Natural history series. Miranda Krestovnikoff dives into a marine reserve off St Abbs and Neil Oliver travels to North Berwick to visit the Bass Rock.
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This is one of the most spectacular
wildlife reserves anywhere in the UK.
The gateway to the reserve
is the sleepy little fishing village of St Abbs.
The dramatic cliffs are impressive enough
but it's the underwater landscape that's so special.
It's Scotland's only official Marine Reserve.
Miranda Krestovnikoff is about to do one of the best dives in the UK.
The Marine Reserve starts here at St Abbs Head,
and stretches about a mile out to sea,
and then all the way down the coastline to Eyemouth,
which is just visible behind the headland.
A driving force behind the Marine Reserve's protected status
is writer, and underwater photographer, Lawson Wood.
This is just such a beautiful spot.
What makes this place so special? Why is it unique?
We actually have a colder water current from the Artic,
but we also have an arm of the warm waters off the Gulf Stream.
This has created a huge number of Marine habitats.
Where, exactly, are we diving? Can we actually see the spot from up here?
The rocks off of the end of the harbour here, these are just
the tips of a reef that runs around to a site we call Cathedral Rock.
It's actually two massive archways under the water,
-and that's where we're going to be going.
Cathedral Rock is only just beyond the harbour.
But it's one of the must-see dives in the UK.
'The visibility here is really good.'
Diving in these conditions is like swimming in a well-kept fish tank.
And being a protected area, there should be plenty of wildlife to spot.
Even what looks like a barren sea floor is a sub-aquatic Serengeti.
'The floor down here is just a carpet of brittlestars.'
'You can see them all feeding,
'with their arms raised up catching food as it flows by.'
Brittlestars gather in huge numbers for protection.
They link arms and intertwine to prevent strong currents
sweeping them away.
But huddling together doesn't always keep them safe.
There's a seven-arm starfish on the prowl.
It glides along the seabed with its hundreds of tube feet,
and it has an appetite for brittlestars.
'They're really scared.
'They're moving really fast.'
It's the incredible variety of life we're seeing on the approach
to Cathedral Rock that marks this as a unique gathering place.
A squat lobster is hiding his vivid colours among the rocks,
they're locals here, and in the Mediterranean.
'Just look at those colours.
'They are so vibrant. That lovely, iridescent blue.'
'Well, Miranda, look at this. We have an angler fish.'
St Abbs is a haven for the good, the bad and the ugly.
The angler fish is the kind of creature
that inspires tales of sea monsters.
This is one cunning fisherman.
Its frontal spine has evolved to look like food,
bait enticing victims towards its cavernous mouth.
Bigger angler fish can get really greedy.
Some have even been found with the remains of seabirds inside them.
'Usually these fish end up in fishermen's nets.'
'Yes, they're actually sold as monkfish.'
'I'd hate to be on the receiving end of a bite from that fish.'
We've reached the heart of Cathedral Rock.
Its great arches draw you in.
'Stunning archways, they are huge!'
These silent guardians have been here for millions of years,
but the creatures that live amongst them are far more fragile.
St Abbs is offered some protection by its Marine Reserve status,
but it's only policed by voluntary good will.
Surely it's time for the law to properly safeguard
more of the special environments around our coast.
We're heading towards North Berwick, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth.
A huge gash leading deep inland.
This maritime gateway has a formidable gatekeeper,
the Bass Rock.
Once upon a time, the site of one of Scotland's most notorious prisons.
From a distance, the island appears to be dusted with snow.
It's only on closer inspection
that you realise that its colouring comes from birds.
100,000 or so brilliant white gannets,
and their slightly less brilliant white droppings.
It's easy enough from the birds to get on and off of the Bass Rock,
but it's not so easy for me, which,
let's face it, is what made it such a a good prison.
Enemies of the state were sent to rot on the rock in the 17th century.
It holds a sinister fascination for me.
I've wanted to set foot on it for ages to get a taste
of its grim isolation.
In fact, this will be the third time I've tried to get out
to the Bass Rock while filming for Coast.
Rough seas have wrecked my plans every time.
Maybe today I'll be lucky.
I'm hitching a ride with Ian Baird
who works for the Scottish Seabird Centre.
-Neil, how are you doing?
-Very well. Off to the Rock?
-Absolutely, ready to go.
He's made the trip out to the rock many times,
but visiting the birds is never routine.
The gannets have all left for the winter,
but right now, their home base is looking idyllic.
Why do gannets like it out there?
We're in a really good fish area for them, plenty of food.
We've got an island away from the mainland,
so they don't have any land based predators to worry about.
They also need these big, high imposing cliffs.
The thermals that come up against the rocks give them that little
extra lift they need to take off.
As you well know, I've turned up at North Berwick three times
looking to get out there.
How do you fancy my chances today of actually stepping foot on it?
We'll see what it's like when we get out there, but the swell is already
bigger than we anticipated from the coastline so we'll just have to see.
If we do get on, do we face the prospect
-of being prisoners ourselves?
-I hope not!
Not able to get back on the boat?
It might happen, we'll just have to watch ourselves there!
It's over 300 years since prisoners were held on the rock.
The dungeons were buried long ago beneath the lighthouse.
A few remaining ruins blend into the cliffs.
To see any traces of the old prison
you have to actually set foot on the Rock.
Easier said than done.
We're about halfway out, and it's as if the Rock knows we're coming.
There's a dangerous swell building, and warnings of storm-force winds.
Before I know it, our skipper, Dougie, pulls the plug.
Time to turn back.
Yet again, the Rock has pushed me away.
That is one unwelcoming rock!
I know. Looking at this, you'd never believe what we'd just been out in.
It's still like that out there.
-I think it's perfect timing on my part.
-I don't think you're ever going to get onto the Rock!
-That's a jail!
I can't even break in, never mind break out!
Subtitling by Red Bee Media Ltd
Miranda Krestovnikoff dives into a spectacular marine reserve off St Abbs, one of Britain's outstanding sites for underwater wildlife. Neil Oliver travels up to North Berwick to visit the Bass Rock, once upon a time the site of one of Scotland's most notorious prisons.