12 Incredible Things to Do in St Abbs, Scottish Borders

St Abbs Village aerial view

St Abbs is a charming, old fishing village on the Berwickshire Coast in Scotland. This picturesque village is perfect for a cosy getaway where you can embrace rugged coastal vistas. 

St Abbs is most famous for the diverse wildlife, dramatic jagged cliffs and scuba diving. This place is undoubtedly one of the best seaside villages in Scotland.

The history of this rural fishing settlement goes back to the mid-18th century. It was initially known as Coldingham Shore but was later renamed St Abbs, after the Northumbrian princess-turned-nun, St Ebba or Aebba. 

She founded a monastery in the 7th century along the nearby cliffs to spread Christianity around this area.

St Abbs is easily accessible by public transport from Edinburgh, making this tiny village an ideal day trip destination from the capital city. 

Also, it is a great day trip choice from Newcastle upon Tyne in England.

This village was featured in the Avengers: Endgame movie as the fictional place of New Asgard. You might notice signs stating twinned with New Asgard. Also, it appeared in the Harry Styles music video, Adore You as the island of Eroda.

If you love exploring the quaint corners of Scotland, this wee coastal village will be a delight. Along with the stunning Luss in Loch Lomond and Braemar in the Cairngorms, St Abbs is one of our favourite Scottish villages.

In this travel guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan a perfect day trip to this pretty village – including all the best things to do, scenic hikes, where to eat and the nearby places you must visit.

Where is St Abbs

St Abbs is a picturesque small village in the Scottish Borders council area of Scotland. Located just 9 miles north of the border with England, it has a population of around a thousand people.

It is a perfect destination to visit on a day trip from the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh and takes only an hour to drive here.

This picturesque village is not too far from Glasgow as well. It only takes an hour and a half to get here by car.

Also, due to its location near the border area, you can add St Abbs with a trip to Northumberland and Scottish Borders. It lies about 12 miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed in England. 

This seaside village sits on the southeastern coast of Scotland and is 4 miles east of the main A1 road.

St Abbs Village houses
Berwickshire coast

Is St Abbs Worth Visiting

St Abbs is a true gem on the East Scotland coastline and is definitely worth a visit. It is a perfect place to enjoy a day out by the sea.

From seafood lovers to avid hikers, photographers to wildlife enthusiasts – this pretty village has something for all travellers. It is also a paradise for geologists and bird watchers.

Even though it’s a small coastal village, there are plenty of things to do in St Abbs. 

It has an abundance of wildlife, a magnificent coastline, hidden pebble beaches, nature trails, excellent panoramic viewpoints, and not to mention a few cosy cafes serving delicious seafood.

In recent years, this tiny village came into the limelight as the filming location of a widely popular Hollywood superhero flick and a music video.

After exploring St Abbs, you can stop by at some of the famous historic abbeys of the Scottish Borders. Floors Castle, one of the best castles in Scotland, is only 50 minutes by car from here. Also, the magnificent castles of Northumberland are not too far from here.

Best Time to Visit St Abbs

Late spring and summer are the best time to be in this coastal village. This time around, you would get to see the bustling seabird colonies – that St Abbs is renowned for. The long and warmer summer days are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, sunbathing, and water sports. 

We went there in summer and spring. Both the time, it was quite breezy, but we didn’t catch any rain.

If you fancy watching grey seal pups, consider visiting this cute little village between October and December. However, the weather could be very windy, cold and wet. Also, most of the boat tours do not run during this time of year. 

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Best Things to Do in St Abbs

1. Walk the Breadth of Spectacular St Abb's Head

Right next to the village of St Abbs is the St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve – a paradise for hikers, bird watchers and nature lovers. The magnificent cliffs were created by active volcanos millions of years ago. The nature reserve is one of the famous landmarks on the Berwickshire coastline. 

