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Back to St Abb’s Head

Natural history

If spectacular seascapes and abundant wildlife tick your boxes, then you’ll not be disappointed here!

The rugged Berwickshire coastline at St Abbs has been shaped over millions of years. North and south of the headland, layered greywacke and siltstone rocks were deposited at the bottom of the sea over 400 million years ago, while around the same time St Abb’s Head itself was formed by lava pouring from volcanoes. The soft greywacke and siltstone have been eroded by wind and water over the millennia, but the hard volcanic rock has been more resistant, leaving behind the high headland. However, even this hard rock has been pounded away by the force of the sea, leaving steep gullies and sea stacks — ideal nesting sites for seabirds. 

Inland you’ll find Mire Loch, where in spring you can spend a peaceful hour or so enjoying the courtship antics of the swans and other wildfowl that make it their home. Or listen out for the first chiffchaff or willow warbler of the year in the woodland there. The loch is also home to eels, sticklebacks, frogs, toads and jewel-coloured damselflies that buzz along its banks later in summer. The surrounding woodland resonates with birdsong in the summer months and is a refuge for migrating birds in the spring and autumn.

In summer, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells at the bustling ‘seabird city’ along the coastline. Wander among the grasslands carpeted with colourful wildflowers. Drifts of sea pinks are dotted with rock rose, wild thyme and purple milk-vetch, attracting many species of butterfly, such as the common blue, dark green fritillary and the rare northern brown argus.

Only the lucky will catch a glimpse of a grey seal for most of the year, but in early winter large numbers gather on local beaches to breed, where you can marvel at the endearing, but incredibly hardy, grey seal pups born there. Dolphins and porpoises are a relatively common sight all year round, while in late summer you might even spot the occasional whale.

We’ve teamed up with local award-winning nature photographer Laurie Campbell to highlight some of the wildlife you can see at St Abb’s Head throughout the year:

St Abb’s Head through the seasons: spring

St Abb’s Head through the seasons: summer

St Abb’s Head through the seasons: autumn

St Abb's Head through the seasons: winter