Shorediving Eyemouth & St. Abbs

Updated 16-11-09

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Shoredive entry point photos.

Eyemouth

Getting there.

There are two shore diving areas, the northern site - Weasel Loch and Leeds Bay, and the area south of the river - around Greenends Gully.
The latter was inaccessible for several seasons because of work on expanding the harbour and I haven't dived here in this time. As a result of this work, the access road is much better but the parking space is limited, however I've been assured that water entry and exit is now easier because the water treatment outfalls (which discharge a good way out to sea) serve as a landing stage.
Since I haven't dived here often enough to consider myself knowledgable, I'll concentrate on the northern site.

Eyemouth is signposted from the A1 and access is gained to the northern site via Northburn Caravan Park. This is reached by a steep road north of the amusement arcade on the sea-front. A one-way system runs around the town, so you'll eventually reach the correct junction. You must register on arrival and leave a deposit, all but £3 of which, is refunded on leaving, this allows parking and access to the toilets and shower blocks.

After passing through the gate, park up on the clifftop and admire the view down into Weasel Loch 25 metres below.

General Information

The area around Eyemouth and St. Abbs is a voluntary conservation area so please don't be tempted to take anything for the pot.

The absence of heavy industry/large rivers and the geology of the area - hard rocks and coarse sand - combine to give what is often the best inshore visibility on this coast.

The cleanliness of the water and proliferation of life make diving here an attractive alternative to other sites closer to Tyneside. Even if the visibility is poor, an interesting dive can be had examining the smaller lifeforms that adorn the reef faces.

A new dive facility has recently opened in Eyemouth (2004) supplying equipment, air and nitrox as well as organising dive trips. Contact Aquastars, Tel: 01890 750904.

Weasel Loch & Hairy Ness Map of Hairy Ness

Max. depth: 15 mtrs north of Conger reef.
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Bearable if you don't mind a long snorkel

A typical dive here is from the loch, east along to and round the headland exiting in Leeds Bay. Entry into the loch is awkward at anything other than high water, space being very limited. Once in, most people snorkel part way up the loch, submerging into about 7m just before it opens to the sea. The bottom here is coarse sand and a good area for training drills.

Keeping the rocky edge on your right is the surest way of knowing where you're going and it's simple enough to ascend/descend the cliff face as your fancy takes you. The seabed gradually drops away until about 40m from the loch you'll find a grotto behind an outcropping, this is the deepest part of the dive (about 14m) and as it faces north it's usually dark and eerie. A fissure leads back deep into the base of the cliff, this is where George, the huge Wolf-fish used to live together with a couple of congers. Now only the eels remain, and if you're easily frightened - don't swim into the hole to see what's there, 'cos the inhabitants are equally inquisitive about visitors - many a pillar valve has been bent as divers have edged deeper into the hole and, on looking back to check their buddies, found a conger leering at them from a side-tunnel.

A cleft runs diagonally upwards from here and this marks the start of the vertical cliff face; a whole dive could be spent looking at the life in just a 20m section of this wall and in summer it's a riot of colour so don't just stay at the bottom of the cliff. Someone once said to me "If it lives in the North Sea you'll find one here somewhere" - and it's probably true.

Continuing eastwards, the fauna becomes less impressive as you find the cliff veering off to the right into Divers Hole, a sandy bottomed gully through which at high water springs you can bypass the headland (Hairy Ness) and enter the Leeds Bay. As there's not much in this gully except debris and rubbish deposited by eco-friendly fishermen, you can swim straight across the entrance - in good conditions you can see the other side 15m away. The rock face here has nothing like the abundance of life and colour as it had near the grotto - probably because it's so exposed, so turn your attention to the sandy seabed. Anglerfish, cuttlefish and even the occasional dogfish can all be found round this headland. Following the headland as it veers right, you enter Leeds Bay where the water shallows to less than 6m, another good place for drills.

If you've enough air, the kelp-covered rocks away from the headland (now south) often produce colourful Lumpsuckers and shoals of sandeels.

You can exit without too much difficulty at the west end of the bay, a well-trodden path leads up the cliff and if you were cold during the dive this'll certainly warm you up!

Another route involves heading north from the grotto for about 40m till you come to Conger Reef, you can either circumnavigate it, returning to the loch or swim its length eastwards then head south to the headland, continuing as before into the bay.

Alternatively, you can walk along the clifftop footpath (west) for about 150m past the loch and after scrambling down the rocks which aren't as high or steep here, jump into about 4-5m of water and follow the cliff east into the loch. As this doesn't consume much air, you can leave your heavy kit on the rocks, ascend the steps, have lunch then descend and continue the dive round into the bay. It's the wrong way to dive - shallow first - and pedantic D.Os. will probably have a fit if you tell them but the latter part of the second dive is effectively an extended decompression stage, and if you're an economical breather it's a good way to have two dives with the minimum of effort.