Walking the trail to visit the volcanic clifftops, seabird colony, and the picturesque lighthouse is one of the best things to do in St Abbs. This path is pretty easy to follow, and although it has some short steep inclines, overall, it’s an easy scenic walk for all abilities. 

St Abbs Head Nature Reserve

Over the years, we have done this walk multiple times and can’t recommend it enough. The breathtaking view over the village, the magnificent unspoilt coastline and the abundance of wildlife are well worth the effort.

Today, the National Trust of Scotland takes care of this area. You can start the hike from the village or the NTS car park. The circular circuit takes just two hours to complete and covers a distance of nearly 4 miles.

There are benches along the walk to sit back and relax. Bring a picnic and savour the lovely coastal views.

Admire the beautiful and photogenic white-washed St Abbs Head Lighthouse near the top of the headland.

During summer and spring, you will find the surrounding patch of grasslands covered in different varieties of colourful wildflowers, such as sea thrift, rock rose, wild thyme and purple milk-vetch. Also, if you are lucky, you might spot some rare butterflies here. There are at least 10 different kinds of butterflies found here. 

Return via the shores of the peaceful Mire Loch. In this man-made lake, you can find mute swans, ducks, damselflies and butterflies.

Keen walkers can continue the coastal walk to Dowlaw to the north or Coldingham to the south.

2. Go Birdwatching

The St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve is home to thousands of seabirds and one of the best sites in Scotland for birdwatching. 

Spring and summer months are the ideal time to see the birds. It is quite an experience unlike any other. We still remember listening to the chaotic symphony of different sea birds. Also, they are so amazing to watch.

Birdwatching in St Abbs
Coastal view Scottish Borders

You will find many species of birds nesting, breeding and nurturing the young ones on the sheer cliff faces of St Abb’s Head. Every year approximately 60,000 birds come here.

Watch out for kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, shag, peregrine and many other migratory birds. You might even spot some Atlantic puffins here.

You can take a boat tour to observe them more closely from a different perspective. Wildlife cruises leave from St Abbs and Eyemouth harbour.

Also, visit the Nature Centre to learn more about the wildlife, geology and history of this area.

3. Admire the Picturesque Views from St Abb's Head Lighthouse

Perched on the impressive cliffs of the nature reserve, the picturesque St Abb’s Head Lighthouse is one of the must-visit places on the Berwickshire Coast. 

The lighthouse marks the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth, the estuary of several rivers of Scotland.

It was built after the unfortunate sinking of the ship Martello in 1857. Constructed by Scottish lighthouse designers and brothers David and Thomas Stevenson, the lighthouse became operational in 1862. 

St Abbs Lighthouse

Initially, it was run by coal and oil and later by electricity. It took three persons to keep the lighthouse functional. Later in 1994, it became fully automated. 

Due to the low visibility during foggy conditions, a siren fog signal was installed here in 1876. It was the first lighthouse in Scotland to have a fog horn. The white-washed structure looks very photogenic against the backdrop of the deep blue sea. 

The lighthouse is 9 metres high and is not open to visitors. But you can walk to the adjacent cliff to get some great photos and admire the stunning view.

4. Explore the Captivating Pettico Wick Bay

Just a few minutes downhill walk from the St Abb’s Head Lighthouse, Pettico Wick Bay has a gobsmacking view of the coastline. You will reach here at the end of your circular walk of the headland. 

From the street leading to the cove, you will get a stunning view of Mire Loch and the dramatic cliffs.

Avid Marvel fans might recognise this place from the superhero movie, Avengers: Endgame. The scene – where Hulk and Rocket were travelling on the back of a truck to visit Thor – was filmed here.

Pettico Wick Bay

The dramatic rocky pinnacles above the gully were formed more than 420 million years ago by collision. The greywackes got squeezed into the sharp folds.

Today you can see the seabirds nesting on the cliffs. From the grassy slope, you will have a magnificent view across the line of St Abb’s Head Fault.

Also, on a sunny clear day, you might see the Isle of May and Bass Rock on the horizon.

