This was one of those short walks in unpromising weather that turned out better than expected. Around Christmas and New Year it can often be difficult to find a mutually convenient day to walk with friends, and you can end up having to choose a day when the conditions are not ideal.
So it turned out just after Christmas 2004. Four of us met up in Arbroath and set out around 11 a.m. from the far end of King’s Drive, running along the eastern shore away from the harbour. There was parking space along the sea wall. The overcast sky was threatening rain, and we decided that boots and wet weather gear were advisable.
The path climbed a little from the end of the road, and soon we were looking down on a succession of rocky inlets and headlands. The route twisted one way then the other, up and then down, but was straightforward to follow in spite of muddy sections. To our right the impressive cliff scenery continued with high rock stacks, arches and caves. One large stack stood on a remarkably narrow rock pedestal, doomed one day to tumble over. For now, it provided shelter for a lone angler.
Further on, at the edge of a small grass-topped peninsula, two other men were trying their luck. Balanced on the rocks it looked as though a good catch could pull them into the waves below. The next rock formation looked remarkably like a sphinx in profile.
Then the path turned left at the outflow of a stream. On the inland side, we passed large plastic-sheete greenhouses containing lines of fruitbushes, before crossing a newly built wooden footbridge and walking down into a wooded den. When the path reached the bank of the stream it wasn’t clear which way to go on the other side – a track ran to left and right. We decided to go right, back towards the shore. There were strange green sprouting objects beside the path, which we thought might be some strange woodland shoots breaking through the earth. Then, when we climbed to the top of the sloped, we found ourselves on the edge of a field of Brussels sprouts! Mystery solved.
There was no clear path now, but we followed the edge of the field round to the edge of a grassy cliff set back from the sea. It climbed higher, and a view opened up of a long line of cliffs ahead on the right. Eventually we saw the low line of houses at Auchmithie appearing on the horizon. Our path took us through another field of sprouts – this time on massive plants at least as tall as we were! It presented a weird picture.
Reaching a house and the end of a road, it looked like we could cross the next field to the village, but that would have taken us down a dip and into bramble bushes. We followed the road to the left, then turned right into the main street of the village. It was around 1.20. An old chap was leaning on the wall of his cottage – he told us there would be a bus back to Arbroath within the hour if we didn’t want to walk back, but he pointed out the track to follow if we were still feeling energetic. He also advised us we’d have trouble finding anything to eat or drink – the hotel and shop had closed. There was a restaurant open, the But ‘n’ Ben, but we decided instead to walk down to the bay in the short time before the bus arrived.
It was just a matter of following the road down past the rows of typical fisher houses and the former hotel, then down steps to the right. These were quite steep and eroded in places, and led to the bay with a concrete pier and piles of large round pebbles. A couple of black shags were looking for fish from the rocks.
We headed back up for the bus, just as the rain was getting heavier. Whilst waiting at the bus stop one of my colleagues – who had been telling me about the importance of his Tai Chi classes during the walk – gave an impromptu performance. It added a rather surreal touch to the proceedings, and caused several people departing from the But ‘n’ Ben to take a second look as they walked to their cars. It certainly gave me a better idea of how complicated Tai Chi is. I’d thought it was just a matter of stringing together a few stretching exercises done gracefully with a hint of meditation.
The bus turned up and took us back the 3 miles to Arbroath. We got off just after passing the Academy on the right, at the end of St Ninian’s Road, and walked down past a row of shops. We hadn’t eaten, and a pie shop beckoned. Armed with a pie each, we followed the street through housing to the end, where a path led up to a playing field. We had to turn towards the right then left again to reach the edge, then down across the grass of Victoria Park and back to the car.
Possible extension. On a better day, we might have had something to eat in Auchmithie and walked back – a farm road leads in the opposite direction from the main street, over a low hill, cutting off some of the bends in the coastline and joining up with the path we had followed at the wooden den. It could be followed straight back to the town via the farms of East and West Seaton, where it joins a road leading back down to the start of the walk at Kings Drive. These are clearly marked on the OS map. We could also have paid a visit to the Arbroath Abbey visitor centre in the heart of the town, half an hour’s walk from where we started.
Contributed by: Andrew Llanwarne
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