A few days ago, we drove to the coast on a whim. The weather was beautiful and so we stopped in a few places – Cove, St Abbs, Coldingham. In our previous post we discussed the hidden (easy to miss) gem of Cove Harbour. In this post we will focus on St Abbs.
St Abbs is a historic fishing village on the south east coast of Berwickshire. Clear water, scuba diving and the nearby nature preserve make St Abbs special. Historically the village was called Coldingham Shore. Until the late 18th century the fisherman lived in Coldingham and walked to the shore with their equipment every day. However, they established their own settlement by the shore, and by the 1890s, they had adopted the name St Abbs from the nearby promontory.
St Abbs Head
The promontory, St Abbs Head, is to side of the village. It is named for the 7th century saint St Æbbe of Coldingham who establish a monastery there in 643 on the ruins of a 6th century fort. While it soon burnt down, there have been various other chapels though the ages. Today the cliffs are a nature preserve, in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The craggy landscape formed by volcanic activity houses various species of birds and attracts bird watchers all year round. St Abbs Head also houses one of the most prominent lighthouses in the country, signalling the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth.
Some of the best Diving in the UK
St Abbs is the most popular shore diving site in Britain and, along with Eyemouth benefit from protection within the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve. The cliffs around the harbour extend from 100 feet above sea level to 30 feet below. Because of the type of rock and the position, over the years the water has eroded a series of caves and tunnel that are attractive to wildlife. On a typical 30m dive, you can see kelp forests, coral, sea urchins and octopuses. Due to its position, there is an interesting mix of warm and cold water marine life. Many diving boat charters operate from the harbour.
Saving the life boat
From 1911 to 2015, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution had a station in St Abbs. However, despite a 13,000 signature petition they took the decision to withdraw their service to Eyemouth (two miles down the coast) on 8 September 2105, believing that the two lifeboats there would be flexible enough to cover the area.
Now there is to be independent lifeboat station with the Thomas Tunnock, named after the famous makers of the Tunnock Teacake. Owner, Boyd Tunnock made a £250,000 donation to the campaign, to save the St Abbs lifeboat station.
The Fishing Disaster of 1881
1881 saw the worst fishing disaster Scotland has ever experienced, referred to often as Black Friday. The worst effects of the storm were felt in Eyemouth, but St Abbs lost three men. Today, like in Cove, a memorial of tiny bronze sculptures by Jill Watson, stand looking out to sea, searching for the boats and men that never returned. 189 men lost their lives, many close to the shore and home. 93 women were widowed and 267 children were left without fathers. Of the 45 boats that went to sea, only 19 returned. It took 80 years for the population of St Abbs to reach the 1881 levels.
We arrived late in the day so didn’t spend much time in St Abbs, but there certainly is a lot to see and explore. If you haven’t visited, I suggest you put it on your list!
How to Find St Abbs
St Abbs is approximately 4 miles from the A1. Take the A1107 turnoff signposted for Coldingham and St Abbs. In Coldingham turn right onto the High Street and drive approximately 1 mile to St Abbs.
Postcode: TD14 5PL
St Abbs is served by Perryman’s 235 bus Berwick to Abbs and from Edinburgh the 253 bus. Click here to see the timetables. The closest train station is Berwick Upon Tweed approximately 14 miles away. You can then take the 235 bus to reach St Abbs.