If you happen to visit St Abbs between October and December, you will find grey seals and pups playing on the Pettico Wick Beach. You might also spot them on some beaches and gullies near the village.

There is a small jetty in the bay area. It was built to deliver supplies to the nearby lighthouse before the roads were constructed.

Nowadays, you might spot a few local fishing boats moored here. Also, sometimes the boat tours from St Abbs and Eyemouth stop here.

5. Enjoy Strolls around St Abbs Village

Meander around the streets of St Abbs to discover the nooks and crannies of this seaside village. It is fairly small and does not take much time to explore.

One of the main highlights of this village is the cosy harbour. On a regular day, it could be a tad busy with local fishing and tour boats carrying tourists and divers. There is a cafe, dive shop and lifeguard station at the harbour. 

It is a perfect place to sit back and relax.

The clifftop cute houses and the harbour reminded us of another of our favourite villages in Scotland – Cullen on the Moray Firth.

St Abbs village harbour

The nearby rocky shores are great for rock pooling and fishing. Also, from the harbour walls, you will get a cracking view of the cliffs of St Abb’s Head.

Marvel movie fans will easily recognise the harbour area from the Avengers: Endgame as the new home of the Asgardians. Also, the music video, Adore You, by former One Direction member Harry Styles, was filmed here.

Step inside the visitor centre overlooking the harbour. You can collect the New Asgard sign from there to click a photo with it. They also sell local souvenirs.

Don’t miss the small bronze figures of women and children looking out to the sea, waiting for their loved ones to return. Created by a local artist, Jill Watson, it commemorates those who lost their lives in the infamous great fishing disaster of 1881.

From the village, you can hike the nature reserve to the north and the sandy beach of Coldingham Bay to the south.

6. Enjoy a Scenic Wildlife Boat Tour

The North Sea coast has a diverse range of rich wildlife. Taking a boat tour to watch the abundance of sea birds and aquatic wildlife is one of the fun things to do in St Abbs. 

Cruises are run by local tour companies and depart from the village harbour. There are also tours available from the small town of Eyemouth. The boats take the scenic route along with the St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve and the Coldingham Bay. Most of the tours operate from May to October.

During spring and summer, thousands of birds nest on the cliffs here. You can spot plenty of guillemots, cormorants, razorbills, gannets and kittiwakes along the coast. 

Other than hiking, the boat tour is the best way to see this astounding seabird colony. Also, the trip gives you a unique opportunity to view the majestic Berwickshire coastline from a different perspective. 

Peel your eyes out for dolphins and porpoises. They are seen quite frequently all year round. If you are lucky, you could also catch a glimpse of minke whales playing in the water.

During autumn and early winter months, you can also spot grey seals chilling near the coast.

If you are looking for another scenic wildlife boat tour, we would recommend visiting Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye.

7. Tease your Taste Buds with Delicious Seafood

There are only a couple of cafes in the village of St Abbs. They offer takeaways and dine-in options for lunch.

Pop inside the Ebbcarrs Cafe, located at the harbour. They serve freshly caught local seafood, light lunches, coffees and homemade cakes. This small cafe gets very busy during lunch hours. Seafood lovers would be tempted to try out their crab sandwich and traditional Cullen Skink. 

seafood

They also serve delicious sandwiches, baguettes and burgers. This cafe is an ideal spot to refuel and recharge after a tiring hike.

Another place to eat in St Abbs is the Ebba Centre & Old School Cafe. They have indoor and outdoor seating arrangements. You will get hearty and homemade lunch and cakes here. 

Also, there are plenty of lovely cafes, restaurants and pubs in the nearby town of Eyemouth. Check out the menu of Mackays Of Eyemouth and The Ship Restaurant & Bar for fresh local seafood.

8. Just Have Fun on the Coldingham Beach

Take a short walk to the nearby award-winning Coldingham Beach from St Abbs. It is one of the most popular sandy beaches on the Berwickshire coast. 

