Friday, 1 August 2014

Colours and caves - Deil's Heid to Auchmithie

After passing the sea stack of the Deil's Heid we entered Carlingheugh Bay where the cliffs become a little lower.  A series of dry caves lie above the shore, again these would have been sea caves prior to the isostatic rebound effect as the weight of ice sheets unloaded.  Much of Scotland is still rising as the rebound continues at a slow rate, while the southern half of Britain continues to sink at a corresponding rate.  We were about to find a cave which is most definitely at sea level though....

The entrance is very obvious, a large square with undercut strata heading back into the gloom.....

...but once inside the space opens up into a large cavern.  Some of the rock strata have been prised away by the explosive hydraulic pressure of big swells and have formed a flat ceiling.  This view is looking into the cave; the light source behind Joan is from Gaylet Pot, a collapsed section of roof forming a "gloup" 140 metres into the cave.

The mechanics of its formation are really remarkable; the hydraulic pressure which prised away the strata to form the cave would have forced air along one of the fault lines of the Lower Devonian sandstone, compressing still further until it found a weakness where the repeated and concentrated compressive force was able to shatter the rock above, collapsing the roof and forming the gloup.  The forces involved must be truly enormous and we could only imagine what this place must be like in an easterly storm.

Today was very calm and the only thing streaming thorough the cave entrance was the late morning sunshine.  Duncan was able to land at a boulder beach in the gloup itself to get a further perspective on the feature which emerges in the middle of a farmer's field! After spending some time exploring the extent of the cave we headed back towards the light.

There's an angle from which the whole length of the cave can be seen, though not the extent of the interior.  Duncan and Joan can just be made out at the gloup end, giving scale to the place.

If you kayak this section of the Angus coastline on a calm day, Gaylet Pot is a real "must do"!

The next point of interest on this remarkable paddle is  Lud Castle, an Iron Age promontory fort site.  The site would have been defended by fortifying the narrow neck of land leading out to the headland; it would have mad a great vantage point but appears to have no natural source of water.

Since setting out from Arbroath in the morning, the 6 linear kilometres we'd paddled had taken well over two and a half hours such is the constant interest along this stunningly colourful and featured coast.  We must have added half as much distance again in exploring the various geos, caves and channels around the cliffs  though!  We put some extra energy into the short distance from Lud Castle to Auchmithie in order to land for coffee and first luncheon on the beach adjacent to the harbour.

The harbour itself is delapidated, almost ruinous, but was once a thriving fishing harbour.  At lower states of tide the easier landings are on the beach as the harbour bottom has some rocky obstructions.  Auchmithie is the home of the "Arbroath Smokie", a local delicacy.  Haddock are cleaned then dried for a period before being split and tied by the tail over a slow burning fire of beech and oak (usually in a barrel lined with slate) and covered with hessian.  After smoking for 30-40 minutes the fish are cured and ready to eat hot or cold.  The result incredibly tasty and very healthy too - a real treat.  Unfortunately we didn't have smokies with us, maybe next time it would be fun to bring one back to Aucmithie by sea.....


  1. Looks a lovely paddle Ian - One I'd like to do. I'll be in your neck of the woods mid Sept if you're around...

  2. Hi Will, it's a wee gem! Unfortunately I'll not be around in september, I'll drop you a PM

    Kind Regards