By Craig Neil
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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.
The route starts at Cove harbour and continues along gorse-covered cliffs before finishing at Pease Bay which is best known for its family-friendly caravan park. Discover this beautiful stretch of coastline in this guide which includes an overview and useful visiting tips.
1: 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’.
2: The harbour walls project into the sea and as you can walk along them they make a great spot to go wildlife watching. The bay is frequently visited by dolphins and seals so taking a pair of binoculars (my favourites on Amazon) is recommended.
3: From Cove, visitors can go on a lovely walk along the clifftops in a part of the country that sees few tourists.
1: There aren’t any facilities at Cove harbour so if you want food and drink you will have to take your own. A lightweight backpack (recommended bags on Amazon) will come in very handy for that reason.
2: 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.
3: Check out the official Southern Upland Way website for detailed route maps.
The Southern Upland Way runs for over 212 miles between the west and east coasts of southern Scotland, from Portpatrick in the southwest to Cockburnspath in the southeast.
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 that have recently completed the previous section of the trail will likely have had a tough hike through the nearby Lammermuir Hills.
However, 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.
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 worth checking 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.
Meanwhile, those who’ve simply gone there 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.
Click the map for details
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Berwick-upon-Tweed – 346 Explorer.
Duns, Dunbar & Eyemouth – 67 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do nearby
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.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to Cove Harbour?
Address: Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, TD13 5XD
Directions map: Google Maps
Who owns Cove Harbour?
Cove harbour is owned by architect Ben Tindall and Cove Harbour Conservation Ltd.
Is Pease Bay a private beach?
Pease Bay is a public beach. It is located 9 miles south of Dunbar, off the A1 at Cocksburnspath.
What visitor facilities are there at Cove Harbour?
There are no visitor facilities at Cove harbour, but there is a car park in the village.