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The harbour entrance at Dunbar, to the east of Edinburgh, is guarded by what was once a grand castle. The castle may have fallen into a state of disrepair recently, but the diving beyond the harbour walls is as good as ever.
From Dunbars small inner harbour RIBs and inflatables can be launched two hours either side of high tide. At lower states of tide you would have to take them 10m across the sand over a bar into the large main harbour, but even this can dry out at low tide.
If you time it right to launch a boat, an offshore pinnacle and three wrecks are waiting to be investigated, but shore diving is superb, too, as you might guess by looking out from the old cavalry fort at the south end of the harbour towards the five small islands just offshore.
Dunbar lies just off the A1, 25 miles east of Edinburgh. It has plenty of hotels and B&Bs and Cromwell Marine dive shop and air station at the old harbour.
For a warm-up dive you could try Harbour Reef, a slab of rock that juts out into the sea, extending the south entrance wall of the harbour. This dive is quite shallow, so it is best to do it at high tide.
You can circumnavigate the point in about 20 minutes, so this is an ideal site for a night or training dive. Stick close to the reef wall and do not stray into the harbour entrance channel. The depth increases from an initial 5m and walls of orange and white dead mens fingers appear.
Soon you come across a blowhole forming a vertical shaft 1.5m in diameter that leads to the surface. Here butterfish can be seen feeding on mussels, and cowries are also in evidence.
At the tip of the point large boulders slope to about l0m, and here congers can be found. Follow the wall onto the pebble beach to complete the circuit or continue your dive to encompass Johnstones Hole. This is a more substantial dive around a large rock 50m out from the pebble beach. Descending on its shoreward side you drop into 6m of water onto sand. Pink shrimps and flatfish abound, and brightly coloured juvenile lumpsuckers stick to the kelp fronds. Multi-coloured nudibranchs and octopus can also be found here.
Swimming clockwise around the rock, depth increases to 13m. Walls of vivid dead mens fingers light up the scene, and soon you find the cave that gives the dive its name.
It cuts about 5m into the rock, tapering all the way, and lobsters and other shellfish compete for space in the recesses at the back. Above, cod lie at strange angles in crevices in the roof.
But the main attraction comes as you continue round and swim into a sheer-sided narrow gully cut into the rock, its walls reaching to the surface. This opens up into an 8m deep amphitheatre covered in sponges and anemones, great for macro photographers, although larger creatures also frequent the area.
Directly opposite the entrance to the gully a crack can be seen running up the cliff wall. Follow this up to 3m and into the cave there and you will usually be greeted by a big conger or cod, whichever is in residence at the time!
Outside the gully again large boulders provide a home for colourful ballan wrasse. On a night dive here I found the mother of all lobsters and an anglerfish.
You can circumnavigate the rock only at high tide, so after exploring the boulders it is a good idea to return to the pebble beach by retracing your route.
The entry to the beach is narrow and obscured by cliffs on both sides, so if you do attempt a night dive here and are unfamiliar with the underwater terrain, it helps to have a shore party to guide you back in. Also note that tides can occasionally be strong on the seaward side of Johnstones Hole.

Further offshore lies a chain of four small islands known as The Yetts. Depth here is 15-18m, depending on the tide. If not treated as a boat dive the Yetts certainly make an energetic shore dive, because of the brisk tidal streams that can sometimes run around here. But those streams do ensure that life covers every square centimetre of rock.
Between the two middle islands a narrow gully runs for about 15m straight through the rock. Its sheer walls provide homes for edible crabs and squat lobsters and at one point mussels. A marked improvement is noted in the visibility where these animals filter the water. I once came across two squid here, but they disliked my camera and stayed out of range.
If you have a boat and can launch from a tidal harbour, the wrecks that lie offshore are well worth visiting. Slack-water diving is recommended, and this applies half-an-hour either side of high and low water.
U77E is a World War One mine-laying submarine that was found in 1993 and should be respected as a war grave. There are also reports that live ordnance has been spotted there. She lies in 40-45m of water depending on the state of the tide, her bows raised to an angle of about 30*. Her stern is either buried in the mud or has been dispersed, which is why the vessel has not been conclusively identified.
The wreck sinks into the silt just aft of her deck gun, where the rotten planking of her raised walkway can be seen, and a big conger lives. You can see the eels entire length through the gaps in the planking, just aft of the conning tower with its two periscopes.
Covered in orange and white plumose anemones, this makes a dramatic scene backlit by the green water. Moving further towards the bow, you pass locked hatches and raised deck-planking that shelters many large fish.
The bow, with its hydroplanes each side, lies proud of the seabed, forming a recess in which a sizeable ling hides. On the port side an anchor winch and the remains of a single torpedo tube can be seen.
The wreck is fairly small, which means she can be explored easily in one dive but also makes her hard to find. A magnetometer is a big help.
The Cyclops is bigger, a 55m barge-dredger lying in 40-42m of water. She sank in heavy seas in 1924 on her way to be scrapped and is almost upside-down, her bucket and gantry system still clearly visible.
She makes an easy dive during which you are always surrounded by voluminous schools of bib. These are unusual for Scots divers to see, as the intact wrecks most often dived are on the west coast, where bib are rare. The Cyclops must suit them, because they grow to considerable size here.
Apart from the depth and tide, the only other hazards are a trawl net wrapped around one end of the barge and, in late summer, huge lions-mane jellyfish that drift in the strong tides, making deco stops very interesting!

The River Gary sank on her way to London in 1893 with a cargo of coal. She is lying in 25m of water and is now well broken-up.
The wreck is huge and was found only eight years ago. Back then I noticed a porthole on her, and a local diver retrieved the bell. Unfortunately, after her appearance on the wreck scene in such comparatively shallow waters she has been ravaged by divers who have removed all the non-ferrous scrap.
She is still a good dive. Her boilers stand 6m proud of the seabed, at her bows the winches can be seen and her anchors run out over the seabed, making good photographic props. They are covered in encrusting life and soft corals and often surrounded by big pollack and schooling fish.
The underwater pinnacle is Siccar Rock, the uppermost part of which comes within 6m of the surface. It is marked on the chart as the area lying a mile off Siccar Point and forms a plateau about the size of a football pitch at about 16m.
On the landward side a cliff face drops steeply to the sea floor at 32m. Elsewhere it falls in a series of drops to give a terraced effect.
On my first dive at this site I descended the shotline into what I thought was a kelp forest but turned out to be a gigantic school of pollack, their tails swaying like fronds in the current. The schooling fish here are the big attraction but the walls are covered in orange soft corals and large red dahlia anemones.
On the plateau area of the pinnacle large cracks and gullies seem to provide an ideal habitat for brightly coloured nudibranchs that feed on the hydroids growing in the shallower areas on the kelp. There are numerous ballan wrasse here too.
Every crack and crevice on this pinnacle seems to be home to something, whether it be a lobster or a wolf fish. For shipping it might be a feature to be avoided, but to the sea life it appears highly desirable.
l For more information on diving at Dunbar, call Cromwell Marine dive centre on 01368 863354.



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