Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Portpatrick and the Southern Uplands Way

The little harbour of Portpatrick on the Galloway coast is the starting point for the Southern Upland Way, but before climbing the steps to the cliff top at start of the route it's worth taking a look around the harbour because....

.... there are usually black guillemots fishing there, and if you're lucky .....

.... they'll be posing for a photograph on the harbour wall.

...... where there is often a vigorous exchange with others ...

..... that nest in cavities between the building blocks of the harbour wall. These are birds with a startlingly simple colour scheme - sooty black and pure white plumage and wonderful crimson feet with matching interior colour scheme in their bills.

Very approachable birds - although there didn't seem to be as many as when we first visited, in 2006.

There's also a well established herring gull breeding colony on the cliffs as you leave the town, with some vulnerable chicks on narrow ledges ........

.........protected by fierce-looking adults

The first mile or so further on the path skirts a series of sandy bays and in one - Lairds bay , marked as Port Mora/Port Kale on the Ordnance Survey map - lies this fascinating telegraph station, built at the landfall of the first submerged telegraph cable to Donaghadee in Northern Ireland, across what is now known as the North Channel but was then the Irish Channel, in 1853. More recently the building has been a visitor centre but now seems disused. You can still see the frayed cable partially buried in the shingle on the beach: an interesting fragment of telecommunications archaeology.

There's a fine cliff-top flora along this stretch of coast that includes the almost hemispherical umbels of wild carrot. Once these begin to set seed the stalks of the outer clusters of florets elongate and curl inwards, so the ripe seed head resembles a clenched fist.

The cliffs here are festooned with honeysuckle and as you climb the path up from the beach the scent is glorious on a fine summer evening.

Slender St. John's wort, with red undersides to its petals, is also a feature of the cliffs here, as is ...

... the sea spleenwort fern with its leathery fronds, that grows in rock crevices close to the beach, well within reach of salt spray. Fresh water trickling down the cliffs is probably the antidote to this saline assault.


  1. Phil,

    the post just makes me want to zoom off over there. Never having seen a Black Guillemot I was amazed at 3 colours having such a startling effect.


  2. Cracking post Phil; something for everyone there.
    Love those Guillemot shots, such a striking looking bird.
    A lovely shot of the Honeysuckle too, with the beach in the background.

  3. What great birds (the Black Guillemots, not the gulls).
    Looks idyllic

  4. Hi John, I think there's also somewhere over the water in Ireland where they breed in harbour walls too..

  5. It's a lovely walk along that stretch of coast Keith...

  6. Hi Steve, it's the only place I've ever sen them...