Sometimes I just have a notion to go somewhere. It doesn’t always happen, however, depending on the time I’ve had said notion or where the desired destination is. Someone I know has just been on holiday in Cambodia but Angkor Wat is sadly not a day trip possibility from Glasgow. Thankfully there are some places I want to go to within reach and one of them happened to be North Berwick. I woke up and thought ‘I want to go to North Berwick today’. So, I had a shower, breakfasted and left with all due haste. Having a notion to go to North Berwick in particular is unlike me. Being from Dunbar, a mere 12 miles away, means I have a deeply ingrained dislike of North Berwick. It’s a local rivalry thing born of parochialism and narrow-mindedness. Now living in Glasgow, however, has changed my outlook on many things, including North Berwick. When I’m in need of a sea view, I do one of two things. On Twitter I follow an account called Sea Window Craster, which has a new picture each day taken oot the windae in Craster, a village in a beautiful part of Northumberland. Or I look up the website of the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, which features webcams from the Bass Rock, Fidra, the Isle of May and North Berwick itself, looking towards the Law and to the harbour. Every few days I take another look, getting my fix of the sea and the eastward perspective I still firmly believe is the only way to see the world.
Interestingly, a return ticket from Glasgow to North Berwick on the train is dearer than it is to Dunbar, nearly three quid dearer in fact. The hourly train service that graces North Berwick combined with the half-hourly bus service to Edinburgh always made me suspicious that some senior First Group manager lived in North Berwick but since Dunbar is now quicker and cheaper to get to, I suspect things have changed since Abellio took over the trains and Lothian took over the buses.
I sat facing backwards on the train out to North Berwick, not something that massively bothers me, luckily. As the train edged out of Edinburgh, I was struck by how big Arthur’s Seat seemed, some six miles away at that point, how it utterly dominates the landscape and the cityscape. From just about any point around the city, even in the fields near Dirleton and Gullane, Arthur’s Seat is clearly visible, sometimes looking like a lion, to the west more like an elephant. I am so used to travelling to Dunbar on the East Coast mainline that it is still a novelty to branch off at Drem towards North Berwick, with views towards Gullane and Dirleton with its castle.
I walked down Station Hill towards the beach, stopping by the anchor to look towards Fidra, the harbour and the Bass. It was cool, cloudy but getting brighter as I walked along the sand towards the harbour. It was quite busy with folks out enjoying the day, like me staving off the worst effects of cabin fever that Christmas brings. That particular stretch of sand with the houses backing onto the beach always evokes a rather grey painting of the scene in Kirkcaldy Art Gallery but every time I seem to be there the sun’s shining. I reached the harbour and immediately got in the road of some photographer with a tripod. My own camera was getting well-used, I should point out, though I was working hard to be unobstrusive and not get other folk in my photos. I walked to the back of the harbour, nearer to Fidra now, so close I could just about swim to it, and looked across to the Bass Rock, always more like an island from that angle than the cliffs you see from Dunbar.
I sat nearer the Glen Golf Club and ate lunch, watching people walking along the beach, some walking dogs, others putting the world to rights. It was sunnier now, the cliffs on the Bass slightly golden and a nice foamy colour reflected in the waves. Back in the town, folk still sat outside on benches eating fish and chips despite the time of year. Strangely, though, the first I really felt cold was a wee while later back in Waverley Station in Edinburgh, no doubt a result of cooling down after walking for two hours straight.
On the way back into Edinburgh, the train was full. I looked out the window, this time sitting on the left-hand-side, the shore side, which in that bit of East Lothian is just more interesting. I looked across the fields towards the Chesters hill fort and the Hopetoun Monument. I began to plan a trip to each, stopping at Drem then walking up to Chesters while the Hopetoun Monument will be more work, a bus to Haddington then a decent walk up the Ballencrieff road. The advice for Hopetoun is to bring a torch so I’ll need to invest in one. There’s so many places in East Lothian that I haven’t been to, in the place I spent 24 years of my life, so what hope do I have getting anywhere else? That’s for another day, another time. Before I left North Berwick, I sat on a bench near the anchor and it was hard to leave, the view to the islands, to Fife, the May and the Bass just what I needed to see and I dared not blink in case I missed the rapidly diminishing light upon the scene unfolding before my eyes.