THE trees may be at their best but don’t forget to enjoy the season beside the sea, when the skies are full of drama and the weather at its most bracing (just remember your scarf)
HELMSDALE CIRCUIT, EAST COAST OF SUTHERLAND
Not a strenuous walk, but the rewards are great. Helmsdale is one of a handful of places on the mainland where grey seals come ashore in the autumn to have their pups. Start at the harbour then head south to the beaches, where you’ll have the best chance to see the pups basking in their white fluffy coats. From the beach, you can then climb across the hillside overlooking the village. Stop and take the view before heading for the banks of the River Helmsdale, which will bring you back into town.
SANDWOOD BAY, SUTHERLAND
Where better to see the afternoon pinks of the autumn skies than Sandwood Bay? Many have described Sandwood Bay as Britain’s best beach, so why not wrap up and judge for yourself. It will take a four-mile hike over relatively bleak moorland track to get there but the view you’ll find will more than make up for that.
Once there, enjoy the sense of remoteness with a mile of golden sand to play in, with the scene perfectly framed by dunes and rocky cliffs.
ST CYRUS, ABERDEENSHIRE, TO MONTROSE, ANGUS
Descend the cliff path at St Cyrus and join one of the finest beaches in the north east, where the broad sands meet the biggest of skies. Heading south, cut off to the Scottish National Heritage visitor centre - a red lifebelt on the dunes is a good marker, and then take the low road towards North Esk Bridge. You will past Steptoe’s salvage yard on your left. You can now walk over the disused bridge and onto the flats at Kinnaber, where you can rejoin the beach all the way to Montrose. If you time it right, you could reach Montrose Basin for around 6pm, when around 80,000 migrating geese come into land for the night, one of the great sights – and sounds – of the season.
MACHRIANISH AND THE GAULDRONS, KINTYRE
Explore the coastline to the west of the village of Machrianish and see the Atlantic in its full glory. There are good sandy beaches, cracking views across to Rathlinn island and Ireland and bird-watching galore with Machrianish Sea Bird Centre.
The Gauldrons – Known as the Bay of Storms – is ever-changing in character due to the impact of the weather. Sometimes it’ll be full of sand, and then you’ll find it empty with rocks exposed, particularly during autumn and winter. Look out for the seals and otters on the way.
ST ABB’S HEAD, BERWICKSHIRE
If it’s a dramatic coastal headland you’re after, then you won’t do much better than St Abb’s.
From the outskirts of St Abb’s, head north on the paths and tracks that will take you along the coast and up the cliffs which tower over the North Sea. Take a little care as the terrain can get a big tricky.
You’ll move past Starney Bay and Horsecastle Bay before arriving at Abb’s Head Lighthouse. There are around 60,000 seabirds here and the views are stunning.
On the way back, head slightly inland and past Mire Loch. You’ll get the best of all worlds on this walk.