Whitesands, Barns Ness and Skateraw
How to get there
By bicycle / car
Ensure you have an up to date road map as the access has changed; there is no longer a road connecting Skateraw with Barns Ness. Skateraw and Thorntonloch are accessed from turnings south of Torness Power station, whereas Whitesands and Barns Ness are reached by a single-track road that is located off the A1087, 2 miles south of Dunbar.
Parking charges may apply to coastal car park.
No buses serve these sites directly, though Perryman's buses can drop you off nearby. You will have to cross the A1, however, which requires care.
- A full-time Countryside Ranger co-ordinates the day-to-day management of this site
- toilet facilities at Whitesands and Thorntonloch all year, and May-September at Skateraw.
This suite of coastal sites covers the land between Dunbar and the boundary with the Borders. They comprise coastal grasslands, sandy and rocky shore and are only slightly compromised by the presence of Torness Power station which lies in the middle of them!
This area is rich in limestone, which explains the presence of the neighbouring cement works. Lime has been mined here for centuries, and as you walk these areas, you'll pass by limestone kilns dating from the C18. The rock also provides an explanation for some of the botanical interest in this area, as it this basic rock favours plants which prefer an alkaline content. The plants, moreover, must also be able to withstand a little salt as these grasslands can be subjected to periodic onshore gales. Altogether this creates a specific environment and as a result you'll find several species here that are absent elsewhere. Autumn gentian, white horehound and yellow-horned poppy are amongst these specialists.
A walk along the shore also is a great way to explore the geology of the area, as the coastal exposures are neatly lain out to show the changes over time.
The promontory of Barns Ness and its lighthouse have traditionally attracted migrant birds, which are looking to rest after a hazardous crossing of the North Sea, or simply as they migrate up and down the coastline. Rarities turn up each autumn and this can be the source of excitement for bird watchers.
South of Barns Ness an area of the grassland has been fenced to enable a conservation grazing scheme to take place. From November to mid-March sheep are brought in to nibble away at the coarser grasses, thereby opening up the ground for the more delicate wild flowers to come back through.