Tag Archives: St Abbs

Borders Country Day 17

'St Abbs'. Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘St Abbs’. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas

St Abbs (detail)

St Abbs (detail)

Today’s painting – St Abbs Bay on the east coast near the Border.

Those rocks really are as colourful as they’ve been painted. This part of the coastline is quite famous for its beauty, but also it’s near to where Professor Hutton made his discoveries about geology at Siccar Point


There’s a trail named after him which takes you all along the east coast from the Borders to Dunbar, where you can see the faults and intrusions which proved Hutton’s theory that our planet was much, much older than first believed.

The pink, yellow and purple rocks above are igneous¬† and the grey lower rocks, called Greywrake, are a remnant from the Silurian era – the former beach basically – you can see the bleached effect of tides from an earlier era, which also shows up the colour of crystal clear water. Apparently there would have been more tropical climes then, not unlike today’s weather – we have a mini heatwave in Edinburgh today, and though I know a lot of people hate this mugginess I’m quite enjoying it!

Borders Country Day 15

'Hawk. River Tweed 2'. Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘Hawk. River Tweed 2’. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas

Today’s painting – a larger version of ‘Hawk (River Tweed)’ on canvas.

This is the version from last week on 5×5 inch wood..

'Hawk. River Tweed'. Acrylic on 5x5" wood

‘Hawk. River Tweed’. Acrylic on 5×5″ wood

As this subject seems to work at a larger scale I might paint it at 40×40 inches on wood.

I think the wood background maybe suits this subject more than canvas. The highlights on water are¬† easier on wood, which I prime with white gesso and paint so it’s easy to scrape into the top layer of paint to create nice, sharp light effects. On canvas I usually make those sharp white edges with white paint and palette knife, which can somewhat take away from a more expressive line.


This weekend we took a trip to St Abbs Head in Berwickshire, which was a nice destination for Father’s Day combined with a spot of sketching and photography on the east coast of the Borders. And it was a suitably beautful, sunny day for the summer solstice.

Coldingham Sands

Coldingham Sands

St Abbs used be called Coldingham Shore (Coldingham Sands – are just a mile or so along the coast).

It’s popular with divers and surfers but it was only in the 19th century that people settled here, though it’s always been a place to fish.


In the 7th century, a monastery was set up near St Abb’s Head, by Aebbe of Coldingham, a former Princess turned Abbess. She was originally from the North of England but after her father was killed in war, she, her mother and brothers fled to Scotland. While there she converted to Christianity. When the conflict was over, she returned to England, then later set up monasteries in England and at Coldingham.

She was politically astute and helped prevent several conflicts (no doubt a valuable skill given the Borders history of violence!). I imagine her childhood must have taught the harshest lesson in the painful outcomes of violent conflict. After her death the monastery was abandoned and became a ruin, but her memory wasn’t forgotten..

Aebbe’s story was recorded and written down by 12th Century monks so that her legacy of peace remains to this day in the name of the village and headland – St Abbs.

Tomorrow I’ll begin paintings of this coastline.

Some photos from yesterday..

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