Barns Ness, East Lothian: Pools teem with tiny creatures and fossilised coral demands attention – the whole place is dense with life, old and new

Out on the headland at Barns Ness, the strand is pitted with rockpools and slung with seaweed of all textures. Bladderwrack and fleecy gutweed and long-tailed oarweed and sugar kelp lie heaped upon one another, slick and slippery underfoot. The pools themselves seem empty on first approach, but after a minute’s silent watch they come to life: periwinkles inching almost imperceptibly along, shore crabs sidling from under rocks with a suspicious air, and – best of all – tiny hermit crabs in their pilfered shells, peeking shyly out, antennae waving.

We have spent a week here in the lighthouse cottages in Barns Ness, waking to the sound of crashing waves beyond the wall. The weather has been temperamental, so when the sun appears we rush out the door and down to the shoreline. Today the clouds are strung high and thin in the sky, and the sun casts a great halo around itself – a ring of light that encircles the lighthouse too, and the peregrine falcon that perches on its rail.

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