North of the East Lothian village of Gullane is Gullane Bay, a mile and a half of beautifully sandy beach which faces north and west out into the Firth of Forth. The bay is backed by the impressive sand dunes of Gullane Bents, while at its northern end a patch of woodland separates it from Muirfield, which has hosted the Open Championship no fewer than sixteen times, most recently in 2013.
At its northern end, Gullane Bay terminates at an area marked on the map as "Black Rocks", and the observant map reader will notice the Ordnance Survey have indicated the nearby remains of a chapel. This is St Patrick's Chapel, and finding it makes an excellent objective for an enjoyable walk along the coast. Be aware, though, that the phrase "it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive" does tend to apply. Much of the fun of St Patrick's Chapel is finding it, because, especially when the vegetation is in full summer growth, once you have found it, there is not a huge amount to see. It is also worth remembering that many who set out to find it never actually do, as it is well hidden and comes complete with a more obvious decoy to trap the unwary.
The starting point for anyone wanting to visit St Patrick's Chapel should be the car park at Gullane Bents. From here you can follow the beach, or the path through the dunes behind the beach, for a mile around the bay to the point where the beach runs out and forms a mild headland. The views from here are sublime. The northern edge of Gullane is perched on a hillside behind you, while across the Firth of Forth is Fife, complete with the obvious prominences of East Lomond and West Lomond. To the east the bay curves round to Gullane Point.
Once the beach runs out, you follow the coast path for a short distance further until you encounter the much more intimate sandy bay illustrated in the photo below, part of the area marked on the map as Black Rocks. It's worth remembering this view, because the chapel itself is well out of sight in a hollow surrounded by trees on two sides and rampant vegetation on the other two. Its location when we visited was given away by the meeting point between the darker colour of the tree cover and the grey-green vegetation of bushes, possibly sea buckthorn.
We only spotted this indicator of the location after visiting, and only actually found the chapel thanks to our GPS, which made it obvious that we had gone too far and promoted a search through the dense vegetation and woodland that lies inland from the path. It was as well we didn't go too much further along the path before realising our mistake. If you look online for images of St Patrick's Chapel you can find pictures of a stone ruin standing in an open location close to the coast path. This is apparently not far beyond Black Rocks, and we suspect that if we'd found it before being pulled by the GPS to the correct location we might have come away having visited the wrong ruin.
The real thing can be seen in the images on this page. Up to a point, anyway, because nature really is making a determined effort to reconquer the site. If it ever succeeds, it will be for the second time. It is known that St Patrick's Chapel was in use in the early 1500s, but some time later it was inundated by sand and covered by vegetation, and subsequently lost for a number of centuries. In the early 1900s the chapel's existence was noticed on an old estate plan, and efforts to find it led to an excavation that uncovered the remains you can see today.
This is a great walk, and a destination that is truly "Undiscovered" and genuinely hard to find really added to the experience for us.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Grid Ref: NT 483 844