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South Shore: Dunbar to Forth Rail Bridge

Page history last edited by Osbert 8 years, 1 month ago


(refer to Imray chartlet)

Auto, Bus, Fuel, Laun, Pr, Pub, SC, Shr in sports centre, Wc, Rest, Rly, W. 


Approach on either leading line between the pairs of rocks. Once fully in to Dunbar Roads the entrance becomes visible as a gap in the cliff. With swell this harbour entrance requires great care, otherwise enter even at LW. Use oars or outboard through the narrow ‘canyon’ type entrance.


Check in with the Harbour Master. Expect fishing boat noise in the early hours. A quieter night can be had in the Broad Haven and Old Harbour (pass through the swing bridge). The dues are ‘pricey’ if staying overnight. I am annoyed that a dinghy pays the same as a gin palace!


Those who appreciate seabirds will love the large colony of Kittiwakes that nest on the ruined castle walls. I’ve also watched seals in the harbour!


Tyne Estuary or John Muir Country Park

No facilities

Named in honour of the great local man who in America led them to protect such places as Yosemite.


The narrow unmarked entrance is 2M NW of Dunbar at the end of Tyne Sands. It is only accessible in daylight with little or no swell -2+1HW.


Cautiously work inshore E of Wildfire Rocks. Look for and identify the ‘deep water’ entrance (absence of surf) before you are committed, otherwise claw off and forget it. Go in close to Tyne Sands (rocks in middle of channel). After crossing the bar the channel swings to port and widens so that you are now parallel to the shore but protected by Tyne Sands. Sandy Hirst has a clean, steep-to beach and is your best landing place.


In kind weather it is fantastic for overnighting, barbecues, picnics and sunbathing. It is very peaceful, no cars, no tourists, only occasional hikers. At LW you can survey the route upstream to reach another good landing spot at the edge of the pine wood.


On a previous visit the local landowner said I (Ed Wingfied) was the only visiting boat he’d ever seen! You will notice peculiar broken sea walls etc. These were made by Napoleonic Prisoners of War in an attempt to improve the Tyne but they had to return home and the project was never completed. 



No facilities


A small, quiet anchorage when there is no swell. It is a small, semi-protected sandy beach with occasional large stones tucked under the cliff. Great Car rocks, marked by a beacon, gives shelter from east. The Gegan, a reddish rock with a grassy top gives shelter to the west. ½M further west on the cliff top  is Tantallon Castle. 1M offshore lies Bass Rock and 7M beyond lies the Isle of May.


When you’ve taken in the beautiful scenery examine the tiny ‘harbour’ – on foot! With an entrance only 2m wide you would hesitate to canoe in there. It is used by a crab fisherman with a 16’ boat.


Canty Bay

 No facilities

Situated ½M west of Tantallon Castle this attractive anchorage or beaching place is identified by a steeply sloping grassy bowl. Just above the beach lie a small collection of houses. Rocks to east and west give partial shelter but will offer no protection from swell from NW – E. In suitable conditions enter the bay on a southerly course and anchor on sand in 1m, or run on to a steeply sloping section of beach in front of the large house staying close to the edge of the large rock to avoid other isolated rocks.


North Berwick

(refer to Imray chartlet)

Auto, Bus, Chr, Fuel, Pr, Pub, SC, Shr, Wc, Rest, Rly, W.


First-timers should begin their approach from a point SE of Craigleith Is. then come in on the SWly track shown on the chartlet. This drying harbour is badly affected by strong onshore weather. It is not a safe bolt-hole! Unusually for the Forth this harbour can be packed, sometimes with not even room enough for dinghies! If so, lie against outer walls for your visit using tall vertical ladders and take a swinging mooring in West Bay for the night although you will be bounced around if there’s swell about. The yacht club is very friendly and will allow a shower. The town is lovely. Petrol ½M. Next to the harbour is the Scottish Seabird Centre with radio cameras on Bass Rock and Fidra. The visitor can operate the cameras by joystick. 


Broad Sands

No facilities


A lovely anchorage for a picnic stop is to be found at the extreme western end of the sands tucked in under the protecting hook of rocks shown as Longskelly Point. The bottom is of gently shelving firm sand. For maximum protection anchor as close to the rocks as conditions allow. The absence of road access to this place gives you a peaceful temporary stop. The OS map wrongly shows the beach to be stony. The only rock to be avoided is ‘Bubbly Buss’ which dries at LW.


Aberlady Bay

  (Bus, Pr, Pub)

The Bay is a nature reserve. Until silting up in the 19th century this was the port of Haddington with harbour, pier and Custom House now known as Haddington House.


The sandy bay begins to flood around ½ tide and in good conditions it is possible to enter the unmarked channel on the south side of the bay close to Graigielaw Point. The channel follows the rocky south shore closely for some 2 cables to Aberlady Pt. (summer 2001) The channel then meanders a little before approaching the shore again near the village where stumps of the old staithe form an obstacle. Overnight away from the village to escape road noise. Anchor either in front of the golf course flag staff on a sloping beach or on firm sand beyond the rocks off Aberlady Point.


Hummell Rocks Anchorage

(No facilities)


Just east of Gullane Point the rocks provide shelter from SE to SW in picturesque surroundings. Anchor east of the rocks on firm sand. Beaching possible except near top of the tide as rocks line the high water mark. Do not attempt to use the two tiny bays between Hummell Rocks and Gullane Point as large boulders litter the bottom.


