The Southern Upland Way runs for 212 miles between the west and east coasts of southern Scotland. This section on the east coast is located a short distance from the coastal town of Dunbar.
Review of the Southern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way runs for over 212 miles between the west and east coasts of southern Scotland, from Portpatrick in the south-west to Cockburnspath in the south-east.
While much of the route is unknown to casual walkers, many hiking enthusiasts complete the trail in its entirety each year, starting on one side of the country and coming back each weekend to finish off another section.
Both the west and east end of the Southern Upland Way feature some truly remarkable landscapes to explore but this second-to-last section on the east coast is definitely worth a visit thanks to the spectacular coastal views it offers.
This part of the Berwickshire coastline offers a lot of variety for seasoned walkers yet it’s gentle enough that families can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the rugged cliff-tops and rolling hills.
Hiking enthusiasts who’ve recently completed the previous section of the trail will likely have had a tough hike through the nearby Lammermuir Hills, but for those people who are just beginning their journey on the Southern Upland Way this starting point at the pretty coastal village of Cove offers an easy walk along well-worn paths.
Things to do at Cove Harbour and Pease Bay
Starting at the car park in Cove you’ll see the signs that point in the direction of Pease Bay, but there’s also an alternative route down to Cove Harbour. This harbour is a real hidden gem and feels extraordinarily secluded – an experience that’s hard to find these days.
You pass through a tunnel that’s bored through the cliffs and enter into a seemingly hidden world of golden sand and old harbour walls. Pink-hued cliff faces surround the cove in a wide arc and with the harbour walls protecting the beach from the north sea it feels a bit like being on the Mediterranean coastline.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to check out the harbour but don’t take too long because you’ll need to return to the clifftop path to continue your journey to Pease Bay. The route between Cove and Pease Bay follows the coastline quite closely and as it’s elevated on top of the cliffs you’ll get good views in all directions.
Along the trail you’ll find gently rolling farmland to one side and the crashing waves of the north sea to the other, while the entire route is home to loads of wildlife hiding in the thick gorse bushes that line the path, so be sure to take your camera with you.
There are a few extremely tempting uninhabited bays and beaches all along this section of the trail but they’re at the bottom of some very steep slopes so it’s best to just stick to the designated walkway.
I guess you could head down to one of these bays if you wanted to make the perilous descent and you’d probably find you’d have the beach entirely to yourself, but you’d be doing so at your own risk. Definitely don’t try it if you’ve got children with you.
After an hour of walking you’ll reach the headland of Pease Bay with the wide-open, golden beach stretching away in front of you, so if you want to get down to the sea-front just follow the path ahead that leads down towards the caravan park.
The more adventurous who are intending to finish the next part of the Southern Upland Way can continue past the caravan park onto the main road which has further signs pointing towards the next section, and those who’ve simply come here to admire the views can now turn around and take a leisurely stroll back to Cove car park.
Expect to spend a couple of hours exploring Cove and the return walk to Pease Bay but if you’re just walking along the clifftops you could easily complete it in an hour.
This is a great walk but I recommend you take a map with you if you really want to explore this gorgeous section of Scotland’s coastline. In my opinion, the best maps by far are the ones produced by Ordnance Survey and you can easily get them from their website at a reasonable price. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Find more places to visit in the area with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
- It’s a lovely walk along the clifftops and it’s relatively unknown so it’s fairly quiet as well.
- Cove Harbour and beach is one of the nicest, most secluded sunbathing spots I’ve found in Scotland and is the very definition of a ‘hidden gem’.
- The harbour walls project into the sea and as you can walk along them they make a great spot to go wildlife watching. Apparently, the bay is frequently visited by dolphins and seals.
- There aren’t any facilities at Cove harbour so if you want food and drink I suggest you bring your own.
- This section of the Southern Upland Way is ok for mountain biking but I think it’s best enjoyed by walking. There’s a car park at Cove if you decide to go there by car.
- Check out the official Southern Upland Way website for detailed route maps.
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Cove Harbour
- St. Abbs Head. Eyemouth TD14 5QG. 28-minute drive. National nature reserve in a spectacular clifftop setting that is famed for its seabird colonies. There are a multitude of footpaths that offer walks throughout the reserve and there is a small loch slightly inland that is a haven for ducks, swans and other wildlife.
- Thorntonloch Beach. Dunbar EH42 1QS. 7-minute drive. A lengthy section of golden sand south of Torness power station. The shallow beach enjoys some of the best waves on the East Lothian coastline making it a popular spot for bodyboarders.
- Woodhall Dean Wildlife Reserve. Dunbar EH42 1SJ. 14-minute drive. Nature reserve on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills. This reserve is home to sessile oak trees (a once-abundant tree that is now dwindling in numbers) and it is highly regarded for the carpets of woodland wildflowers that bloom in spring.
- Whitesands Bay. Dunbar EH42 1QP. 12-minute drive. A popular bay a few miles south-east of Dunbar that is backed by the golden sands of Whitesands beach and the greenery of Whitesand Nature Reserve. The reserve is alive with wildlife and visitors are almost guaranteed to see owls, wading birds, roe deer, red foxes and many more species. The beach meanwhile is relatively quiet and allows access to superb coastal footpaths in both directions.
- Fast Castle. Eyemouth TD14 5TY. 16-minute drive. A ruined castle situated on a rocky headland a few miles north of St. Abbs Head. The castle isn’t much more than a collection of ramshackle walls but it is a favourite spot for wildlife watchers thanks to the seal colonies that can be seen on the rocks below.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.
- Linlithgow Palace – West Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideLinlithgow Palace is located in the quaint West Lothian market town of Linlithgow, more-or-less halfway between the cities of Stirling and Edinburgh.