What makes a perfect beach is subjective.
Some might insist on conch shells, white sands, cocktails and tame dolphins.
I could be persuaded but, generally, I prefer something a little less exotic. In fact, I think I’ve discovered mine at Coldingham Bay, which is situated within the St Abbs and Eyemouth Marine Reserve.
At this small and sheltered beach the sand is the colour of sponge cake and the water is toe-shrinkingly ice-cold - we’re in the Scottish Borders not the Maldives, after all - but it has a shallow gradient, so professional paddlers like us needn’t unexpectedly get their jean hems wet. There are public toilets, as well as a lifeguard station, in case the paddling goes horribly awry, sugared-almond-coloured beach huts, a post box nearby and even a Beach Cafe, where they stock Giacopazzi’s ice-cream, made nearby in Eyemouth, and homemade cakes, all served alongside bright Aerobies and water-wings.
We could see this idyllic walking spot from our window, when we stayed at one of the upmarket holiday home rental company Crabtree & Crabtree’s new The Bay beachfront apartments, which are a couple of minutes walk from the sands, just past St Vedas Surf Shop and School. They’re in an angular contemporary building, painted an Art Deco-ish stark white, with one of the best outlooks in the lovely Berwickshire village of Coldingham, where there’s an ancient priory and a couple of decent pubs.
We’re at 7 The Bay, which we chose purely for the decor, which varies slightly from apartment to apartment. In common with the others, apart from the ground floor deck, where they have a patch of grass, they all feature floor-to-ceiling windows and large balconies. Ours has a breakfast table and chairs, as well as a bright yellow wicker bench, and plants strung with fairy-lights that come on at night.
The living areas are open-plan with top-of-the-range everything, and we had two double bedrooms, one of which was en-suite. Although the decor is monochrome, with pale wood floors, there are lots of homely nick-nacks, contemporary prints and velvety sofas, so it doesn’t seem cold or stark. Everything is practically and ergonomically designed, and there is also a utility area, where you’ll find yoga mats, wet suits, a washing machine, wind-breaks and picnic baskets, among other useful stuff.
These apartments only opened last summer, and still feel completely box fresh. We were careful not to tramp sand all over the place. Not that the beach was the only place we strayed to. We also headed along part of the Berwickshire Coastal Path, which follows a wooden staircase up from one end of the bay. Go the other way, and you’ll end up in Eyemouth.
I wouldn’t take errant small and naughty children up here, as, in parts, it gets pretty vertiginous. We made it all the way to St Abbs Lighthouse, on what seemed to be the windiest day of the year. At some points we felt as if we were going to be dashed onto the rocks below just like Martello, the ship whose sinking in 1857 prompted the building of this lighthouse by David and Thomas Stevenson –the father and uncle of Treasure Island’s Robert Louis Stevenson.
The hilly-ness made our hike feel a bit longer than the step count suggested and I promised myself I’d invest in one of those Nordic walking sticks that everyone else had.
We hoped to see puffins at the promontory that is St Abbs Head, but the plain-beaked birds that are terns and a couple of pigeons will have to do.
“Have you seen any puffins?” I asked another walking pair, as I squinted at the rocks. “No, do a boat tour, that’s when you see them”, was their advice. Aha.
It was all beautiful anyway, from the tiny purple thrift flowers, bobbing in the wind, to the red rocks and clear water that makes this part of the world so appealing to scuba divers.
Along the route from Coldingham, there is St Abbs, where you can have crab rolls at cafe Ebbcarrs, or check out the village’s visitor centre. According to this place’s literature, the surroundings include many of the locations for the Marvel Avengers: Endgame and the new Thor: Love and Thunder film, in which St Abbs appeared as New Asberg.
That may account for some of the young visitors we saw, taking lots of selfies.
We left them to it and headed back to our perfect beach and apartment combo. We don’t need movie stars, or, for that matter, tame dolphins, though we’re hoping for a puffin sighting next time. Crabtree & Crabtree have 6 beachfront apartments sleeping up to four guests in two bedrooms. 7 nights available through Crabtree & Crabtree from £750. To book, visit www.crabtreeandcrabtree.com or call 01573 226711