THE COAST WITH THE MOST
The stunning scenery on display along East Lothian’s coastline and inland means that keen walkers or leisurely strollers are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful routes, says Jamie Dey
East Lothian’s coast is world class. All year round, visitors are attracted to the golden sands, unspoilt dunes and wildlife, never mind the gold standard golf courses which are scattered across the county. Meanwhile the inland scenery offers historic castles, wooded dells and an expanse of high moorland to explore. John Muir, the great environmentalist known as the father of national parks, was born in Dunbar before making his mark in the US and a trail leads from his hometown across Scotland. As you make your way along the coast of East Lothian, the beauty of this place, which he enjoyed as a boy, assails the senses. To the west of Dunbar lies Belhaven Bay with a bridge on the sands crossing Biel Water. The fact that this gets cut off at high tide gives the place an extra frisson of excitement as you walk beyond the beach towards a country park, combining the coast with pines and the estuary of the River Tyne. On the other side of the estuary is the wonderful sweep of Ravensheugh Sands, backed by high dunes, it is a great place to stroll in the winter when the winds create pounding waves on the shore. Requiring less walking is the little beach at Seacliff, reached by a private single-track road. But the view of an old harbour cut from the rock with the ruined ramparts of Tantallon Castle towering above the cliffs to the north, make it one of the best ‘secret beaches’ in Scotland. Beyond this is the traditional seaside town of North Berwick, backed by its Law (or volcanic plug) from which the views of the whole of East Lothian and the Firth of Forth are wonderful. You could also pay the brilliant Scottish Seabird Centre a leisurely visit. Further west, the coast is shared with some of the most hallowed golf courses in both the area and the world. But from the superb Yellowcraig beach – reached by farm tracks from Dirleton or a lovely stroll from North Berwick via Broad Sands – the eye is caught by the island of Fidra with its lighthouse and colonies of seabirds. This was said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Further along the coast sits Gullane, where the beach attracts crowds of tourists each summer. In winter, the coast comes to life with crashing waves. A walk to Gullane Point and on to Aberlady Bay can be enlivened by thousands of pink-footed geese who stay here in the colder months. Even as you head towards the urban sprawl of Edinburgh, wonderful spots for a peaceful wander can be found, such as Seton Collegiate Church, where there is a path that leads down to a sandy beach. Or the reclaimed land of Musselburgh’s lagoons, which are home to an array of birdlife and are a magnet for twitchers. Inland, the historic county town of Haddington is a good place to visit for walks along the River Tyne, as is Gifford, a quaint village nestled below the Lammermuir Hills. This moorland acts as a barrier to the Borders to the south and is often much quieter than any other hill range in the country. The views from the tops are far reaching, not least on the summit of Lammer Law, but the dells and glens below can be just as attractive. Pressmennan Lake is great for younger children as it has wooden carvings of fairy houses – homes to the Glingbobs and Tootflits – helping keep interest levels high. Better documented dwellings can be found elsewhere and a walk from East Linton to Hailes Castle and on to Traprain Law is a great way to see some of the history and, from the top, the whole of East Lothian.