Dundee to Carlingheugh Bay
Friday 17 June 2022
34.57km • 10h (including breaks, with a long one in Arbroath)
lowest: -2m • highest: 55m • total ascent 318m
I slept for at least 9 hours in Mo and Erin’s very comfortable guest bed, which was probably a good thing given I was about to do nearly 35k. I got up around 8 and did all the pre-walk admin and ate some fancy muesli Erin got at the famous Tebay services on the way to Manchester. We talked mostly about mushrooms, before I forced myself to put my shoes on and get up off the couch.
Quick gear chat break: I don’t think I’d have been able to do two big days in a row like this (and then continued on) if I hadn’t changed the shoes I’d been using. Shortly before this walk, I bought some Merrell Trail Gloves 6 Ecos, which are kind of one step up from total barefoot style shoes. They have a bit more going on in the sole than a full barefoot shoe would, and surprisingly good support. But most importantly, they are wide in the front so your toes can do their thing. This made such a massive difference. It’s always nice to take shoes off at the end of the day, but I didn’t feel like my feet would fall off if I had to keep them on. They’re like socks with a sole, and you can wear them without socks if you want to. They dry pretty fast, which is important because I’ve realised having waterproof shoes is actually horrible. I also recently wore these to walk through a river for a few hours which they were perfect for. Any foot issues I had on this trip (and I did) were more my own fault rather than that of the shoes I was wearing. Well, and also the high frequency of walking on tarmac. But putting my shoes back on in the mornings was not the hardship it used to be. Total game changer.
Putting the bag back on in the morning, however, needs some work. Once I did, I headed out into the rain at about 10am. It took around 20 minutes to get back down to the water on the other side of the docks. Apparently you’re not allowed to walk through that bit anyway so it didn’t matter that I’d skipped over it. There were a whole load of wind turbine blades lying around, which are massive and kind of otherworldly.
It rained all the way to Broughty Ferry, and the wind was pretty strong. But it remained behind me, which was very considerate of it. Over the course of the day, the number of dog walkers I encountered coming the other direction who made comments about my luck and their jealousy was more than I could count on one hand.
I didn’t feel like going off route to find coffee so I just kept going and eventually stopped for a snack on a bench somewhere before I got to the start of the path that goes behind the MOD site at Buddon. You can’t go out and around on the beach when the red flags are up, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to go picking around there when they weren’t up anyway. Unfortunately at this point, the sun was back with a vengeance, so I had a long hot walk on tarmac without much breeze. Definitely the least impressive part of the day. I did a lot of questioning my sanity during this portion. I had to get through it to get to lunch though.
When I finally made it to Carnoustie I went into town to have lunch at a little cafe called Gather that one of Morag’s friends had recommended. Avocado toast with halloumi and poached egg and a much-needed iced coffee. It was excellent. When I got down to the beach again it was good to be back in the wind after being caught in dead air between shooting ranges and golf courses (which sometimes feel like the same thing) for the last 5k. There were lots of happy dogs, too.
From there it was a long stretch to Arbroath where my friend Valerie was meeting me to do the first wild camp of the trip. This was again quite hot and exposed, but at least I could see the sea the whole way, even for the bit where I had to walk slightly inland along the road. The last part was over the dunes just south of Arbroath. The sea was pretty choppy but I wanted to jump in anyway. I was absolutely wrecked and did a lot of cheering myself on. Before I got to the harbour in Arbroath there was supposed to be one of those Scottish Water refill taps somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. While I was looking I got smacked in the back by the sea splashing over the concrete barriers along the path, which felt great.
I’d asked Valerie to go get some breakfast supplies while she was waiting for me to arrive, so once I found her we went directly to The Old Boatyard restaurant on the harbour for dinner. If I’d have thought ahead a bit more I’d have worked out a pub we should have aimed for, but my brain was not in any shape for making decisions and this place was literally right in front of us. The food ended up being incredible. I had sea bass with samphire and potatoes and some kind of delicious saffron sauce and then went and refilled all my water in the bathroom. We got ice cream on the harbour afterwards and then headed north towards the cliffs and my planned camping spot for the night.
The cliff trail was probably the nicest part of the entire 5 days of walking. If it hadn’t been the end of a very long day, I might have tried climbing down into one or two more of the little bays to do some exploring. It was nearing 8pm at this point though so we went straight to Carlingheugh Bay which took maybe an hour from the centre of Arbroath. There were a few people around when we got there, but they were all just day walkers and soon disappeared. We found a little flat spot to cram our tents into and tried to work out what the animal we kept hearing was while we were setting up. Possibly a hare? It was bounding around somewhere above us on the cliffs making hoarse, apocalyptic coughing/barking noises.
I went for a quick dip in the sea while the tide was far enough in for me to do it. The sun was already behind the cliffs so I didn’t stay in long, but getting to change in my tent instead of on the beach was pretty luxurious. We made some tea and chatted while it got dark. We could eventually see the signal from Bell Rock Lighthouse. We went to bed once the sun was completely gone. It was nice to have a pal for my first night back camping.