Our picks: Scotland’s finest sea arches

Scotland’s magnificent coasts extend as far as 16,500km if the islands are included. As well as picturesque fishing villages and magnificent sandy beaches, there is some fantastic cliff scenery, including many mighty sea stacks as featured in a previous ‘our picks’. This time we take a look at natural arches…

The Vat of Kirbuster, Stronsay, Orkney

The Vat of Kirbuster is a blow hole – locally known as a gloup – whose entrance is spanned by the most spectacular rock arch in Orkney.

The Whale’s Mouth, Cullen, Moray

Our circular route from Cullen on the Moray Coast reveals not one but two great arches. The arch that cuts through the Bow Fiddle Rock is featured on our picks of sea-stacks, so for this list we’ve chosen the longer, tunnel-like arch of the Whale’s Mouth.

Aesha Head, Papa Stour, Shetland

There’s no coastline in the UK that is more packed with arches, tunnels, gloups and sea stacks than remote but splendid Papa Stour in Shetland. Perhaps the finest arch cuts through the headland of Aesha Head in the west.

Elephant Rock, near Montrose, Angus

This fine arch is part of the Elephant Rock – an instantly-recognisable coastal feature on the circular walk from Ferryden, near Montrose on the Angus coastline.

The Snap, Fetlar, Shetland

There’s little doubt that Shetland generally is the mecca for sea arches in Scotland. Fetlar – best known to birders as the haunt of the reck-necked phalarope – has several fine ones. Our pick is this fine arch near the headland of the Snap.

Carsaig Arches, Mull

Perhaps the best known of Scottish sea arches, there are two very different formations at Carsaig on Mull’s southern coast. The first – pictured – is a long tunnel. An airy path climbing above this reveals the second arch which cuts through an almost-detached sea stack topped by a chimney-like basalt column.

The Bullars of Buchan, Aberdeenshire

The arch in the photo cuts through the islet of Dunbuy, but there’s another over the entrance to the main blowhole at this dramatic spot on the Aberdeenshire coastline. There is a car park near the Bullars; options for walkers include a fairly short walk from Cruden Bay or a walk on from the Bullars to Boddam; buses enable a return to be made.

Kirkabister Ness, Bressay

Just a short ferry hop away from busy Lerwick, the Isle of Bressay is a world apart. The lighthouse at Kirkabister Ness is a picturesque spot – but to see the dramatic arch beneath it, you need to venture along the coast.

Needle Eye Rock, near Wick

Perhaps the finest of all Scotland’s arches is one of the least known – the Needle Eye Rock on the Caithness coast. Walkers tackling the challenging John o’Groats Trail stage from Whaligoe to Wick are rewarded with a stunning view of this majestic arch.

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