The Gut is best seen at low tide, when the sound of birds calling and the trickle of water through the rich, muddy ooze combine into an experience that sticks in the memory.
This is a mudflat and saltmarsh area protected from the open sea by the long bar of sand dune. It’s a part of the coast rich in food for wading- and water-birds: oystercatchers and redshank are often seen here along with more unusual seasonal migrants such as knot and pintail duck.
Tread carefully - the marsh is fragile
Visitors need to tread carefully on the fragile marsh, or better still, view it only from the edges, as pressure from human feet or horses can lead to permanent damage. Saltmarsh is made up of many different sedges and grasses, each mixture unique to its precise area, and it is very slow-growing. One heavy hoof-print can rupture the marsh, leading to its fragmentation and eventually to its destruction.
This fragile and endangered landscape and the many species it attracts have contributed to Culbin’s designation as a site of national and international natural significance. The unusual name may simply reflect its sheltered, protected softness.
A series of poles protrudes from the mud at regular intervals right across the Gut. The poles were placed there to discourage enemy gliders from landing in advance of an enemy invasion feared from Norway. Find out more about Culbin in WWII.
The changing landscape
While the Gut was created long after prehistoric times, this has always been a coastline rich in shellfish, as the mesolithic and later shell middens (piles of empty shells, their contents long since enjoyed) found inland reveal. The seat here at the Gut is located in a great position to look out over the mudflats and reflect on the many changes in the landscape and what that has meant for Culbin-dwellers through time.
With increasingly high tides, stormy weather and rising sea levels, it is hard to say whether in the longer term the Gut will remain a permanent feature of Culbin. Like Buckie Loch and Findhorn Bay, the coastline of Culbin has always been moving and changing, and as the climate changes, nothing will remain the same forever.