So, I stand corrected.
After ending a walk to Arbroath at Carnoustie due to an apparent lack of viable walking routes — at least one that didn’t involve seven-odd miles astride a main road — I was contacted by a fellow blogger who claimed to know otherwise.
Travels With A Megarider not only insisted that there was a pathway, but that it made for an even more handsome walk than the one which had taken me from Broughty Ferry to Carnoustie. I guess Google just hadn’t got around to mapping it yet.
Busing first to Carnoustie (basically recreating my original journey in all of five minutes), I crossed the railway line at Fox Street and headed down to the beach. I soon found a sign pointing the way; today I would be going left.
I followed the coast to a small rocky outcrop opposite a scattering of boathouses. Swarming with seabirds of various species, these makeshift barrier islands held the waves at bay, creating a number of crystal clear and remarkably still inlets nearer the shore.
I spent a few minutes enraptured by the sight of ever more birds arriving on the scene, in some cases squeezing onto the smallest of platforms, as they arranged themselves by breed and mingled with corresponding colonies. It was all so chaotic, so frenzied and so full of life. I had to tear myself away.
After what felt like hours spent stumbling through the sand, I turned back to find Carnoustie was still far closer than it had any right to be. I fought my way up a nearby embankment, tearing up marram grass by the fistfuls, to find that despite my apparent proximity I was nevertheless out of pavement; arable farmland stretched on as far as the eye could see. I returned to the beach.
Although infinitely more interesting than the hour I’d spent walking between Barry Buddon and various interchangeable golf courses on the last leg of the journey, there wasn’t an awful lot to distinguish one patch of beach from the other. I passed birds, the half-eaten remains of numerous crabs and the occasional abandoned bunker, but it wasn’t until I arrived at Craigmill Burn that I stopped to take notice.
In order to facilitate walkers looking to cross the waterway — which was just wide enough to rule out a running jump — someone had constructed a bridge out of a wooden crate, a plastic box and some knotted netting. With no option but to take my chances, I checked that no-one was watching, held my camera over my head and hopped over as quickly as possible.
Eventually I arrived at a row of houses, and, pulling myself out of the sand once more, went to have a look around. I was met by large-windowed villas, kempt lawns and regular pockets of wild poppies. Workmen were busy labouring away over someone’s extension, while every other household seemed to have at least one person pottering about in the garden.
Slipping around the labourers’ van I walked through the sunny estate — each constituent residence carrying some grandiose title like Hazyview, Seascape or Bayhouse — in search of a sign telling me where on earth I was. I walked parallel to the railway line until I seemed to be leaving the village behind, finally happening upon a bus stop and a small information post identifying the place as Easthaven (or East Haven, depending on where you look).
Originally an acre of land bestowed upon Philip de Valonges by the Cisterian monks in around 1214, Easthaven slowly grew as it attracted fishermen and — eventually — engineers to work on the railway once it had been completed in 1838. Approximately twenty houses stand on the seaward side of the tracks, with the rest of the population living through a small underpass.
It was pleasant enough, particularly with the sun out and the plants in full bloom. A few people ate around the one or two picnic tables adorning the car park, while a train shot past on its way to Arbroath. Arbroath — I read the information post in horror as I realised I had only traveled one and a half of the total seven miles to Arbroath. I’d already been walking for well over an hour.
Relieved to see an actual path leading away from the car park, I left Easthaven reassured that a smooth and steady surface wouldn’t prove quite so embarrassingly strenuous. The farms ahead dropped crops in favour of cattle, and I welcomed the change in scenery, if not necessarily the replacement smell. Thankfully, the enclosure separating me from the coast seemed to be empty, while regular stiles encouraged me to split my time between both sides of the farm.
Cows became pigs, seagulls gave way to crows and the sound of crashing waves was soon replaced with the rustling of long grass and the occasional excitement of an approaching train; I don’t know about you, but I love the hum which reverberates along the tracks ahead of a train’s arrival. Eventually, however, the landscape was blanketed with yet another sprawling golf course.
It was while walking past one of these courses that something strange caught my attention. Double-taking, as some irrational part of my brain swore blind it had just seen a meerkat, I fumbled for my camera and zoomed in on the sight before me. A few metres away, perched upright on one of the rails stood a weasel. Before I could focus the image, however, it had disappeared from sight, leaving me peering after it for a disproportionate amount of time. The golfers were beginning to stare.
I arrived at Arbroath roughly four hours after setting off. I had hardly been in a hurry, but I was still surprised that it had taken me so long to walk less than ten miles. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t attempt the whole journey in one go. Admittedly, about forty minutes of that time was spent in Arbroath itself, so long is the town’s considerable seafront.
First I had to walk the seemingly never-ending length of Dundee Road, which starts at the border-town of Elliot and drags on past bloated caravan parks, sizeable industrial areas and out-of-town supermarkets. Having only taken a single bottle of Coke, I was by this point dying for a drink; I looked on in desperation as Asda and McDonalds mocked me from the other side of the railroad.
Arriving at West Links Station, a children’s facsimile supposedly leading to the ambitiously named Pleasureland, I made my final approach, skirting the local football stadium and harbour on my way into the town centre. Having underestimated my travel time I had arrived outside of opening hours, so, unable to access the Signal Tower Museum, I made my way instead to Arbroath Abbey.
Founded in 1178 by King William the Lion, the abbey has had a colourful history. Despite being in a state of ruin since the Scottish Reformation, it has nevertheless witnessed numerous re-enactments of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath and — for a time — even housed the Stone of Destiny following its theft from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950.
Tired, sunburned and increasingly dehydrated, I made my way back into the centre to catch a bus home to Broughty Ferry. As we bypassed beaches, skirted Easthaven and crossed the Craigmill Burn like it wasn’t even there, I thought about how little of the world around us we actually see. Because even on this small stretch of unassuming Scottish coast, there is real beauty to behold.
Someone just needed to tell the Internet.