Sunday, 7 August 2011

My Top Ten harbours

As promised, these are the Top Ten harbours from my 'Tour of Britain'. They are not necessarily the most photogenic, although most are, but for various reasons they qualify as you'll read below. If you click on the name of each harbour, you'll be taken to the relevant page on my Ports and Harbours website. If you click on each photo, and then click the resultant photo again, you'll see the image full-screen.

So, in reverse order:

10 - Burnmouth

An idyllic, picturesque fishing harbour, situated at the foot of a steep (1 in 5) hill. The Harbour Master, John Aitchison, had expressed a wish to see me, and provided fresh crab sandwiches which I enjoyed from the luxury of his living room, which overlooks the harbour. The Harbour Trust also made a very generous donation, which was shared between the two charities.

9 - Tobermory

The children's 'Balamory', with its multi-coloured waterfront houses, is an attractive place to wander around. Views into the harbour from the adjacent Aros Park and from the top of the hill above the town are the best. I went there twice, arriving there on the ferry from Ardnamuchan, and three days later leaving the harbour on my way south, having cycled around Mull. I also stayed in an excellent B&B on the quayside.

8 - Pennan

In 1983, parts of the film Local Hero were shot here. The film gave Pennan one of the best known red telephone boxes in the world, sitting on the quayside opposite the Pennan Inn. Old fishermen's cottages line the street to the west of the harbour. This certainly qualifies as one of the most attractive harbours in Scotland.

7 - Hope Cove

I visited this quaint South Devon harbour early one balmy, sunny July morning. To say it was idyllic is an understatement. The tide was high and the water was gently lapping the sandy beach. The jetty, more of a breakwater, protects the bay from southerly winds. Fishing boats are moored within the harbour, whilst yachts are pulled up on the beach beyond the reach of the tide.

6 - Solva

Solva is one of the most sheltered anchorages between Fishguard and Milford Haven. It's possible to walk around the headlands, where there are wonderful views into the harbour, both at low and high water. In the 19th century, Solva had around 30 registered trading ships. Coastal trade has been replaced by tourism, and the harbour is now a popular boating centre.

5 - Mousehole

Arguably Cornwall's most attractive harbour, Mousehole is a classic. The two harbour arms can be linked by boards to prevent stormy seas from entering the enclosed area. Mostly full of fishing boats, Mousehole retains a sense of antiquity, assisted by the proximity of its quayside cottages. At Christmastime, the whole harbour is lit with decorated boats and lanterns.

4 - Cove

Access to this privately-owned harbour is only possible via a tunnel, which was cut through the rock in the 1700s. Cellars leading off the tunnel were once used to store fresh salmon and herring. Nowadays the harbour is only used by a couple of boats, but once reached, it is a haven of peace.

3 - Calgary

This is the only harbour in the top ten that is no longer used. It is located some distance away from the popular Calgary beach, and has a very special atmosphere all of its own. In the early part of the 19th century, during the Highland Clearances, local people left for the New World from this jetty. The city of Calgary in Canada took its name from this Mull village.

2 - Seacliff

Seacliff is the UK's smallest harbour. It has been cut out of the rock and is only large enough for a single fishing boat. Its location is idyllic, with Tantallon Castle overlooking the harbour from the far hill. Difficult to find, it is only accessible along a private road, and then tramping across the beach, dodging various rock pools.

1 - Porthgain

Porthgain is a magical place. Once a busy working port, roadstone was exported to Cardiff, Plymouth and London. The hoppers used in this operation still remain. Slate from a local quarry was also handled through the harbour, and bricks were made using waste from the slate operation. In 1987 Porthgain was designated as a conservation area. A popular location for tourists in the summer, the Sloop Inn and The Shed provide more than adequate refreshment.


  1. Surprised Pittenweem isn't in your top 10.

  2. Quite nice, but it was raining when I was there.

  3. I also love Burnmouth, Cove and Seacliff, all within a stones throw (well a wee drive..or cycle) of my home. Confirms my thoughts that I live in a fantastic area!