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Dunbar harbour

Alternative Names: Johnstone's hole, The gripes

Type of Dive: Good shore dive with plenty to see and photograph.

Suggested Experience: Open Water and up.

Travel directions: Drive along A1 and take the turnoff for Dunbar. Follow signs to Harbour. 

Parking directions: Parking in and around the harbour, best over the harbour bridge, with less of a walk.

Dunbar harbour car park

From Edinburgh: It’s 32 miles 45 minutes from the end of the M8 at Edinburgh if there is no traffic on the by-pass Google   

From Glasgow: 76 miles 1 Hr 30 minutes Google

Lat & Long: N56.0062N  W-2.5177W   Postcode  EH42 1HX  Google

Tides:  Tide tables  Magic seaweed

Site entry/exit There are three ways into the water here we have tried. A shore entry off the rocks at the East side of the main harbour to the North into the sea. Fairly shallow slope into the sea, which can make entry a bit tricky when slippy. The second entry is on the West side of the harbour, down the back of the wall to the North and into the sea at “ Pebble Beach ”. There are no pebbles here, just large kelp covered rocks. Mainly used it for the exit as the premier entry is via a giant stride entry off the harbour wall at the harbour exit/entry. There is a big sign saying specifically to divers not to block the harbour entry, however, it is not too specific, and we have done this a few times, at lower tides, when there have been no boats around. Once in the water move into the harbour wall and descend down so you are out of the way quickly. The drop is a good 10ft or so, with enough water underneath at fairly low tides – however, you should make your own judgement and I can not pay for any broken legs. The further round you go the clearer you are from the actual harbour entry, but the rougher the terrain is. Also, I’d go for a good clear stride out! 

Dunbar harbour8

Dunbar harbour1Dunbar harbour2

                              Before the barrier                                                Now you have to walk around the barrier. 

At the entry point to Johnson's hole, there is metal holds attached to the wall to aid descent to the beach. At high tide, the entry is easy, but due to the boulders a bit awkward at lower tide.

Underwater directions:  To the north of the harbour wall is a “lagoon” of protected water with barrier rocks out to the open sea. From the entry at the East you can swim out to the north towards the rocks and return by the same route, we have aimed at the Yettes, but haven’t made it that far and back, but other reports I have seen say it is possible. Depth out at the Yettes it is reported to be 15-18m. From the harbour wall jump, you should follow the wall round to the north and back east into the lagoon. If you continue hugging the wall you will return back to the Pebble Beach for a shore exit. This route isn’t long enough for a full dive and there are various options for swimming around including round Johnstone's Hole to one of the deeper points, but only around 11-13m depending on the tide. Alternatively or additionally you can carry on east past Pebble Beach. Probably possible to carry on down to the east entry/exit point, but only tried this once and got too caught up in looking around and ended up surfacing only half way down – not a great idea as you then have to surface swim one way or other – exit up over the harbour wall would only be feasible for SAS types and probably only if you left your dive kit! Certainly possible to swim from east to west entry-exit or another way in one dive When we have dived here we have found the visibility pretty clear compared to the surrounding areas – however that just maybe luck rather than local conditions – although we have put it down to being fairly sheltered. There is normally a fair amount of life here, lots of crustaceans and a fair amount of small fishes, again probably attracted by the shelter. All in all, this is a very nice dive site, a good selection of sea life to be found, with a theme park level entry. It is not a difficult dive site, but exit can be hard work 

Site Hazards: The entry from Pebble Beach can be very slippy, particularly if the tide is out and entry/exits through large slippy kelp covered boulders. and ensure sufficient depth – although it has always looked okay when we have been there. Make sure to step out far enough!  Both entry/exit at the West involves a fair walk in full kit from the parking area. Haven’t come over major underwater hazards myself, but have seen very rough wave conditions here in the winter when it is clearly impossible to enter and exit. Again haven’t experienced major currents underwater, but clearly, the tides are affecting the Forth around Dunbar and will be worse if further exposed to the more open sea. The entry at the East side is okay but can be slippy with some waves coming in there. If you enter by the harbour wall beware of boats.

Air & Nitrox: Edinburgh dive centre  

Nearest Public phone: At the harbour

Mobile Network service: Fine   

Other comments: Toilets

PubBlack bull, Dolphin, Eagle.

Café  Probably on Dunbar high street and certainly takeaways there open till at least 11 pm  

Revision: 3

Thanks To: Geoff Tervet for pics and additional info.

Links SQSAC      

Created by: Peter M 

Date: 2 May 2007

Surface Photos: Contact me This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

U/Water Photos: By Chris Holland

Dead mens fingersDead mens fingers

Divesite map: By  John Nicolson

Dive map for Dunbar harbour

Dive Report: 7/7/00 PeterM    Jennifer and I had a nice 50 minute dive along the back of the harbour wall from the east corner. Viz was quite cloudy, lots of kelp and various crustacean. One big lobster decided that it wasn't having us stick a torch in its hole and came back out again. However, making up for not managing the Farnes trip this year, the last 25 minutes of the dive had one curious seal swimming around, over and behind us, including the mandatory fin nibble. She watched for another couple of minutes as we got out the water too. 

Dive Report: Comment in the box below.