What a wonderful surprise Dunbar was! About 40 miles east of Edinburgh itself (so easily within reach from our campsite) we opted to stay on the Camping & Caravan Club site on the outskirts of Dunbar.
It didn’t take us very long to get there from Holy Island being just a short hop up the A1 and over the border – it probably only took us about an hour and a half.
The site itself was one of those where as you drive onto your pitch you have your breath taken away by the view before you. See our review for pictures.
The 1st afternoon was spent stocking up in the nearby Asda and just relaxing. We opted for a Chinese takeaway in the evening, landing up in Kings Palace on the High Street. where the service was excellent and the food was good. (Bit bemused by the fellow customer who appeared not to really want to talk to us, but then kept piping up with ‘helpful’ advice – such as the best time to visit to avoid the midges would be July & August…..)
We are staying on the clifftop at Flamborough and the views are amazing! We have direct access to the cliffs and the many terraces full of seabirds, including guillemots, razorbills, gannets, shags, herring gulls and puffins.
On evening 1 we went out for a walk, taking our neighbour’s dog, Henry, with us. We ended up walking about 4 miles in the mud (it had been raining for a couple of days before we arrived). To get to the clifftop we have to walk through a field full of sheep belonging to the farm we’re staying on.
Calv with Henry
Crossing the field of sheep
An evening view over the cliffs
I’m not kidding you, I have never heard such noises from sheep! Ranging from normal baa’s to sounds like they’re barking and saying ‘no’ & ‘hear hear’. They’re clearly talking to each other as they’re quiet until people turn up 🙂
The following day we went out for a walk along the cliffs again. This time we turned left and walked about 3 miles to the RSPB centre. Along the cliffs here there are several platforms built for viewing the birds. It was a really nice walk, and even stayed dry for the majority of the time we were out! Calv enjoyed his cream tea at the café 🙂
We did find that, in contrast to everyone that we’ve encountered so far in Yorkshire, most of the serious bird-watchers we saw were actually quite unfriendly. They wouldn’t make eye contact at all, just kept their heads down and walked on past. We were pretty surprised by this. There were, of course, a couple of exceptions – like the guy we met on the clifftop on the 1st night who pointed out the puffins and lent us his scope to look through (I pretended I could see something, but I’m useless at looking through binoculars – and now I know, scopes as well!)
We did see puffins! They were at a distance in the crevices in the cliffs – but we could see them 🙂
By the Puffin statue on Bempton Cliffs
We were trying to avoid using the car for a couple of days and so the next day, Saturday, we went out for another walk. This time we were aiming for the lighthouse that we can clearly see from the campsite. The owner told us that it’s a 4.8 mile walk along the clifftop.
So we headed the other way via Flamborough itself and along Lighthouse Road. It took forever – we never seemed to be getting any closer to the lighthouse! Along the way we passed the original lighthouse, which is now sited on the golf course and we couldn’t access it. There’s doubts about whether the flame was ever lit at the top, partly because passing ships refused to pay the toll to help pay for it.
We eventually made it to the new lighthouse on the head. There is a very nice café here, The Headland, an ice cream kiosk and public toilets. The lighthouse is still operational, but is fully automated. We took the tour, £4.40 per adult, which allowed us to go to the top and see the views from there.
Looking up at Flamborough Lighthouse
View from the top of Flamborough Lighthouse
We went down to the beach, all the way down! There were people in the water, clambering over the rocks and kayaking from the beach.
From here we took the cliff path, which afforded us some spectacular views on our walk back to the campsite.
On the way we found North Landing where we stopped for a drink in the bar at the Haven centre. On the beach there were tractors ready to pull the boats that were out on pleasure trips back out of the water, people kayaking; on the steep slipway up from the beach was a lifeboat house which you can visit as well as a boathouse. It was really busy here as well!
Pleasure boat at North Landing
The Boathouse Cafe and Old Lifeboat Station at North Landing
A little further along the cliff was Thornwick Bay, where there is a café and limited access to the beach.
You have to be careful on these beaches as it would be really easy to get cut off as the tide comes in – from the safety of the clifftop we did see a number of people scrambling back around the base of the cliffs to beat the incoming water. It concerned us a little, but they seemed to know what they were doing…
So we’d had 3 days of lots of walking and lots of fresh air! Very enjoyable, but now our feet were hurting.
Therefore the car came back into use on Sunday with a dribble along the coast as far as Withernsea – read about in my next post 🙂
Easter Monday dawned a little grey so we resolved to stay put. However after lunch we were getting a bit restless so decided to head down towards Dungeness.
On the way we took the seafront route, driving past Camber & Broomhill Sands. We were pleased to note that there was a good off-road cycle route running for miles from Rye towards Lydd.
We found a Go-Kart track off-route just past Lydd. It was a proper track and we were able to watch a few laps before heading on towards Dungeness.
As we drove down the road towards the New Lighthouse of Dungeness we encountered a landscape unlike anything we’ve really seen before in the UK. To the left we could see the ruins of boats and old tracks that would have been used to drag said boats up and down the beach. We think that some were still in use. But the majority of the beach resembled a boat graveyard. On the right, maybe 1/2 mile away, the power station dominates.
We also went past Prospect Cottage; previously the home of Derek Jarman, and late film director, and famous for the garden he designed for the cottage. It’s very pretty and stands out compared to most of the cottages along this stretch towards the huge expanse of shingle beach.
Speaking of the cottages I have to say that I felt a little misled by many of the travel programmes that feature this area. My expectations were that there would just be a few abandoned cottages dotted along the shingle, but this isn’t the case at all. There are dozens of old cottages. Many of these started as railway carriages and they have been added to over the years. But there are also several, clearly, brand new structures in place. Some are being used as galleries. They are almost all occupied in some way.
