled going to matches at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen which is in a similar situation and very prone to winter winds off the North Sea. Arbroath FC’s claim to fame is that in 1885 they beat Aberdeen Bon Accord 36-0 which still stands as the world record for the most goals scored in a professional football match. First settled in the 12th century and situated at the mouth of the Brothick Burn it was called Aberbrothick until the mid 19th century. It was known for making sail cloth, including for the Cutty Sark but was always connected with fishing, the first harbour opening in 1394.

Arbroath Abbey sits in the town. It no longer holds the Declaration of Arbroath which is kept with the National Records of Scotland. The abbey was founded by King William I.

The large circular window in the south transept is known as the Round O and was rebuilt in the 1800s by Robert Stevenson who constructed the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

The staff member in the Abbey told us that St Vigeans Pictish Stone Museum was open today (it is usually only open on demand) so we drove over to the outskirts of the town where it is situated. The 32 carved Pictish stones were discovered when the church was being refurbished in the 19th century.

One thing we did not have time to do was to walk out to the sandstone cliffs which have some geological wonders. Later, we passed Lunan Bay and stopped at Montrose Basin. In the 12th and 13th centuries Montrose harbour was the centre of the local salmon export industry, second only to Aberdeen. The salt pans around the basin have been cleared out and made into pools for wildlife and it is now managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Crossing the River South Esk, we passed Montrose Harbour which has both a Lifeboat and International Rescue Boat Station. One mile north of the town, we stayed for the night at a Britstop on a fruit farm.

The next morning, we crossed the River North Esk and entered Kincardineshire. Our first stop was at St Cyrus Nature Reserve which includes grassland between the volcanic cliffs and the dunes and has an extensive beach.

Back on the A92 the road passes through St Cyrus, past Johnshaven and Gourdon before entering Inverbervie where we picked up more supplies. A little further north we encountered the haar: a mist which occurs when cold air from the sea meets warmer air on land an condenses. It occurs during the summer months along much of the east coast of Britain. We looked around Dunottar Castle which we had visited previously a couple of years ago before heading to our campsite in Stonehaven.

Round Britain: St Andrews to Angus

We had to pop in to Anstruther for a repair to the van technology. Returning along the B road back to St Andrews, we passed the sign to ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ which we had seen on various occasions but never visited so we decided to take a look. Construction began in 1951 and it opened in 1953 as part of Britain’s early warning radar chain ‘ROTOR’. The Royal Air Force occupied it for six years. As technology improved the range between stations could increase and some, including this one, became redundant and were mothballed by the government. From 1958 to 1968 the Civil Defence Corps operated it and afterwards it became ‘Central Government HQ for Scotland in the event of a nuclear war’. It remained in service until 1993.

The main tunnel to the bunker is 150 yards long and is encased in 18 inches of solid concrete.

Further on the solid concrete is 10 feet deep and reinforced with tungsten bars. The main switchboard room could connect 2800 external lines and 500 internal extensions. It was manned 24 hours per day.

There is even a consecrated memorial chapel which is still used.

And a resident MOD cat whom we met.

Outside there are various military vehicles

Leaving St Andrews, we passed the Eden Mill Gin Distillery and crossed the River Eden at Guard Bridge. RAF Leuchars is a little further on but our destination was Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. We parked by the beach which on arrival was very quiet.

Walking on the windy dunes was reminiscent of walking on Indiana Dunes on a very windy day almost three years ago.

We had our picnic there and the car park was filing up. There is even a crepe shack.

Our overnight stop was at a Certified Location in farmland near Morton Lochs which are also a National Nature Reserve. The Lochs were originally created by the Christie family who were local landlords, in 1906 and stocked with fish. They became a nature reserve in 1952.

We had a walk down there in the afternoon. A sign noted that there had been a tsunami 7,000 years ago with a wave 70 feet high which would have destroyed the neolithic population there. I had heard some time ago about that there is geological evidence of it in some Norwegian Fjord and joked that living right on the sea front on the East Coast might not be a good idea in case it is replicated. Now, rising sea levels secondary to global warming are a more likely threat.
At the loch we saw some coots and their young, a heron fishing in the distance and a red squirrel on one of the feeders.

That evening saw the end of the good weather as rain moved in. The following morning, we picked up supplies in Tayport and then continued to Newport. They are both commuter towns for Dundee and St Andrews. Manna café in Newport sells good coffees and is a community venture run by the local Church of Scotland. The profits support a youth worker. The town sits between the Tay road and rail Bridges.

The first rail bridge collapsed in a storm December 1879 while a train was crossing it, killing all onboard. Across the river, oil rigs were being repaired and Saturday morning boating was in full swing.

Down by the waterfront I discovered some street art:

After crossing the road bridge, we turned east along the coast, past the port and into Broughty Ferry. It had become a popular resort by 1790, known as the ‘Brighton of the North’. The population increased 4-fold in 30 years due to the popularity of ‘taking the waters’. The castle sits on the shore and was built in 1496.

It was rebuilt in 1860 and the Forfarshire Artillery Volunteers were garrisoned there. Later, the Submarine Miners who were ready to lay mines across the Tay in the event of war, were housed in a nearby building. It last saw military service in the World War II and has been a museum since 1969.
The first floor tells the history of the castle, the second is an art gallery containing a small selection of the collection of James Guthrie Orchar who was a prominent engineer and businessman in Dundee in the 19th century.

and on the third floor is an armoury. At the top there is a viewing platform and displays devoted to the local natural history. Down at the windy beach there were only a few brave souls, lots of kelp and I found two pieces of sea glass. It was raining as we left. Driving along the esplanade we passed the Barnhill Rock Garden. In better weather I might have stopped and explored it as I am constructing a new one at home. Our campsite was just beyond the settlement of Lucknow. It is named after the city in India but I still have to discover why.