Walking to the beach along country tracks and paths flanked by hedgerows, buckets, spades and picnic in tow, always brings back happy memories of childhood summer holidays.
Spotting golden sand and blue ocean across green fields always prompted a final scurry down to the shoreline where boots and socks were swiftly kicked off as hiking succumbed to splashy paddling.
Often it was the best way to reach the best beaches. These days, however, in a society geared to convenience, car parks close to the coastline tend to proliferate.
Lunan Bay – one of Scotland’s most scenic and most popular stretches of sand – is no exception, the northern portion of the beach just a stone’s throw from parking backing on to the dunes.
Accessing the quieter southern section, however, calls for a little more commitment. One option is to wade across the mouth of the Lunan Water (easier at low tide and not for the faint hearted at this time of year).
Another is to walk in from Inverkeilor, a very pleasant route crossing farmland before dipping to Corbie Knowe, a cluster of cabins, caravans and chalets overshadowed by brooding cliffs at the south end of the beach.
On a bright, dry winter’s day the bay is every bit as exhilarating and enchanting as it is during the heady days of summer and, setting out from Inverkeilor’s village hall well wrapped against the chilly morning air, I soon left the community behind, sauntering between fields and past scattered rural steadings.
Beyond the farm sheds of Newbarns, a rutted, puddled track dips to a handful of hidden houses at New Mill from where, with the whiff of sea air filtering into my nostrils, I strode towards Corbie Knowe.
The tight-knit encampment sprung up around a single cottage in the 1950s and 60s when planning rules were less stringent and, while it appears chaotic, the cabins and trailers in this cherished little community are all neat and tidy and lovingly maintained.
Passing whitewashed wartime tank trap blocks incorporated into one of the gardens, I wandered out on to the beach, turning north and tramping the harder sand closer to the lapping waves.
Progressing along the beach, oystercatchers wading through the surf, I spotted the prominent ruin of Red Castle, on higher ground to the left.
Below, lurking in the dunes, is Redcastle Hide, a wooden hut used by birdwatchers. Festooned with information on the bay’s birdlife, it is also a handy shelter if the weather turns sour. Close by is a well-preserved wartime pillbox.
The emergence of the Lunan Water from the west marked the end of my time on the beach and I headed inland, a track passing the former Redcastle Salmon Fisheries station, now a family home.
Just on from it, a sturdy metal gate opens on to a path that climbs steeply to the castle. Perched atop a promontory, the red sandstone stronghold was established in the 12th century by King William the Lion. Besieged in 1759, it was in ruins by 1770.
Now in imminent danger of collapse, the remains consist of a 13th century fragment of wall and the rather precarious stump of a 15th century tower. Affording modest shelter, it is nevertheless a fine spot to sit and cast eyes over Lunan Bay and the rolling breakers of the North Sea.
1. Cross road to school and bear right along track to left of bridge over railway then swing left by park to cottages.
2. Turn right, cross railway and follow path east. At next junction, go left (signed Ethie).
3. Cross road, follow surfaced track (signed Ethie) up past Newbarns Farm and continue east, descending to New Mill.
4. Turn left and follow track to Corbie Knowe. Where track forks at 10mph sign, bear right through Corbie Knowe to Lunan Bay.
5. Walk north along beach to outflow of Lunan Water.
6. Bear left up track, passing round locked gate.
7. Go right through metal pedestrian gate and ascend path to castle. Continue through castle ruins, descending path by woodland to road and turn left along road.
8. Turn right and follow road to Inverkeilor.
9. Entering Inverkeilor, turn left (signed Ethie) along track to point 2. Turn right to return to village hall.
Distance: 9km/5½ miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Grading: Easy low-level walk following tracks, paths and minor roads through farmland and along beach with short ascent to castle ruin. Stout footwear recommended as some track sections can be muddy/puddled
Start/finish: Inverkeilor Village Hall, Station Road, Inverkeilor (Grid ref: NO 667492)
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 54; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 382
Tourist Information: Harbour Visitor Centre, Fishmarket Quay, Arbroath DD11 1PS (Tel 01241 872609)
Public transport: Stagecoach’s X7 Coastrider and service 30 (Arbroath to Montrose) stop in Inverkeilor