There’s no doubt this is a remote place to live, and I can imagine it gets fairly bleak at times (it was windy enough when we were there!) But there is a pub and post boxes, and also a café/restaurant (The End of the Line, also the ticket office for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Miniature railway).
This railway runs 13 1/2 miles to Hythe (a trip of about 1 1/4 hours in total). Calv enjoyed standing outside studying the engine whilst it was waiting in the station. He suffered later though as the whistle blew very loudly right next to him and he had a persistent whistling in his ear for the rest of the evening!
We had a really good view of the railway from the top of the Old Lighthouse (a new one was necessary as when the Power Station was built it blocked the view of the lighthouse from the channel – good planning then…)
It cost £4 each to visit the lighthouse and on a good day you can go outside at the top (as long as you can get through the rather low opening – I hesitate to call it a door!) The keepers lived in the roundhouse that you can see in the pictures.
Dungeness Old Lighthouse
A section of the stairs in the old lighthouse
The Roundhouse at Dungeness from the top of the Old Lighthouse
View from the top of the Old Lighthouse
We then wandered back towards the New Lighthouse with a diversion along the boardwalk towards the sea (see the main picture). We saw sea-kale growing on the beach, and apparently part of the reason for the boardwalk is to protect rare plant-life. We didn’t actually make it to the New Lighthouse as it was so windy and cold. So we headed back to ‘The End of the Line’ for a cup of tea (actually a very good cup of tea…) and this is where Calv stood outside for 10 mins ‘inspecting’ the engine.
There is also an RSPB centre which we didn’t have time to visit unfortunately.
We headed a little further along the coast through Greatstone on Sea and Littleton on Sea, seeing some rather impressive houses and other buildings, such as this old water tower (looking like it was perhaps halfway through a renovation?) We were also following the line of the miniature railway, but only as far as New Romney where we got back onto the main road and headed home to the van.
Tuesday 20th April
We started the day by heading into St Leonards to get some washing and shopping done.
In the afternoon I had found a walk that I wanted to do in nearby Brightling – 10 miles away. It looked interesting as it was concerned with finding some of the Brightling Follies, built by ‘Mad’ Jack Fuller (many prefer for him to be called ‘Honest’ Jack).
We parked up outside the St Thomas a Becket church where a very nice local man, Simon, chatted to us about our walk and told us a bit more about Jack Fuller who seems to have been a fascinating man who did much good in the area.
Simon is involved in trying to provide more information on Jack Fuller and his follies in the village, by turning the red phone box outside the church into a mini-museum. Good luck Simon – it’s a brilliant idea.
We began in the church, where the Pyramid is located. This is actually Jack Fuller’s mausoleum. As we rounded the corner of the church we were confronted, yes confronted, by sheep protecting their young, and we had the impression that they didn’t want us entering that particular area! So we retreated… In the church we noted that the pews held cushions and that every cushion was individual. I found one for a John Fuller – I wonder if that was Mad (Honest) Jack’s??
Lambs in the churchyard
St Thomas a Becket in Brightling
The individual cushions in St Thomas a Becket church, Brightling
We then started our walk well by going in completely the opposite direction to that we were meant to – only we didn’t know this for a while. However, the upshot of this was that we managed to see all 6 of the follies (one of which, the observatory, isn’t actually a folly but scientific pioneering – as advised by Simon; thanks Simon!)
So we’d seen the Pyramid. Now as we walked out of the village, along the road, towards Woods Corner we could see glimpses of the Obelisk. Coming to a junction we could now see the Observatory. We had by now realised that we were going the wrong way but decided to continue. So we took the road to the right and before we turned right again we had a much better view of the Observatory. A little further down the road we had an unobstructed view of the Obelisk. Unfortunately neither is accessible, the Observatory now being a private residence. Both of these were a bonus as we wouldn’t have seen them properly, if at all, had we gone the right way!!
Now we were looking for a public footpath to get us back on track (or so we thought..) We eventually found one immediately after the entrance to the British Gypsum mine. This took us down a long field and into woodland.
The woods were beautiful with many different wild-flowers as well as the usual bluebells and snowdrops.
We also saw an ancient tree which was pretty amazing. There is also a covered conveyor belt running through the woods, which is something to do with the mine.
We were getting increasingly worried that we were going in completely the wrong direction, and as my phone battery was running out we didn’t have much time left on using google maps to help keep us on track!
On emerging from the woods we turned left, which didn’t feel right.. I managed to squeeze the last bit of battery out of my phone to confirm that, yet again, we were going the wrong way.
Once back on track we were constantly looking around to see if we could spot any of the remaining 3 follies. We were finally rewarded with a view of the tower! We chose to head back to the car to charge up my phone and then drive to the tower. We actually sat outside trying to get back up to 10%.
The Tower, is actually accessible and at the very top there’s a rickety ladder, which Calv duly climbed up… As we were walking back over the field to the car Calv suddenly shouted out, “There’s the Temple!” And it was indeed, in the distance 🙂 This prompted me to scan the horizon to see if I could see the Sugar Loaf (a folly resembling a church spire). My turn to shout out “There it is!” We’d found all 6 – happy days 🙂
We then drove around the edge of the Brightling Park in search of a closer view of the Temple and the Sugar Loaf. We found the sugar loaf and were able to access this. We also found a closer view of the Temple, although this wasn’t accessible.
We’d walked about 4 miles in total. I have to say some of the stiles were very high – I’ve only got short legs! Calv found it highly amusing watching me trying to get over these. I had the last laugh though when he had to lift me off a couple of them!