Monday, October 08, 2012

Stunning beauty trumps eating and drinking: Arbroath to Auchmithie return.

Leaving historic Arbroath...for a "brief"morning run.
When I was a small boy, I remember what my Dad sometimes said, when he discovered something  delightful such as a particularly excellent red wine. With a sparkle in his eye, he would say, "I dinnae ken (know) it would be like this!" He would, however, say the same thing when his only son brought home a rather dismal report card, as happened on occasion. I remember that there wasn't near the same sparkle in his eyes. :)

Jet lag behind us, we were itching to get going on a good run / hike / walk. On this Thanksgiving Monday, we decided to investigate the nearby cliff trail that begins just outside the town of Arbroath and parallels the North Sea coast. We'd heard that it might be temporarily closed due to recent erosion and figured we'd only be on the route for an hour or so - so didn't take anything to drink or snack on which we usually do. At the Victoria Park trail head, the path appeared to be open and we hadn't gone very far at all when I heard my father's voice, "I dinnae ken it would be like this..." The coastal beauty along the red 400 million-year-old sandstone cliffs was more than stunning, it simply took your breath away.

Joan, in the "Needle's E'e" high above the sea.
It would be difficult to imagine a more beautiful trail on which to run. It would be equally difficult to imagine a more dramatic coast to paddle along in a sea kayak - albeit, on a calm day such as today. However one might perceive of "heaven" - this would be more than good enough for me.

Not far along, a tiny track leads to the Needle's E'e. Carefully descending, we discovered a natural arch, the remains of a sea cave that has collapsed and runs parallel to the coastline. It is more usual to find such arches at right angles.

Running along the path just a little further, you come upon a most impressive sea-stack named the Deil's Head. It looks very much like a massive and bulbous head...

I've never run on a trail so incredibly beautiful - by "Deil's Head", Seaton Cliffs.
A young man gives scale to the height of this impressive sea-stack.
...and as you may have observed, the "Deil" doesn't look at all pleased!

Just when we thought we should probably turn around (having no drink or snack), we came upon another tiny trail that promised an interesting beach. It was more than interesting.

One of many beaches...and a peace that "passes all understanding".
It was incredibly peaceful just sitting and listening to the waves break on the sandstone shores. A trickle of water emerged from the cliffs that looked good enough to drink. As tempted as we were however, we didn't as another natural spring at the trail head parking lot had been marked "no longer drinkable".

Water flowing from deep under the sandstone cliffs...
and five shells, just to say that we were there.
At the end of the beach was another natural arch, this one at the high tide level. Just thinking about how the earth has been so dramatically moulded and transformed over countless millions of years was deeply humbling - each of us is on this planet for the just the briefest moment in time. I thought again of Annie Dillard's words at the top of this blog, we really need to "get a feel for the place". We really do.

The North Sea, through a natural arch.
By this time, it was impossible to turn back, we were drawn on by what we would see around the next corner. A plan came to mind: we would simply complete the 10 kilometre trail to the town of Auchmithie where we would treat ourselves to lunch in a pub or restaurant, perhaps following up with a sweet from a bakery. Hunger and thirst satiated, we would return home by the same path. Yes, an excellent plan.

Finally, across the fields, Auchmithie, the parish church...
and something to eat and drink?
As we approached Auchmithie, our appetites sharpened. The "But n Ben" looked at first like a pub. It was, however, a very impressive looking little restaurant which had just closed following the lunch hour. Supper opening time was a long way off. Too late for us so we made a mental note to return there sometime.

Yes! The "But n Ben".
Ahh, but too late for lunch and too early for supper.

We searched out other possibilities and discovered that in this very delightful and charming village there were no other possibilities - no pubs, no bakeries, no supermarkets, no corner stores. I'm afraid that Joan and I can be quite naive at times - this was a village.

There was, however, a public washroom. It was open and it was sparkling clean. Never before have multiple handfuls of fresh, cold water from a toilet wash basin faucet tasted so good and so refreshing!

Main street, Auchmithie...and we got lucky!
Sustained by the hydrating water, we elected to ignore our growling stomachs and were ready for the return 10 kilometres and the stunning visuals that greeted us once again.

Retracing our steps, we were "nourished" by the land and seascape.
It was an amazing day.

Home in Arbroath, 20.7 kms later.
And now back at our apartment, the local supermarket was just five minutes away. :)

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on life. For all of us, there are good times but there are also times that can be very, very difficult, even heartbreaking. Every single experience, however, is an opportunity to learn and to grow and to discover that we have sources of strength within and around us that we perhaps never imagined could be there. That alone makes it possible to be thankful in and for all things. With that ability, we will always find every moment of time. And it is most certainly meaning that gives richness and vibrancy to life.

The cliff-path experience from Arbroath to Auchmithie - highly recommended!



  1. Wow what breathtaking wonder you have longed to return to Scotland. We do have so much to be thankful for.

  2. Yes we do...and now you know. Thanks for that, L. D.