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St Abbs overview


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St Abbs dive site map


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Scuba Diving St Abbs, Scotland, UK, Europe


Water temperature:

4°C (39°F) from January to March to 14°C (64°F) from July to September

Suit:

A drysuit is highly recommended

Visibility:

Average visibility of 10 metres (30 feet)

Type of diving:

Wreck, reef and wall dives

Marine life:

Sunfish, lobsters, conger eels, jellyfish, crabs, sea urchins, starfish, sponges, anemones

When to go:

June to September if you don't like cold water!

How to get there:

Take the A1 north past Newcastle-upon-Tyne towards Edinburgh if coming from the south. St Abbs is roughly halfway between the two.


Boats in St Abbs Harbour, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Boats in St Abbs Harbour, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Lighthouse at St Abbs, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Tunnel Stacks at St Abbs Head, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Harbour surrounds at St Abbs, diving St Abbs, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

St. Abbs and the surrounding area north of the Royal Burgh town of Berwick, encompasses some of the best diving in the UK. Eyemouth town has many dive sites just offshore like Hairy Ness, Rumfauds, the President wreck, Little Leeds Bay and Conger Reef. These are very popular and are serviced adequately by local boats or shore. St. Abbs however still seems retain the jewel in the crown of British diving. St Abbs (formerly Ebbe after a local saint) used to be called Lower Coldingham, until it was renamed about 100 years ago. To this day descendants of those present at the ceremony are still resident in 'Abbs', like Pete Gibson who runs Selkie dive boat.

The small fishing village is a working harbour, although many of the boats are now diving boats, like Topline & Alikai. The harbour retains a 'back-in-time' feel, and on each occasion I've visited, it's like returning home where people say "Hello, how are you?". Access to some of the best dive sites in the UK are from either these boats or directly from shore, making this a great starting point for many divers new to the sport (which it did for me also).

It's not all given over to diving and it services the tourism industry very well with small cafes, like Springbank Cottage. Many walkers and sightseers pass by, trekking up to St. Abbs Head - a massive monolith of rock rising 50m or more above sea level. The cliffs around here are truly tremendous, awe- inspiring and I don't know what's better, a view from the top or from a boat! These form part of the Northumberland Coastal Path, a wonderful walk.

The Diving

For shore diving and much of the boat diving, most dives can be conducted above 18m as many of the reefs don't get down below this depth until further out. Several of the boat diving sites if you swim further out (that'll be east or north, sometimes south, depending how the rocks lie) will eventually drop to 22m or thereabouts. Of the most popular only a small handful are below this depth, but the bulk of the marine life is between 15m and 6m. The towering cliffs drop below the water line, and deep cut ridges are formed, with many kelp-topped boulders, the latter of which are vertical in nature closer inshore. Visibility usually averages around 10m, usually more.

Tidal ranges are small and currents on most sites usually minimal, however boat diving is conducted using delayed SMBs as there can be boat traffic around. Usually boats are shuttle services by experienced and knowledgeable skippers. For the shore diving, this involves a clamber down the harbour rocks and exit is similar. The only constraint is swell, and it must be noted that it's best to avoid bad swell times - you'll be sorry otherwise!

Tank Fills

Tank fills are either onsite from the small harbour hut (if open) which is run by Scoutscroft, or from Billie's in the centre of St. Abbs. Both are air stations. Scoutscroft centre itself is on the Coldingham road and is a caravan park, dive centre and amenities. Usually it's a fill-your-own air filling station, although they can arrange Nitrox. Aquastars in Eyemouth is also a dive centre and air/nitrox filling station, but further a field. It is only very recently that Nitrox became available.

Car Parking & Toilets

In St. Abbs there are three car parks, the 'diver car park', which is GBP 5.00 per car per day, and the normal car park at GBP 10.00 per day. The former is paid to an attendant and the latter is pay and display machine. The upper car park is the other one. There are toilet facilities in St. Abbs, but do bring extra toilet rolls as the supply can easily run out!

Boats

Boat dives are usually timed so you must make sure that you are kitted up and all the kit is together and ready for the boat departure time. Don't wait around until the last minute, like some do. These uncaring people don't realise it has a knock on effect to the next wave of divers on that boat. Unfortunately I've been on receiving end and it is no fun hanging around with full gear for an hour because the first wave were dithering! Quite often boats will let you leave your gear on between your waves and you just take the tank off for re-filling.

If you are diving St. Abbs, especially during the summer months, it can become busy so please above all, respect the local residents privacy and don't make a nuisance. Sadly, some of the community are against divers, and there have been issues with lobster potters so try not to rock the boat when visiting.

Jellyfish

This area can have many jellyfish swarms especially during the summer months and these are usually one form or another, although I have seen mixed swarms. The moon jellyfish are completely harmless and can be the densest of swarms, about 4 or more to 1 cubic metre. On one occasion we witnessed the splitting of individuals into 4's. The smaller lion's mane jellyfish can also form large colonies in the water column. Although less dense this has long stinging tentacles that can easily catch across a divers face or lips. These species tend to congregate between 5 and 15m, forming bands that a diver has to negotiate on descent and ascent! Also seen are numerous sea gooseberries and comb jellies.

Tony Gilbert


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