Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Magical kayak tour of Arbroath’s cliffs and caves explores ‘creepy ballroom’, ‘mermaid’s kirk’ and ‘smuggler’s bay’

Gayle Ritchie at a secluded bay visited on Arbroath Cliff Tours. Picture: Cameron Smith.
Gayle Ritchie at a secluded bay visited on Arbroath Cliff Tours. Picture: Cameron Smith.

Gayle joins Cameron Smith for a breathtaking kayak tour of Arbroath’s cliffs and caves.

Kayaking through a narrow channel into the sea cave, I enter a mysterious world where the water glows an unearthly emerald green and all thoughts turn to smuggling and adventure.

I’m on a tour of Arbroath’s cliffs and caves with Cameron, aka Cambo, Smith, and I’m completely blown away.

I feel like I’ve been dropped smack, bang into the middle of one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels as we paddle deeper into the cave, gasping as we pass gleaming icicle-shaped formations hanging from the roof.

“This is what I call Stalactite Cave,” says Cambo. “It has two entrances and is more than 300ft long.

“Check out all the giant stalactites hanging from the ceiling at the end of the tunnel. And there are loads of carvings in here, with the earliest dating back to 1860.”

Inside one of the caves. Picture: Cameron Smith.

Green ceiling

Another mesmerising, magical cave, more than 400ft long, has an impressive, vivid green ceiling and the walls have an eerie maroon tint.

Again, this cave, which Cambo calls “The Creepy Ballroom”, is festooned with hundreds of stalactites. It forks off into two passages which both boast pebbly underground beaches.

As we drift along, gazing up, around, and down into the crystal clear waters which teem with thousands, if not millions, of tiny fish, we hear the sea sort of mumbling and gurgling. It’s a tad unnerving, and completely surreal.

Isn’t there a worry that we might get trapped inside the caves and cut off by high tide? Cambo assures that no, there’s not.

He knows what he’s doing and isn’t about to put us in any risk.

He knows the cliffs and caves like the back of his hand, having been exploring all the hidden nooks and crannies in the area since he was a young lad.

Intrepid explorer

“As a teenager, about 25 years ago, I started exploring with friends,” he tells me.

“This including climbing, scrambling and caving which then turned into cliff jumping.”

Magic and mesmerising! Picture: Cameron Smith.

Before the pandemic, Cambo worked as a wedding guitarist but when Covid-19 hit and work dried up, he spent hours checking out “every single crack and cave” from Arbroath to Lunan Bay, taking photos of his trips and posting them online.

Passion to profession

He took the opportunity to turn his passion into his profession after friends started asking him to take them out for tours.

Before long he was being inundated with requests from people wanting to head out to explore the vast labyrinth of caves, and so he started up Arbroath Cliff Tours.

He’s since spent more than 1500 hours exploring via kayak and has safely taken out almost 600 guests.

“There are around 12 caves and some in particular are absolutely breathtaking,” he says.

History of smuggling

“There’s a rich history of smuggling in Arbroath – boats would come into the caves and hide all the booze, tobacco and illegal stuff.

“There’s a cave I call ‘Smuggler’s cave’ which has a long entrance via the sea and was used for smuggling in the 18th century.

“A farmhand could make more money in one night smuggling than during a whole month doing farm work. If the ships sold goods in the caves then they didn’t have to pay taxes to the UK government.”

Gayle and two Canadian visitors inside a secret underground cave. Picture: Cameron Smith.

Another highlight of the trip is visiting ‘Mermaid’s Kirk’, a fabulous swimming spot reached by kayak via a giant tunnel.

We stop here for a wee picnic and skim stones. Cambo is great at this, as are the two Canadians who’ve joined us. I, however, am dreadful.

Gayle can’t resist a wee pose. Picture: Cameron Smith.

I stroll along the secluded beach, mesmerised by sea glass and vast array of pebbles in all the colours of the rainbow. Just wow.


There’s also ‘The Blowhole’ – a large hole in a rock which has been created by the sea.

It’s not ‘blowing’ today but Cambo says in rough weather than water can shoot 50ft up and out of the hole.

There’s apparently also a cave under it where the water glows green in the right conditions.

Wildlife wonders

As well as exploring this vast network of cliffs and caves, we spot birds galore – seagulls, cormorants, shags, guillemots and razorbills.

And there’s a good chance anyone who goes on a trip might see bottlenose dolphins, but they’re not coming out to play today.

Passing the Deil’s Heid. Picture: Cameron Smith.

Our tour takes us out past Carlingheugh Bay and the ‘Deil’s Heid’, an impressive red sandstone sea stack resembling a devil’s head.

There’s also a rock formation which looks rather like a gorilla, and a curious abandoned cliff house with the remains of a rope ladder leading up to it.

I’ve been desperate to get on one of Cambo’s trips all year – they’re hugely popular and you need to book well ahead.

He hopes to carry on running them well into the colder months but it depends on demand – and whether anyone fancies kayaking in the depths of winter!

Kayaking into a cave.

Now is a brilliant time to check them out and the only thing Cambo asks is that you’re confident in water, have a decent level of fitness, are over 16 years old (although he’s thinking of lowering this age) and under a certain weight.

If you fancy going solo, you can join him in the two-person kayak.

Just look at the colour of the water!
  • Arbroath’s sea caves are extreme examples of erosion – vast caverns created by millions of years of waves wearing on rock.
  • Arbroath Cliff Tours offers a 1.5 hour sunrise tour, two hour “quickie tour”, or a three hour adventure tour. Kayaks, wetsuits, wetboots, dry bags, phone cases, buoyancy aids and head torches are provided.