I went climbing the other day and I loved it. Beautiful place, inspiring lines, great bunch of people.
I’ll even tell you a little about it later, but first, I’m going to have a moan, as usual.
Why oh why do Edinburgh climbers never talk about Fastcastle? These sea cliffs, including the sea stack of The Souter, are less than an hour’s drive down the coast and offer a far better climbing experience than any of the other central belt venues I’ve so far visited. They’d be even better with a bit of traffic to clean the routes.
Like pancakes or banana bread, nobody seems to be making enough of Fastcastle. I know the Highlands offer great climbing, but the weather is so often crap and from Edinburgh the good bits are at least three hours’ drive away. People keep telling me how good Diabaig is. I’m sure it’s great, but I’m tempted to reply that Siurana’s got some pretty decent climbing too, and it’s easier to get to. Anyway, back to The Souter.
My visit was a flying one as we were late leaving, had to be back early, and a wrong turn made the walk in three times longer than it needed to be. Don’t do that, is my advice. If you go there (and you should, but I think we’ve established that by now), walk pretty much straight down towards the sea from the farm, and allow yourself all day - you won’t regret it.
The sea in this part of Berwickshire is crystal clear and the rock architecture inspiring. It’s basically similar to the Culm Coast in Devon, and the main climbing area around The Souter is kind of a poor man’s Lower Sharpnose, with fins of rock sticking out into the drink. The rock is similar too, a little snappy on the surface but basically solid.
On our whistle stop tour, I chose to jump on a route called “Take it to the Limpets” because I liked the cut of its jib. Finger holds and the guidance of a pair of faint cracks led to a half height jug, which I luxuriated on while contemplating the blank, lichenous wall above. Ali pointed out that an E2 variant went left, saying “go for the line, not the grade”. You can’t argue with that, so I arranged some quantity-based protection and took a pretty straight version between the two so-called climbs. It had a rather pleasing committing reach for an undercut on it.
Then we jumped on The Souter itself, via the original route, which for situation and all that has to be one of the best HVSs in southern Scotland. At the top you feel like you should hang around and take in the view, savour being on the tip of this giant geographic phallus, but we had to get a car back to someone’s girlfriend so we just abbed off and left. If you do want to hang around there, it’s probably best to take some sandwiches up, because it could get a bit boring if you’ve nothing to do.
So there you are, don’t just make pancakes once a year. They’re cheap, they’re easy and they taste good. I like mine with some fried banana, tossed in the same pan with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Try it. And climb The Souter.