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

Scottish Field - - AREA FOCUS -

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.

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