Shore Diving at St. Abbs
Relatively deep water close inshore and strong tidal movement combine to provide some of the easiest and best shore diving in Britain. There are, however, only two entry points. Firstly, direct from the car park with a short swim out to the large rock (called Maw Carr locally) but usually referred to by divers as Seagull Rock. This can be a bit of a scramble at low tide, particularly when trying to exit and the ideal time for entry is an hour before high water. The second option is to walk around the outer harbour wall and enter from the rocks with hardly any need to swim on the surface. Both are suitable sites for trainees.
By far the best is the harbour wall as this gives access to a maze of superb, kelp-topped gullies and vertical walls up to 15m high with a stunning range of marine life. Just about every species found on this area of coast can be seen here at some time including a semi-tame wolf fish which has been a summer resident in the same hole for several years. A big attraction is Cathedral Rock with its unique double archway which is a mere 50m swim from the shore and a "must see" for any first time visiting diver. The top of Cathedral only appears at half tide and can be identified as the furthest rock in a south-easterly direction. If you are uncertain, it is best to have it pointed out in advance in order to avoid missing it underwater.
Another very popular dive from the harbour wall is to circumnavigate Big Green Carr. Look up the channel running north from the entry point and it is the large rock forming the right hand side of this channel. Here you will find lots of beautiful walls, hopefully the resident Wolf-fish and on the seaward side, a sharply undercut wall full of holes and cracks known as the Amphitheatre. This is likely to be occupied by squat and common lobsters, velvet fiddler crabs, Yarrell's blennies and occasionally, the elusive tadpole fish. A beautiful and very easy dive.
Diving from the car park is less spectacular but still well worth doing. Seagull Rock has good vertical walls but these lead down largely to sand at about 12m. This is probably the most sheltered site in the area and this, combined with the reflective quality of the sand, means that the very best visibility can usually be found here. At the rear of Seagull Rock is a huge crack probably 4m wide, running from the surface to the sea bed. Go right in and although it will seem a bit gloomy at first, there is lots to see on the faces. The crack gradually narrows and at the centre of the rock becomes a cave with a silt bottom and a good population of leopard spotted gobies. Well worth a look but take a torch. Complete your dive by swimming right round Seagull Rock leaving just a short swim back to the car park.
Text by Jim Greenfield.