A few words of warning: Firstly, if you've reached Divers Hole and you don't think you've enough air to complete the dive underwater, don't try to get back to the loch as there's often a light easterly current running which requires quite a bit more effort to overcome on the return swim. Instead, continue round into the bay, it's further but much less tiring and being sheltered and shallow, it's an easy snorkel to the exit point.
Secondly, anglers frequent this area so hooks and fishing line are a constant hazard. My policy is 'if I see a line, I cut it - whether it's in use or discarded - it's easier and cheaper for anglers to replace hooks and sinkers than it is for us to repair suits and stab's'.

If you're planning to go and you're unsure if the conditions up there will be OK, a phone call to the local dive-shop in Coldingham is a good way of avoiding a disappointing trip. The number is 018907 71669.

St. Abbs Harbour.

The rocks north and east of the harbour.
The rock west of the harbour.
Petticoe Wick, west of the lighthouse.
The "Glanmire", below the lighthouse.

Getting there.

Signposted from Eyemouth & Coldingham.
Because of the limited car parking facilities, if you want to dive here and you don't want to hump your gear up and down the hill you've got to arrive early to be assured of a place in the lower car park. On a Bank Holiday this can mean well before 9a.m., so if you like a lie-in on Sunday mornings, this isn't the place for you.
The parking area is split and parking charges were introduced here a couple of years ago; the slightly elevated tarmac section is run by the local council whilst the part closest to the sea-wall is operated by the harbour trust and monies collected for this section help pay for repairs and improvements (such as the now wider slipway); the harbour master collects payment for this part personally so don't make the mistake of buying a council ticket (from the machine) if you're in the harbour's area!. It currently costs £5 for anyone staying longer than two hours. However, the local council have increased the charge in their area to £10(!) on weekends to encourage divers to visit midweek (maybe they don't realise that most divers have to work through the week). As far as I know, the harbour trust will not be increasing its charges.

If the conditions are bad the Harbour Master places chains across the harbour wall to prevent divers entering the water, please don't antagonise him by trying to dive in these circumstances.

There's now a convenient source of air housed in a prefabricated concrete hut adjacent to the slipway operated by Scoutscroft, (£2.50 per fill I believe).

Air (and I believe Nirox) is also available from Scoutscroft Diving Centre (Tel 018907 71669) at the camping & caravan site on the outskirts of Coldingham, you pass the shop when leaving the village on the way to St. Abbs but be warned; reserving your parking space in the harbour with dive kit while you're away getting air-fills is frowned upon, don't expect your place to be there when you return!
Cave near lighthouse

For those wishing to charter a hardboat to dive the Glanmire (below the lighthouse in about 32 metres) or any of the numerous sites around the headland, there are several boats available for charter working out of St. Abbs harbour. They typically charge 10-13 per diver per dive, contact:-


Billy Aitchison, Telephone 018907 71288, E-mail billy@divestay.co.uk
Peter Gibson, Telephone 018907 71681, Mobile 0402 687606
Alistair Crowe, Telephone 018907 71412
Paul O'Callahan, telephone 018907 71525
Paul Crowe, Telephone 018907 71945
D. Inglis, M.V. Ocean Star, Telephone 018907 71377
M.F.V Harvester, Telephone 018907 71647
Scoutscroft Dive Centre also have a RIB for charter, contact Peter Clements, 018907 71669

Billy Aitchison now owns a renovated manse just outside St. Abbs village and runs Divestay, offering a complete package of accomodation and diving from his new boat.
Paul Crowe is now owner of the house (Rock House) standing in the middle of the harbour carpark. The converted outbuildings are bunkhouses offering basic accomodation.
Paul O'Callahan has taken over Alistair Crowe's boat (Lazy-G Diver) and also offers accomodation at Priory View in Coldingham.

The village post-office (up the hill and turn left) stocks a small selection of dive kit (hoses, o-rings, guages, clips etc.) which is very convenient for those who like to spend the time between dives browsing and buying "dive-thingies", the more restrained can simply buy an ice-cream.

A very handy contact in the area is Bob Clay. Often to be found at the lifeboat shed, Bob is an ex-professional diver and often carries a wide selection of spare parts - O-rings, pillar valves etc. He can also make up both high and medium pressure hoses to any length at very reasonable prices (plus a contribution to the lifeboat fund). Any of the boat skippers can point you in his direction. His telephone number is 018907 51646.

All the shore-diving here is from the harbour walls, except for Petticoe Wick.

Harbour - East

Map of St Abbs

Max. depth: 16 mtrs
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Negligible near rocks

The most popular shore-dives are at the east side of the harbour which is reached by walking around the stone jetties, the first-timer here just needs to follow the crowd and queue up at the entry point. The best entry is off the rocks where the three sections of wall meet, at high water it's a doddle but as the tide falls it becomes more tricky with the kelp posing particular problems at low water. The area around the entry point is gravel bottomed gullies which are easily followed depending on which route you're undertaking.

The dives here generally consist of circumnavigating the rocky outcrops, Broad Craig, Big and Little Green Carrs and the renowned Cathedral Rock.

They can be dived separately or two or more can be combined which gives several permutations.

