This has, without a doubt, become one of our favourite walks, even though – and I can’t quite believe this – we only discovered the section around St Baldred’s Cradle a few years ago. We’ve walked at Ravensheugh for years – along Lime Tree Walk, through the woods, and then along this incredible expanse of beach. I’ve taken umpteen sets of photos here, and have another blog post to share from several weeks back when the sky was even more moody and photogenic than it is here. But somehow, up until a few years ago, we’d missed the section of this walk that leads around the headland that is St Baldred’s Cradle.
Many years ago, when we visited Ravensheugh for the first time and didn’t know where we were going, we walked straight through the woods and came to this rocky shoreline, thinking this was the main beach. It wasn’t what we’d expected – we’d read about the long sandy beach with its views to Bass Rock, but this shoreline was looking out towards Belhaven Bay, and there wasn’t much sand. We realised we’d taken a wrong turn, back-tracked, found the right turn, and then continued through the woods to discover the beach we’d been looking for. And I think because of that, we didn’t return to discover this shore until a few years ago.
It’s fascinating for lots of reasons. Just before you turn down to the shore, you’ll pass some WW2 anti-tank sea defences – giant concrete blocks by the side of the path, and if you look a little further into the woods, you’ll spot more snaking through the trees.
We come across these former coastal defences on almost all our local coastal walks, and these forms always strike me: the difficulty of getting these giant lumps of concrete into places where there are no roads; the nature that must have been demolished in the back-breaking process of achieving this; and the way that same nature has reclaimed these areas of woodland and in many cases grassland, and has also claimed the forms themselves. And then you have to consider how brutal it must have been to actually inhabit these pill boxes, like the one below, enclosed in concrete, dug into the land in all weathers, through the depths of winter when these concrete hides must have felt like frozen tombs.
If you enjoy exploring rock formations, as I do, then this shoreline is fascinating. Time your walk for low tide if you can (we use the Tide Pro app – find it here on the App Store, and here on Google Play), at which point you can walk out over the rocks. As Richard will attest, I never tire of photographing rocks, and I always slow this section of the walk down as I wander around searching for interesting patterns and colours to capture.
From here, there are choices: you can continue along the rocky shore, picking your way over the rocks, or loop back into the woods to follow the winding path that leads along the edge – literally along the shore – and then up through the woods towards St Baldred’s Cradle. We always enjoy the variety of this route, particularly for Harris and Bracken, as this walk feels like such an adventure, from woods to shore to this path above, then onto the grassy paths leading to the headland with its incredible views out over the sea.
I don’t normally share in black and white, but when I was editing these photos for a Steller story (you can see it here) I kept being drawn to a monochrome approach, removing the distraction of this blue sky and enjoying the textures of the rocks and the clouds and the sea. The colour and black and white mix worked on the Steller story, and I’m not sure that it does as well here, but am willing to give it a try. This view gets me every time; standing here, watching the waves rolling into shore. Can you see the spray in the distance?
The path winds down to the first section of rocky shore, or you can loop back into the woods – as we tend to do as it means we don’t have to carry the lads over the rocks – and then down to the beach. It doesn’t matter how often we walk at Ravensheugh, this beach never feels the same. Yes, the view to Bass Rock itself is unchanging, but depending on the tides and the weather, the sky is always different and often dramatic. Some of my favourite skyscape photos have been taken on this beach.
St Baldred’s Cradle + Ravensheugh Sands, East Lothian.