Low tide can be a rockpooler's delight revealing many hidden coastal treasures.
Head to the coast in summer to revel in rockpools – maybe the most fun you can have as a nature-lover.
If, like me, you were brought up inland, rockpools will always be magical places, their mysterious depths thronged with bizarre creatures.
Behind curtains of green and brown algae, pincered shore crabs lurk and glassy prawns hover. There are fish here, too: slim, pale sand gobies; dark, eel-like rocklings; and, along northern shores, butterfish, as slippery as their name.
Find a quiet Scottish beach and you may not be the only rockhound – otters may also be about, snuffling through the larger pools.
On the rocky shores at Loch na Keal on Mull, I’ve even seen toad tadpoles in freshwater pools, just a few metres from the salty ones.
Here are my 10 favourite rockpooling sites: at some, you can join guided walks, but there are hundreds more locations to choose from – half the fun is finding your own.
SAFETY FIRST: Watch the tides and always make sure that you have a clear way out.
10 top spots
For the best rockpooling, try to arrive an hour or so before low tide, giving you two or three hours of safe viewing.
1. Loch na Keal, Isle of Mull, Scotland
Also visit the indoor rockpool at the Portrush Countryside Centre. Call 028 7082 3600.
5. Allihies beach, near Castletownbere, County Cork, Ireland
6. Caswell Bay and Port Eynon, Gower peninsula, South Wales
9. Wembury beach, Devon
Wembury Marine Centre
has displays about marine life and offers rockpool rambles. Call 01752 862538.
10. Helford Passage, near Helford, Cornwall