The 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.
Did you know?
St Abb’s Head is a National Nature Reserve, one of only 54 of these important sites for wildlife in Scotland