Once at the entry point, the big rock facing you is Broad Craig, this is an easy dive with no currents so long as you stay close to the rock, maximum depth about 10 metres. If circumnavigating this rock counter-clockwise, one of the first features is a very narrow gully near the entry point which has lots of kelp at the top, so it's quite an eerie start to the dive for novices.

Beyond this rock, to the north, is Big Green Carr, this is subject to the main tidal stream on the seaward side, so it's best to stay close to the rock face in which case the maximum depth will be 15 metres, although beyond the rock itself the seabed falls away to 18+ metres. Big pollack abound here and it's not uncommon to see groups of them hovering in the current. This is a colourful dive in mid to late summer, especially early morning when the Amphitheatre (on the east side) is illuminated by direct sunlight.
A decent sized wolf-fish has taken up residence in a hole on the west side of this rock and is always ready to entertain visitors!

Cathedral Rock is to the south-east, so named by divers because of the arched tunnel through it (actually there are two tunnels, a much smaller one lies above the main arch). A group of semi-tame wrasse live around Cathedral and they're unafraid of divers, often taking food from an outstretched hand. Quite often a current flows through the arch on the flood tide, but it isn't serious, in fact it helps to keep the vis' reasonable after the previous visitors have stirred it up.

Tunnel near harbour

On all the sites here, you'll see dead-men's-fingers and anemones adorning the quite impressive walls. Even if the vis is poor, there are so many smaller forms of life on the rocks, in crevices and on the weeds that you'll not be disappointed, nudibranchs in particular are numerous and very colourful.

Another interesting area is around the rocks lining the harbour entrance. Few people venture here as the harbour master gets annoyed if anyone dives in the fairway so be sure to stay close to the rocks and not to surface in this area.

Harbour - West

Max. depth: 9+ mtrs
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Negligible

A safe short dive can be had around Seagull Rock to the west of the harbour, although it doesn't take long to circle it and the effort involved in scrambling over the rocks often isn't justified, especially at low-water. With a maximum depth of just over 8 metres it's a reasonable site for a novice's first dive. A deep cleft, forming a cave can be found on the north side, it's very dark and because it narrows at the end, it can be claustrophobic, so don't all try to squeeze in together!

Further to the north west of this rock the seabed flattens off with small rocky outcrops on a shallow sandy bottom, not particularly exiting 'though a reasonable area for navigation exercises.

Petticoe WickMap of Pettico Wick

Max. depth: 16+ mtrs
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Negligible near cliffs

Petticoe Wick on the north side of the headland is reached via the lighthouse road through the nature reserve. It has very limited parking and can only be dived by prior arrangement with the warden. A fee used to be charged for each car but as I haven't dived here for some time I can't say what it is or even if it's still charged. It would be advisable therefore, to plan ahead and cram as much kit into as few cars/vans as possible.
This site isn't as popular as the harbour mainly because the diving here is very limited and of course the 30+ metre descent and ascent of the cliff footpath tends to discourage most people. Entry, after a suitable rest, is usually from a broken slipway into shallow water followed by a short surface swim.

To the west of the isolated rock is the wreckage of the Peanut Boat while beyond that the water shallows. Eastwards the water depth remains fairly constant if you keep close to the cliff with some interesting gullies and big crevices.

Beware swimming either too far north and encountering currents or eastwards, as the next accessible landing place is the harbour 2Km away.

The "Glanmire"

Max. depth: 33 mtrs
Minimum grade: Dive Leader
Currents: Horrendous, slack-water only

Whilst certainly not a shore dive, probably the most popular dive in this area is the wreck of the Glanmire.
It's mentioned here because almost everyone who visits St. Abbs for a long weekend makes the effort to dive her.

Glamire Some 70m long and wrecked in the summer of 1912, she sank into about 32m, just 200m from the headland near the lighthouse after hitting rocks closer inshore. She is swept with strong currents and can only be dived at slack-water.
She has suffered the effects of this exposure and and now lies well broken on a coarse sand/shale bed. Her bow lies several metres away from the bulk of the wreckage and in poor visibility you're advised to tie off a line to the main wreckage before venturing out to locate it.
My first couple of dives on her were disastrous; the first - with poor visibility on the descent and none at all on the bottom with a buddy who wisely aborted the dive after just a couple of minutes; the second - again, poor visibility in which we swam right under a fishing net draped over the bow - frightening! On this same dive, two others ascended literally tied together with fishing line - comlete with hooks and sinkers!.
But, when the visibility's good, it's a beautifull dive.
Clean water allows you to clearly see the prop, shaft, engine block and boilers together with an abundance of plates and holes for the usual critters to hide in, these are usually bib, pollack, ling, the odd wolfish, lobsters and all that white and pink "fluffy stuff" that makes our wrecks so attractive. Unusually for this coast, sunfish can sometimes be seen flopping around on the surface in late summer.

There are several boats operating out of St. Abbs harbour who can put divers onto the wreck as easily as we park our cars. Journey time is less than ten minutes, so even those with weak sea-legs have no excuse not to dive her.

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