The small village of Cove, sits perched on a cliff in north Berwickshire. Below, through a kissing gate and down a rough path, lies the secluded 18th century Cove Harbour. It is often mistakenly identified in photographs as “somewhere in the Highlands”. However the south of Scotland has many old fishing harbours. Cove is a beautiful and unspoilt example.
To access the harbour you walk down a path skirting the edge of the coast. You then have a choice – either walking out onto the pier or through a long tunnel to the beach. The fishermen used to store their catches in the tunnel. Once you emerge from the darkness, the harbour and the sheer magic of Cove unfolds in front of you. Here’s a walking route if you’d like to do a bit of exploring.
Besides the striking craggy red sandstone cliffs, Hollow Rocks demonstrates how the sea erodes holes in the sandstone. The geology of Cove, Pease Bay and the surrounding areas have attracted attention over the years. Sir John Hall of Dunglass instructed the excavation of the tunnel (by hand) in 1752. He wanted easier access to the headland in order to study the rock formations. And in 1788, the father of geology, James Hutton visited with Hall in search of “unconformities” to support his theories on rock formations and the age of the earth.
History of cove Harbour
Sir James Hall commissioned Joseph Mitchell in 1828 to design the piers. However historians believe that the site has been used as a harbour for a considerably longer time.
For a brief period until the East Coast Fishing Disaster of 1881, Cove was one of the most important herring ports in Scotland. The houses on the pier and Haddock House (next to the Blue Cabin) were built during this period to accommodate the growing number of fishermen.
On 14th October 1881, the east coast was struck by a European windstorm, drowning 189 men in one afternoon. It is the worst fishing disaster in Britain to date. Cove lost eleven of twenty one men and three of their four boats. Today, at the top of the hill, there is a memorial by Jill Watson commemorating the remaining women and children of the village. Memorials to the disaster have been erected in St Abbs, Eyemouth and Burnmouth depicting the exact numbers of women and children left behind.
The Glasgow Boys
The nineteenth century, artists known as the Glasgow Boys, were drawn to the area by the crisp more dependable light. The ready availability of agricultural labourers gave them plenty of subjects for their art. They lived in the nearby village of Cockburnpath, some staying only for a few days. But others, like James Guthrie spent two cold winters.
Stay a weekend or longer in The Blue Cabin
Cove Harbour feels remote. Visitors can experience this feeling by holidaying in the Blue Cabin (sleeps up to four people). Surpluses made from letting the Blue Cabin support the upkeep and restoration of the harbour. The next major project planned is to repair the pier.
How to find Cove Harbour
Cove harbour is located just off the A1 near Cockburnspath. Follow the signs at the roundabout for Cove Harbour. There is a car park on the clifftop.
Grid Reference: NT 780717