The North Sea

Clifftop Trail, Dunbar: a path along the side of a clifftop with a wall to the right and the sea straight ahead and to the left.​
Clifftop Trail, Dunbar: a path along the side of a clifftop with a wall to the right and the sea straight ahead and to the left.

We’ve got another waterway to talk about, this time the North Sea. The North Sea runs along the eastern coast of Scotland and England and reaches to Europe to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Its coastline has a reputation for being cold and it’s certainly colder than the west which has the added benefit of the Gulf Stream. The last time I was in Dunbar, I stopped along the Prom by a board which pointed to various places and the distance from where I stood. Amongst the more local places like the High Street, Stenton and Spott were Bergen, the Barents Sea, Stavenger, Esbjerg and the Brent Oil Field. Dunbar is at the mouth of the Firth of Forth and there is nothing east until Scandinavia. The board wasn’t there when I was a kid when I used to imagine what was over the horizon. The sea was grey, cold and almost a barrier, whereas the seas for a long time connected people from faroff lands. I could see Fife, a mystical place possibly, even if I now know it as the land of steak bridies, linoleum and Deep Sea World, but looking east it was the sea all the way. (I know Fife for other things, of course, but they were the first three things that came to mind.)

Aberdeen: the sea with groynes separating parts of the beach. Wind turbines are in the distance. To the left of the picture is the sea wall and city buildings.​
Aberdeen: the sea with groynes separating parts of the beach. Wind turbines are in the distance. To the left of the picture is the sea wall and city buildings.

I also think of the North Sea because of Aberdeen. Billy Connolly had a routine about swimming in the North Sea as a kid and being pale blue and wearing a knitted swimming costume. Aberdeen is okay but I’ve only been warm there once, strangely enough on my last visit, a couple of Augusts ago. I also think of one game in December, sat in the away end at Pittodrie, which has no wind guard or anything between it and the sea, which is a few hundred yards away. Hibs got beat as well. I have a picture of that day with frost on the path by the beach. The sunshine fooled absolutely no one. It was properly, properly baltic.

Arbroath’s ground is even closer to the sea but my only visit there came on a balmy July evening. If the football was dull, I’m sure you could look out and see the Bell Rock Lighthouse, eleven miles out to sea. The Signal Tower Museum is near Gayfield Park, formerly used to signal to the lighthouse and now housing a museum about the town and the Bell Rock itself. There are quite a few lighthouses on the North Sea coast, not least Kinnaird Head up at Fraserburgh, but the Bell Rock is the best known and for my money the most impressive, since it was built on a cape out to sea and has saved innumerable lives in the last two centuries.

For a while I used to fall asleep to the Shipping Forecast and it’s always pleased me that it’s broadcast, even now in this technological age. I recently bought a mug which has the British Sea Areas on it. (I live life on the edge.) Some of the areas are also listed as part of the development of the Battery on Lamer Island at the Victoria harbour in Dunbar. I grew up in Forth while I suppose the nearest one to me now is Malin. The one that’s always interested me is Dogger. Dogger Bank did used to be part of a larger landmass until the end of the last Ice Age and now it is known as a good fishing area. It would be immensely interesting archaeologically and geologically due to joining the British Isles and Europe though also for the many naval battles fought in that general area. I might think on that next time I’m by the North Sea instead of just wondering what’s over the horizon.

Thanks for reading. Something else about the Irish Sea will be here next week.

4 thoughts on “The North Sea

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