Scottish Wildlife logo
SWT Membership Link
Scottish Wildlife logo

Dumbarnie Links Reserve is a small remnant of calcareous dune grassland in the centre of Largo Bay on the south coast of Fife.

This is a rich wildlife habitat that used to be much more extensive along the eastern seaboard of Scotland.

The site was purchased in 1998 by the Scottish Wildlife Trust with help from Fife Council, and is open to the public at all times.

Access to the Reserve

The reserve can be reached on foot from Lower Largo along the beach or via the Fife Coastal Path (1 mile); or from Shell Bay in the east along the beach (1 miles).

A footpath passes through the reserve behind the main dune, and together with the former railway line provides a circular walk round the reserve.

Dunes are very vulnerable to erosion; horse riders should use the beach, dogs should be kept on the lead, and care should be taken not to start fires.

PRINT OUT a copy of this Web page and take it with you when you visit the reserve.

Back to the Top of the Page


dumbarnie C Albert Lawrie

Dumbarnie Links

Largo Bay

NO 441 022
O.S. Sheet 59

Dunbarnie view across the reserve to the north
(C)Albert Lawrie


The reserve shows a typical range of duneland habitats:

  • The foredune just above the tideline, colonised by sea couch-grass, sea rocket and oraches. These can tolerate the constantly moving sand and regrow each summer after being covered by sand during winter storms.
  • The main dune ridge of unstable sand rising steeply from the beach and dominated by marram grass and the broader leaved lyme grass.
  • A hummocky hinterland of more stable grassland covering most of the reserve, with a wealth of flowers throughout the summer.
  • Hollows ('slacks') with short, rabbit-grazed turf and moss, which become flooded in winter to form fresh-water 'winter lochs' as the underground water-table rises.

  • The grassland is rich in lime because of the fragments of seashells in the sand. This enables the growth of many plants that need these special conditions. Cowslips (and locally primroses) are abundant in spring, followed in summer by purple milk-vetch, meadow crane's-bill, common and greater knapweed, viper's bugloss and many more. Along with more widespread species, about 200 different flowering plants, including about 30 grasses, grow on the reserve.

    Skylarks and meadow pipits nest, while buzzards and kestrels are frequently seen as they hunt for rabbits and voles. The adjacent shore (not part of the reserve) has a mosaic of rock, sand, mud and pools, with a rich diversity of seaweeds and animal life. This provides good feeding for waders such as curlew, redshank, turnstone and oystercatcher. Offshore, terns and gannets can be watched in summer and a good variety of northern wildfowl in winter, including long-tailed duck, red-throated diver and all three species of scoter. Eiders are present all year and used to nest on the links.
    Dumbarnie Waxcap (C) Albert Lawrie

    Butterflies, including common blue, small copper and meadow brown, and a great variety of land snails represent just a tiny fraction of the vast diversity of insects and other invertebrate animals characteristic of dune grasslands. So far about 1100 kinds of insects and 230 other invertebrates have been recorded.

    Dumbarnie Waxcap (C) Albert Lawrie

    Historical Perspective

    In the past these links would probably have been lightly grazed by cattle or sheep, and the rabbits would have been an important source of fur; and meat.

    The railway line, which forms the northern boundary, operated from 1857 to 1965.

    A line of re-aligned anti-tank blocks, dating from the Second World War, now separates the reserve from the grazed land to the east. Another legacy of the war is the pair of concrete pill-boxes.

    Dumbarnie main slack (C) Albert Lawrie

    Dumbarnie main slack (C) Albert Lawrie
    Dumbarnie Vipers Bugloss (C) Gordon Corbet


    The variety of plants depends upon grazing, but at present the rabbits are sufficiently numerous that additional grazing by domestic stock is not necessary.

    Dumbarnie Vipers Bugloss
    (C) Niall Corbet
    Why not visit another of our reserves?
    Choose from the drop-down list below
    and click on your choice.