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.
For the best rockpooling, try to arrive an hour or so before low tide, giving you two or three hours of safe viewing.
SAFETY FIRST: Watch the tides and always make sure that you have a clear way out.
10 of the best sites for rockpooling in the UK
- Loch na Keal, Isle of Mull, Scotland
- North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland. Also visit the Scottish Seabird Centre.
- Cresswell Shore NR, Northumberland, Northumberland Wildlife Trust organises rockpooling events here.
- Portrush NR, County Antrim, N Ireland. Also visit the indoor rockpool at the Portrush Countryside Centre.
- Allihies beach, near Castletownbere, County Cork, Ireland
- Caswell Bay and Port Eynon, Gower peninsula, South Wales
- Seven Sisters Country Park, East Sussex.
- Broad Ledge, near Charmouth, Dorset. Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre organises rockpool rambles and fossil forays.
- Wembury beach, Devon. Wembury Marine Centre has displays about marine life and offers rockpool rambles.
- Helford Passage, near Helford, Cornwall