Coastal Walk: St Combs to Rattray Head (and back)
Date: Friday 23rd January 2015
Company: Myself and Cuillin
Distance: 19.7km, Ascent: 135m
Time: 4Hrs 30Mins

Coastal Walks index

This morning, I drove to St.Combs with a view to walking to Rattray Head. I knew I would also have to walk back from Rattray Head to St. Combs as there is no public transport available.

On arrival in St. Combs, I parked just off the road a couple of hundred metres away from the Tufted Duck hotel.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

I made my way down onto the beach and then walked circa 10km along the beach as far as Rattray Head. I was treated to some lovely colours in the sky as the sun rose.

Beach at St. Combs shortly before sunrise:

Nice skies:

For the entire duration of the walk it was blowing a hoolie. Myself and Cuillin were both sandblasted.

Sand blowing in the wind:

Still pictures don't really show the extent of the wind today: short video-clip of wind

Nice skies:

As we progressed along the beach I noticed numerous seal footprints but no seals. As we continued on I spotted a lone seal pup.

Seal pup:

Seal pup:

Having read a report of this walk on Walk Highlands, I knew that I would need to take a short detour inland to bypass the outflow of the Loch of Strathbeg.

Walking along the beach:

Approaching the outflow from Loch of Strathbeg:

After crossing a bridge over the outflow, we made our way back down onto the sand and then continued on to Rattray Head.

Outflow from Loch of Strathbeg:


I spotted a number of unusual wooden posts at the shoreline and so went down for a closer look. On closer inspection I could see that they were the remains of an old boat. I wonder how long ago this boat ran aground?

Remains of an old wooden boat:

Beyond the boat remains, on came the rain. The combination of strong wind and driving rain made it difficult to take photos without the camera lens getting soaked.

Walking next to the waves:

Approaching Rattray Head:

I walked to just beyond the lighthouse to take some photos such that the driving rain was not into the camera.

Rattray Head lighthouse:

Having reached Rattray Head, I really didn't want to walk all the way back along the sand. I therefore opted to walk back along the road.

Looking back to Rattray Head lighthouse and B&B:

After walking about 1km, I decided to look at the map. The walk back along the road would have been significantly longer than the walk back along the beach. I therefore started to make my way back towards the beach.

Derelict building:

Loch of Strathbeg:

However, instead of walking along the sand, I found the walk through the Back Bar dunes to be really pleasant. There are lots of small tracks through the dunes and underfoot was mostly soft moss and lichen - really nice to walk on. I walked several kilometres back through the dunes.

Traversing the Back Bar dunes:

Looking towards Loch of Strathbeg:

I eventually reached the bridge that I had crossed earlier over the Loch of Strathbeg outflow. I continued on over short grass instead of returning down to the beach.

The building marked on the map turned out to be an old WWII shelter. I went inside to get out of the wind for a few minutes.

WWII Shelter:

I ended up having to climb a couple of barbed-wire fences on the way back. Thankfully Cuillin is nice and light for lifting over fences.

Looking back towards Rattray Head in the distance:

Approaching St. Combs:

Looking back towards Rattray Head from St. Combs:

It was nice to get back to the car and get the heating on.