Located in a sheltered bay, the water quality here is perfect for swimming. Kids will have a great time exploring the small rock pools in this area. Watch out for hermit crabs.

coldingham beach

Adorned by colourful beach huts, this beach is a popular destination for watersports enthusiasts. In summer, you can try surfing and paddleboarding here.

There is a shop on the beach where you can hire surfing gear. Also, grab an ice cream and some snacks from the small cafe adjacent to the beach.

Climb the nearby Homeli Knoll for a panoramic view over the sandy shores.

For centuries, the local fishermen used to follow the historic Creel Path from St Abbs to Coldingham to sell their daily catch.

Also, pay a visit to the historic Coldingham Priory. It is about a mile’s walk from the beach. Founded in the 11th century, this site was once the home of Benedictine monks.

9. Discover the Colourful Past of Eyemouth

About 12 minutes drive from St Abbs, Eyemouth is a bustling small town on the East Coast of Scotland. It is famous for its natural harbour, fishing heritage, stunning coastline, wildlife and colourful local history.

Also, the scenic Berwickshire Coastal Path goes through this town to St Abbs from Berwick.

Fishing played an important role in shaping the history of this town. The harbour dates back to the 13th century. Today, you will find many fishing boats docked in the busy harbour, which is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops.

Eyemouth Harbour

Once upon a time, Eyemouth was infamous for smuggling and the nearby Gunsgreen House was known as a smuggler’s palace. 

The house belongs to John Nisbet, a local merchant and a notorious smuggler. The large cellars and roofs of the house were used to store illegally obtained tea, brandy and tobacco. 

Today visitors can take a tour to learn about its dark past. You can also follow the Smuggler’s Trail Circular Walk uncovering the hidden coves and beaches used by the smugglers.

Take a stroll along the beach promenade. You will get a seaside resort town vibe here. History lovers will enjoy a visit to the Eyemouth Museum housed in an old church. 

Also, you can catch a shuttle boat service to visit St Abbs from the Eyemouth harbour.

The town hosts Herring Queen Festival in July and Lifeboat Weekend in August.

10. Uncover the Mysteries of Underwater at St Abbs

Scuba diving in St Abbs gives you a unique opportunity to discover the stunning underwater scenery. It is one of the most popular dive sites in Scotland. The clear water and abundance of rich marine life attract about one thousand divers each year. 

The water clarity here is also great for snorkelling. So, even if you are not a diver, you can still explore the treasures of the underwater world through snorkelling.

The coastal area between Eyemouth and St Abbs became Scotland’s only Voluntary Marine Reserve in 1984. It covers around 8 km of the coast. You will find here tropical corals, as well as arctic fish. 

There are quite a few dive sites near St Abbs. You will find them just a few metres from the harbour wall – Cathedral Rock, Big Green Carr, Broad Craig and Little Carr. 

Cathedral Rock is the most famous one. It is named so, after its enormous arch. Also, there are gullies and tunnels you can swim through. 

There are a number of local companies operating in the area. You can hire diving gear, snorkelling equipment or a charter boat from them. If you are up for the challenge, you can also go for open-water swimming.

11. Learn Berwick upon Tweed’s Turbulent History

If you are using public transport to visit St Abbs, you will have to visit the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. This bustling historic market town is well worth a visit in its own right.

Also, from Berwick, you can catch a bus to visit many famous places in Northumberland – Holy Island, Alnwick Castle and Bamburgh Castle. St Abbs is just 20 minutes drive from this town.

Located near the River Tweed estuary, Berwick is the northernmost town in England. This border town was a small settlement during the Anglo-Saxon periods and was part of the medieval Kingdom of Northumbria.

Due to the strategic location between the border of England and Scotland, Berwick has seen many wars and seizes throughout history.

Berwick upon Tweed

Meander along the River Tweed and admire the beautiful bridges over the river. The imposing Royal Border Bridge is an impressive railway viaduct built by Robert Stephenson. 

