St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve
NTS Rangers Office
Northfield, St Abb's
The Scottish Borders
A veritable ‘seabird city’, St Abb’s Head is a year-round haven for birdwatchers, walkers and wildlife lovers.
The dramatic cliffs provide spectacular vantage points from which to watch thousands of nesting seabirds, including guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills.
Among the rugged cliffs and offshore rock stacks, some of which stand 90 metres tall, you may feel suspended in serene isolation, but in fact this wilderness is just four miles away from the A1.
he story of St Abb’s Head stretches back to prehistoric times. Millions of years ago, movements of the earth’s crust brought two continents together, and the St Abb’s Head fault, which runs through the valley containing the Mire Loch, marks the point where they met.
This is best seen at Pettico Wick: to the east are unstructured pink and purple lavas that erupted from volcanoes around 400 million years ago; and to the west are grey, layered sedimentary rocks called ‘greywackes’, which were once layers of mud on the ocean floor.
Traces of an Iron Age fort hint at the long history of human settlement here, as does an early Christian community founded by Aebbe, a 7th-century Northumbrian princess.
Aebbe established her monastery on the Kirk Hill in 643 where both monks and nuns lived in simple ‘beehive’ huts made from mud and small branches.
The abbess was sainted for spreading Christianity through this previously pagan land. All that remains of Aebbe’s monastery is the well-worn rampart, and a few lumps and bumps, but it is, nonetheless, a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The 19th-century lighthouse, built by the famous Lighthouse Stevensons in 1862, was originally powered by coal and oil. It was manned by three full-time keepers until it became automated in 1994, and the cottages are now used by holidaymakers.
In the early part of the 20th century the area became more widely used for leisure activities. The naturally boggy area in the valley behind the cliffs was dammed to form the Mire Loch, to be used for shooting and fishing, and a nine-hole golf course was created outside the village.
From the A1 take the A1107 to Coldingham, turn right onto Coldingham high street and drive 1 mile to St Abbs.
OS Ref: NT912692