Walk of the week: Thorntonloch to Dunglass Collegiate Church, East Lothian

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IT’S a windy day and the sand is being blown along the beach like spectral mist. St Abb’s Head lies far away down the coast, a jagged line of cliffs falling into the North Sea.

Starting a walk near a nuclear power station may seem incongruous but the coast to the south is picturesque and worthy of exploration. Anyway, surfers love this place – and if they can ignore the radioactivity contained in a large building behind the dunes, so can I.

I’m glad I did because this stretch of coast is stunning, with little human habitation and a wild, ferocious sea crashing into the sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, cliffs and gorges.

What a contrast, then, is the gorge carrying Bilsdean Burn, where snowdrops are already in flower and a delightful waterfall plunges down among vegetation. The finale is a 15th-century collegiate church at Dunglass. n

DISTANCE 5½ miles.


TIME 3 to 4 hours. MAP OS Landranger 67. PARKING At Thorntonloch, off the A1 just south of Torness power station, there is a car park next to a caravan site.

IN SUMMARY Follow a sign to the beach by going left from the car park. A few yards down a metalled road, go straight on at a gate and continue along a grass, then sand, path to the beach. When the tide is high you can go through the caravan site to access the coast further along.

Turn right to walk along the beach and cross Thornton Burn. Just beyond a cottage, look for a John Muir Way sign on the right. Follow a path up to a wooden kissing gate, then continue along the top of the steep, grassy coastline. After about a mile and a half, the path reaches the wooded gorge carrying Bilsdean Burn to the sea. Follow the path inland. then down into the gorge, going left at a signpost to reach the shore. Go right, taking care if the tide is high. After about 400 yards, another John Muir Way sign, on the right, points to a path going through thorn bushes. Go left at a fork in the path, which merges into a track as it goes up Dunglass Dean.

Continue up the gorge, then go under a bridge carrying the A1 and the former road bridge beyond it. At a minor road, go left and under a railway bridge, then cross a junction to follow a road to Dunglass Collegiate Church. Retrace your steps to the start.

REFRESHMENTS Head for Dunbar, where there’s a wide choice of place to eat.

WHILE IN THE AREA This walk follows the John Muir Way for most of the route. On Dunbar’s High Street is the house where the environmental pioneer spent his early years (www.jmbt.org.uk). It is now a museum offering a fascinating insight into his life.