Next, take a stroll around the town’s historic Elizabethan Walls. It passes through bastions, watchtowers, gun batteries and cannons. Along its stretch of a mile and a quarter, you would admire beautiful views out to the North Sea and the Tweed estuary. 

Visit Berwick-Upon-Tweed Barracks and Main Guard to learn the history of military warfare in this area. They were built in the early 18th century, making them the oldest in Britain.

Also, it has some great sandy beaches on the outskirts of the town – Cocklawburn Beach and Spittal Beach. Overall, Berwick is a fabulous town for a short day out.

12. Walk along the Berwickshire Coast

The Berwickshire Coastal Path is a 26-mile-long walking trail along the North Sea coastline of Scotland. The hiking route starts from the village of Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders and ends at the town of Berwick upon Tweed in England.

It passes through St Abbs too and is one of the most scenic long-distance walks in Scotland.

The trail usually takes three days to complete, but fit and keen walkers might manage it in two days. The path is clearly waymarked and easy to follow with some steep sections.

Berwickshire coast

From this coastal path, you will get an excellent view of the surrounding dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, old ruined forts and arches at the edge of the sea. The area is famous for its geology and has an abundance of rich wildlife, especially birds and butterflies. Also, you will come across a diverse range of beautiful flora, fauna and wildflowers. 

Other than the impressive coastal views, you will also pass small villages along the coast, like Cove, Burnmouth, Coldingham and St Abbs.

There are several sandy beaches on the trail.

If you don’t fancy walking the entire trail, we would recommend doing the section from Eyemouth to St Abbs Head. This route is quite popular and is one of the most scenic stretches of this coastal path. It takes only 3-4 hours.

Map of the Attractions in and around St Abbs

Here is a map of all the best attractions to visit and the best things to do in and around St Abbs. Click on the link to save the Google Map on your phone. You can use the map offline. 

You can find all the viewpoints mentioned in this article on the map. We have also marked the best places to eat around the village.

How to Reach St Abbs by Car

Driving is the fastest way to reach here. This pretty village is located just 4 miles off the A1, the longest numbered road in the UK, connecting London with Edinburgh.

You can park your car at the Harbour Car Park. It is pay and display and costs £1 for the first hour. Also, there is a National Trust Car Park near the start of the coastal walk to the St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve. The parking fee is £3 per day but is free for NTS members.

Here is a rough estimate of the time and driving distance from a few nearby cities and towns in Scotland and England.

  • From Berwick upon Tweed 20 minutes / 14 miles
  • From Edinburgh 1 hour / 47 miles
  • From Melrose 1 hour / 40 miles
  • From Newcastle 1 hour 30 minutes / 77 miles
  • From Glasgow 1 hour 40 minutes / 93 miles
  • From Dundee 2 hours 10 minutes / 115 miles

How to Reach St Abbs by Public Transport

The village is served by Bus Service 235, operated by Borders Buses. Buses run daily from Berwick-upon-Tweed to St Abbs and take only 35 minutes. There are around six bus services from Monday to Saturday and five on Sunday.

If you are coming from Edinburgh, the easiest way to reach St Abbs is to use a combination of public transport. Catch a Crosscountry or LNER train service from Edinburgh Waverley Train Station to Berwick upon Tweed, the most Northerly town in England. The train takes around 40 minutes to reach Berwick. From there, hop onboard the 235 bus towards St Abbs.

If you are coming from Glasgow, you can either get the direct but infrequent train services to Berwick or break the train journey in Edinburgh.

You can also visit St Abbs from Newcastle upon Tyne in England. It takes only 45 minutes to reach Berwick by train. 

The direct trains from London towards Edinburgh also give a stop in Berwick. 

We hope this comprehensive guide to St Abbs has inspired you! 

To fuel your travel inspiration further, check out some of our other Scotland travel guides.

Love, Moumita & Sankha

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