Stop Coul Links Golf Course


Save our SSSI​​

Embo beach

NOTE: Further Environmental Information has been submitted to plug holes in the golf hydrological assessment. New objections can now be made and older ones can be updated. The closing date is 25th May 2018.


You do not need to be interested in wildlife to appreciate Coul (but it helps!)

The Beach

This is 4 km long and only accessed easily at each end. So, in summer, you are usually alone in the middle. A vibrant white sandy expanse with a sea rocket strand at your foot, the beautiful hills of east Sutherland to the north and the sound of Moray Firth waves lapping at your feet. The raucous oyster catchers will dispute your right to be there. This is open wilderness, as good as or more impressive than the beach at remote Sandwood Bay in NW Sutherland which now has too many visitors.

The Dunes

Change all that by clambering up into the dune interior at Coul. There is no huge boulder seawall here to stop you, at present. You enter a different world. It is marram-clad hummocks and dune-willow hollows, honey-scented from meadowsweet in the huge dune slack extending for more than 1 km. Dry in summer, it floods deep most winters and helps support many of the wintering and passage migrant birds which Loch Fleet is famous for.

You might be barked at, not by walked dogs but by roe deer. There are frogs and toads moving around your feet. The colours are stunning from the summer flowers, from different orchids to many vetches to devil’s bit scabious and grass-of-Parnassus.

If you do this in early morning, the air above is alive with skylark song and the swoops of swallows and house martins in very big numbers. The calling cuckoos are exploiting those skylarks. The early morning dew reveals a myriad of spider web, testament to the wealth of insect life throughout this interior. On the wetter ground you will disturb snipe and in early morning you will hear their drumming flight.

Two worlds, one crest

These two wildernesses, beach and dune interior, are separated by a continuous ridge, the top of the foredune. It is breached only by the Cluin Burn close to Embo. Generations of children have played at the mouth of the Cluin. Their chatter, whoops of delight and trampling on the dune face has enabled wind and marram grass to build the distinctive Big Dune, over 15 metres high. A golf hole and tees on the Big Dune and beside the Cluin now threaten to extinguish all that child-space in the wild.

Walk the ridge and your trampling will encourage kidney vetch. This is the host plant for small blue butterfly at Coul. It is on the wing along the Coul dune crest every year, for a few summer weeks. Two golf holes and tees will go in just behind the foredune crest. The past and present levels of recreation at Coul have been essential for maintaining biodiversity and dune-forming processes. This contrasts with landowner mismanagement elsewhere which has diminished the place (e.g. non-native planting of Lodgepole pine, winter feeding of cattle on dung-spattered ‘sacrifice’ ground). Golf will only make it worse, a lot worse.

The golf development will immediately destroy 8.7% of Coul SSSI habitat and condemn much of the remainder to a steady biodiversity decline over a decade or so. It will then be just like other parts of Sutherland’s Golf Coast, ringed by boulder walls defying a rising sea level. The thrill of wilderness, one which responds and adapts to the rising sea, will be lost. Forever.

The habitats and hundreds of native Coul species are described in technical documents elsewhere (but not accurately in the developers Environmental Statement). Coul deserves its protected status because it has a very wide range of coastal habitats packed into a small area. Other dune sites in Scotland and the UK must be much larger in size before reaching the habitat and species biodiversity achieved at Coul. It is a remarkable place.

Coul Links dunes non-SSSI grass-of-Parnassus, creeping willow, devil’s-bit scabious, thyme, germander speedwell, yarrow, lady’s bedstraw, bulbous buttercup, bird’s-foot trefoil, white clover, a sedge and sheep’s fescue (C) Andrew Weston