Port Seton

 (refer to Imray chartlet)

Fuel, Pr


This is the last commercial fishing harbour on the south shore of the Forth and is therefore busy and noisy. Enter the Port on a southerly course to avoid rocks to east and west of the harbour. Wall space is never vacant for long. Indeed, many of the fishing boats will raft up. It is possible to beach on shingle behind the few moored yachts above half tide. Petrol 5mins.



(refer to Imray chartlet)

Fuel, Pr


Petrol 5mins so with Port Seton it is the handiest place in all the Forth for fuel. Temporarily take the wall then seek permission from the repair yard. Harbour easy to locate as it is immediately E of the power station.





Possible beaching here just E of church on a sloping, clean beach just E of church for access to Safeway supermarket (2 mins) for provisions.



Auto, Bus, Fuel, Pr, Pub, Rest, SC, Shr, W, Wc.


Not at all easy to locate this drying harbour from seaward but look for modern yellow-fronted residential buildings situated behind the harbour. You are advised not to come inshore until you have a positive ID of the harbour and then come in on a course perpendicular to the shoreline. Approach –2+2HW but not in onshore conditions. Harbour is affected by surge. Temporarily tie up on the east pier while finding a SC member for advice.



Auto, Bus, Laun, Pr, Pub, Rest, SC, Shr, Wc [2012]


Beaching possible here along this sandy beach as far west as the Figgate Burn - see Imray. (The beach to the west of the burn has a number of large isolated boulders.) The beach is right on the edge of the Edinburgh suburb of Portobello, and can be very busy in sunny weather with residents and visitors. Plenty of shops and facilities - including turkish baths and showers at the swimming pool - but leaving a boat unattended may not be wise. However a good place to enjoy a meal, drink or ice-cream while looking over the beach.


Leith Docks

Not available to dinghies.


Leith Town


If, due to foul weather you cannot sail, then Leith may appeal. (frequent buses from Granton) It’s maritime history goes way back and there are connections with ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Treasure Island’. Royal Yacht Britannia is here and you may see other vessels of interest. Try a guided walking tour. This town is being re-discovered. Warehouse conversions to yuppie flats are common. All the world’s sailors seem to prefer ‘Port o’ Leith’ pub which is decorated by ships’ flags and is full of maritime artefacts. ‘Mary’ the landlady is perfect for the lively place. A search engine on Leith History will produce several fascinating sites. 



(refer to Imray Leith Docks chartlet)

Bus, Pr, Pub, Wc, W.


Situated ½M west of Leith Docks. It has an interesting fishing museum on the quayside. The harbour is usually crowded and noisy from fishing boats and road traffic. The harbour offers poor shelter from a NWly. Gourmet fish ‘n’ chips available in a nearby café.



(refer to Imray chartlet)

Bus, Chr, Fuel, SC, Shr, Wc, Rest, W.


With a well protected harbour and a safe entrance this is your only safe all-tide bolt-hole on the south shore of the lower Forth. Here you are ideally situated for trips to Edinburgh and Leith by local bus No 10. It is the home of both the Royal Forth and the Forth Corinthian Y.Cs. Both club houses have much sailing art and artefacts. The yacht harbour has been ‘improved’ with deepwater visitor pontoons close to the busy Pilot cutter station. Dinghy sailors may prefer to force their way amongst the moored inflatables and seek advice from a club officer. If staying overnight there may be a quiet drying mud mooring available. The Forth Corinthians have the mud moorings on the peaceful eastern side of the harbour. Chandler ½M. Fuel at Sainsbury’s 1.25M. Pontoon £1/m per day but 6 hrs free (daytime). RFYC does food at weekends and ‘Jaws’ the fast food joint at Granton Square will provide you with artery-clogging high-energy grease during daytime weekdays.



Bus, Pr, Pub, SC, Shr, Wc, Rest, W


Has a friendly yacht club. Small general store ½M. Bus to Edinburgh. The channel is tricky. For detailed pilotage information and printable chart go to Cramond Boat Club site. Once in, thread between a double row of moorings and make fast alongside the quay. Seek advice where to lie from a club member; perhaps to a mooring.


Ed Wingfield has spent a very quiet night a little further upriver dried out on the first silted inlet on the western side of the river completely protected by trees and undergrowth from a wild gale outside.


Make a survey at LW to familiarise yourself with the channel and the HW ‘shortcuts’ through the causeway for NE and across Drum Sands to NW.


The ferry shown on the chartlet operated from 1662 to 2001. There are plans to re-establish it.


Peatdraught Bay

No facilities


Situated immediately west of Hound Point, protected from east through south to west by rocks. Get in as close to the sandy beach as possible or dry out. Good for picnics.


Long Craig Pier

facilities as Queensferry harbour


Home of Edinburgh Scouts Watersports Centre. Approach from the north or northwest – be particularly careful of rocks to the east side of the pier (particularly towards HW) – the largest of which is marked by a scaffold pole, but there are multiple other outcrops. On the east side of the pier stay close-in (within 4m) to avoid the rocks. Fend well. Entry to the west side is generally easy, but significantly more exposed to wind and current. Easy access to South Queensferry 3/4M


Key to facilities ashore

Auto = Autobank; Bus = Buses; Chr = Chandler; Fuel = Petrol; Laun = Launderette; Pr = Provisions; Pub = Pub; Rly = Trains; Rest = Restaurant; SC = Sailing Club; Shr = Shower; W = Water; Wc = Toilets


Whilst this information is given in good faith and every effort has been made to avoid errors, no responsibility is accepted regarding its complete accuracy and the author or website owners will accept no responsibility for damage or loss arising from any mistake or omission arising from its use.


Note that this Pilot is based on material originally prepared in the 1990s with no updates after 2003. In time, updates and corrections will be made.



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