Scottish Day Trip Ideas; Arbroath Cliff Trail


Last month something pretty unbelievable happened: me and Andrew became the proud owners of a little old car. A bugbear we’ve had living in Dundee so far has been how difficult some of the most interesting places in Scotland are to get to without your own vehicle. Outwith the pandemic, we’ve done pretty well on the buses and trains, but there’s still so much more we want to see! After being cooped up for six months, this car has given us the opportunity to grab a little freedom. It means we can get to quiet and isolated places of interest safely without the need to take risky public transport.

For our first trip out we took a drive up the coast to Arbroath, to walk the dynamically beautiful cliff trail. The path takes you along the red sandstone Seaton cliffs via beautiful geological features, past puffins and dolphins, before arriving at Auchmithie harbour and pub for a pint or some tea. On the approach to the free car park at the Arbroath end you’re hit with the sobering sight of the huge wide blue expanse of North Sea, and even at that point you can feel yourself leaving whatever it was you were worrying about behind you.

After we had parked in the free car park and sussed out the toilet facilities – which are also free and not too grotty – we headed to the large map stationed at the beginning of the trail. We didn’t realise it was brand new, having been put in just a couple of months ago as part of an initiative to make the path safer and more accessible. There are also leaflet versions of the new map underneath it which we nearly missed so make sure you grab one, they are so useful to take with you and spot features you might otherwise have missed (here’s a pdf version just in case there aren’t any physical copies when you visit).

The only part of the trail I physically struggled with was the very first bit, as it’s a steep incline from the car park up to the cliff walk itself. Thankfully, there are a crop of benches as soon as you get to the top with a stunning view over the North Sea, also there is apparently a gentler slope slightly further up that I could have used but I learnt that too late. From the start, the path is evenly tarmacked, level, and of a reasonable width, although not wide enough for wheelchairs in most places. Once things get underway there are wider flattened grass verges to step aside and let people pass, and there are wide areas with benches picked out about every 50 yards or so if you’d like to rest or simply take in the view.

If you’ve brought your map you’ll start to encounter the sights highlighted on it almost right away, each one is marked out by a number and distances in miles are given too. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you are considering a visit, but I’ve illustrated this post with some of my favourite sights! We parked up at the Arbroath end and managed to comfortably walk halfway and back with lots of stopping at various benches in about two hours. Next time we intend to go to the Auchmithie end, walk to the halfway point and back again to complete the whole trail. For many, you’ll be able to do the whole thing in the one day.

The Arbroath Cliff Trail is a fantastic location for any Scottish day-trippers to visit. The free car park, toilets, frequent benches to rest on, and unparalleled scenery make for a really exciting day out. The path itself can be a little dicey in places, if you visit with young children then you’ll need to keep a very close eye on them in some sections, and in general you’ll need to keep your wits about you – it’s a cliff after all. I feel it’s all worth it, as I left feeling invigorated, with all cobwebs well and truly blown away. The new map and guide to the trail is useful and allowed us to make sure we stopped to check out all the best parts properly. Arbroath Cliff Trail is billed in places as a hidden gem, and I have to say I agree. If you love a good ramble then give it a whirl on a crisp autumn day, you won’t be disappointed.

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