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Cathedral Rock, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Ballan wrasse at Cathedral Rock, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scuba Diving in St Abbs, Scotland

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Cathedral Rock

Location: St. Abbs, Scotland

Description: Shore dive

Depth: 17 metres (56 feet)

Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)

Rating: *****

If ever there were an ultimate shore dive, this would be in the top 5. A sea arch in 17m of water, how is that possible? Welcome to Cathedral Rock which lies just offshore from Broad Craig and further out from another dive site 'the Amphitheatre'. This rock does not break the surface although its kelp can come pretty close. A dive for the more adventurous and experienced, and if unsure you will need a guide.

Quite often we've dived this as a third dive following two boat dives, it is worth it! This is a tour-de-navigation and from the same harbour rocks as Big Green Carr the diver must enter the water and swim across the front of Broad Craig, preferably at high water. It is important to note that because the rock is some 50m offshore, you need to take into account the conditions on return and plan your air consumption accordingly! Please read Big Green Carr as far as entry/exit is concerned.

At the south-eastern corner of Broad Craig before it starts eastwards, the diver must descend, hopefully into a small trench. This is where the compass comes in very handy and any further around then you've gone the wrong side of the submarine ridge. Pick up a small trench between the rocks and head on course 120-140 degrees. If you've done it right, the trench opens up into a pebbly area. If not continue on 120 degrees and don't deviate. The course 120 is used from this pebbly area and it takes the diver over a small boulder field, descending from 12m to around 15m. Eventually a large boulder is encountered where a V-shaped niche is found. Swimming through here will take you almost directly to the Cathedral Arch. If this wasn't picked up the Cathedral Arch is in the middle of a long free-standing ridge at 17m so if you encountered this, swim around until hitting the arch!

Once encountered, never forgotten! The arch rises some 9m and is about 5-6m across at its base. A small keyhole is above. The sight is truly amazing, and if the sun is out provides excellent photographic opportunities. Resident diver-friendly ballen wrasse are on-hand to greet. The walls of the arch are plastered with an outer rim of densely packed deadman's fingers and within an even denser mass of plumose anemones. The vertical outer sides tower almost to the surface and are completely covered.

Warning! Don't overstay your welcome, check air and bottom time, start back with 100bar in a 12 litre tank. If you've time, swim around one of the ridge parts before making your way back which is a reciprocal course. It can be confusing on the return but again, trust the compass and it is easy to get behind Broad Craig without knowing it, or prematurely hit the harbour wall! If you need to, surface for a course readjustment.

Tony Gilbert

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