This section is the the ‘Link; between The John Muir Way, which finishes/starts at Dunbar and the Southern Upland Way, which finishes/starts at Cockburnspath. Even if you are not embarking on either of these great ways, this is a wonderful walk in itself. You will need to use local transport or a taxi – or walk it over two days beginning at each end and going half way. Note that you are following the final, unofficial section, of the John Muir Way (JMW). At the time of printing, you won’t find this section in any of the current Guidebooks to, or maps of, The John Muir Way which officially ends/starts at his birthplace in Dunbar. However, very recently it was decided to extend the route to Cockburnspath to join up with The Southern Upland Way (SUW) which wanders through the Borders to Portpatrick. Even the official end of the JMW Link ends in a layby on the A1.! So you follow a local route to Cockburnspath and then the SUW down to Cove. The JMW Link is well sign-posted as such. The SUW short section is the denoted by the traditional Scottish logo for a National Trail – thistle within a hexagon.
Start either in the Shore Road car-park or at the Leisure Pool (although you’ll miss one of the best bits if you skip the first mile or so! Both car-parks have toilets.
To get to the Shore Road car park go through Dunbar on the A1087 to West Barns (pub on the left) then signs to the Bellhaven Bay Caravan Park.. Turn left down Shore Road and drive to the very end. There is an Information Board, and magnificent views of the John Muir Country Park, Berwick Law and the Bass Rock.
To get to the Leisure Pool continue along the A1087 to Dunbar Leisure Pool, Castle Park, Dunbar EH42 1EU
Section 1: 1.41 miles.
Your walk begins immediately on a good path just above the shore line and weaves beside the sea between the golf course and the rocky beach below. At the end you step through an archway to a stunning view of the castle. Turn right for the Leisure Pool where there are toilets. and the coach will be waiting.
Section 2: 5.65 miles. This is a very easy section. It begins just beyond the entrance to the Leisure Pool where a ‘John Muir way Link signpost directs you left, round the castle and down to the picturesque old harbour. The Link (sign-posted) winds its way through the back streets of Dunbar and then out on a path between the seashore and a golf course. You are (continuously) asked to wait until golfers have played their shots, and to speak quietly. Your path follows red posts and you should keep as close to the shore as possible, only joining the golf course road as directed.) At the end of the Links go through Catcraig picnic site and on to Barns Ness picnic site where there are toilets. Then make for the lighthouse, by-passing it eventually by turning right, before following a lovely track, just inland to Skateraw Farm. There are more toilets here.
Section 3: 1.68 miles. Without transport you will have to continue round Skateraw Cove turning left behind the toilets and then climb up a little to by-pass the rocky headland. The path winds down again to the northern side of the Power Station where an obvious promenade, named the Coastal Walk and next to steel gates not through them, goes right around the outside of the Power Station. It emerges at the car-park where a clear John Muir sign-post points left and left again along a metalled road to emerge at Thorntonloch. You are right beside the sea but the concrete is hard going.
Sections 4 and 5: 4.67 miles including the 0.66 miles down to Cove Harbour and back to the coach. This is the most attractive section in that you have a variety of low cliff top, seashore, wooded valleys, farm fields, a picturesque village and eventually drop down to the Smugglers’ Tunnel to Cove harbour.
Start from Thortonloch car-park (toilets) and make your way down to and along the sandy beach to a hidden post taking you a few yards inland and very gently back up on to the low cliffs. (The official route avoids the ‘locals’ path straight up on to the low cliff.) From here you can see ahead to the much grander cliffs of St Abbs’ Head. Now follows a wonderful walk along the tops to Bilsdean Glen. A thickly wooded path takes you right down to the sea. This is the only awkward bit where you have a ⅓ mile walk along a cobbled beach. You may find it easier to walk on the smaller stones by the sea. Then take to the woods again up Dungeness Glen (sign-posted from the beach). At a junction at the top of the glen there is a signpost directing you left to Cove but it follows the road down to the harbour.
Much nicer and safer is to continue up the glen, under the road and rail viaducts, to a country road where you dogleg left and right, up beside some fields, to a signpost pointing you left to the village of Cockburnspath. There’s a Mercat Cross and a Post Office for ice-creams/water and, as you turn left for the last lap, more toilets. At the War Memorial turn left, then first right on a track on what is now the Southern Upland Way. The track leads down under the road and rail viaducts again, straight ahead in front of some cottages, crosses a country road to dogleg along a track through fields and on to the coastal path. Turn left here or you’ll end up in Portpatrick on the Southern Upland Way!!
At the end of this path is a gate with the car-park on the left. Turn right to go through another kissing gate and down a little track to the Smugglers’ Tunnel and out into the little harbour.