Savour the landscape
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, East Lothian has plenty of routes for everyone to explore and enjoy. The John Muir Way is a great place to start. It reaches from Dunbar in the east to Helensburgh in the west – stretching 134 miles in total. Don’t worry though, you don't have to do all of that at once as there are plenty of day trip routes to choose from.
If you like something more challenging, try the Lammermuir Hills, which are home to East Lothian’s highest point – Meikle Says Law. With sweeping moorland, scenic reservoirs and riverside routes, you can easily spend a whole day walking, fishing or wildlife-spotting in this picturesque location.
These hills are also crossed by the Southern Upland Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails, which runs cross-country from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea. It runs from Portpatrick on Scotland’s west coast to Cove and Cockburnspath on the east coast. Make your way along the route to Twin Law Cairns for breath-taking views across the Lammermuirs, with the stunning Eildon Hills and the Cheviots in the distance.
If you prefer to do your exploring on 2 wheels, The Go East Lothian Trail is a great way to explore the local area. Starting and finishing at the harbour in North Berwick, the 39-mile route features quiet roads, gravel tracks, single-track, walking and cycle paths and is accessible all year round and suitable for all abilities. And with plenty of stunning locations along the way, including the beaches at Seacliff, Tyninghame and Belhaven, there’s lot of handy picnic spots when you need to rest weary legs!
For something a little less strenuous, a day at 18th century Archerfield Walled Garden is a lovely way to escape from the stresses of everyday life. The beautiful and extensive grounds have something to keep the whole family entertained, from a play park and fairy trail, to a gorgeous walled garden with perennial meadow. If you need to spruce up your own garden, their Garden Shop houses a selection of plants, pots, tools, ornaments and garden accessories. And after all that exploring, relax in the Garden Café - with many of the ingredients coming from the garden itself, whether you choose breakfast, lunch or a slice of cake, you’re in for a treat.
Spend a day in North Berwick
A charming seaside town just 30 minutes train ride from Edinburgh, North Berwick is the perfect choice for a day out. You can tick off some classic British seaside activities here – from tucking into fish and chips and ice cream to paddling in the sea and browsing the array of independent boutique shops.
The town has striking views out to the Firth of Forth and Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest northern colony of gannets. Sir David Attenborough once dubbed this ‘one of the wonders of the natural world’, so be sure to bring your binoculars with you.
A jam-packed events programme provides year-round entertainment, including the North Berwick Highland Games, Fringe by the Sea and Marine Fest, which is a celebration of Scotland’s amazing coastal habitats and wildlife.
North Berwick is also home to the 5-star Scottish Seabird Centre. Discover the wonders of Scotland's marine environment with their interactive live cameras and follow the local wildlife, or get up close with seabirds, seals and dolphins on their seasonal boat trips.
Go from sea to shore
With 40 miles of stunning coast and golden beaches, East Lothian is a haven for water sports. Coasteering, diving, kitesurfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing and surfing have all become popular sports here as the beaches and open water provide the perfect conditions. If you fancy trying these out for yourself there are several companies that cater for all experience levels, including Coast to Coast Surf School and Ocean Vertical.
Perfect for a fun-filled family day out, Foxlake is an adrenaline-filled outdoor activity park on the edge of the John Muir Way. Home to Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park and the UK’s first rope course over water, as well as ringos, ziptrail, segways and open water swimming, this 5-star attraction is sure to be a hit with adventure lovers!
You can easily spend days exploring the beautiful beaches in East Lothian. Soak up the sun and feel the sand between your toes at five of the best:
1. Seacliff Beach
Just 5 miles from North Berwick, Seacliff Beach plays host to a wee sandstone harbour, and a striking view of the ruins of Tantallon Castle.
2. Gullane Beach
A rugged beach with a Highland-feel, you can take in magnificent views of the Firth of Forth here.
3. Tyninghame Beach
This is a quiet, idyllic beach flanked by pine forests, with a view of Bass Rock in the distance.
4. Thorntonloch Beach
A sandy stretch of beach popular with swimmers, windsurfers and anglers. Dive into the waters or unwind on the shore.
5. Whitesands Bay
A secluded spot with a limestone-rich coastline. Keep your eye out for fossils, and don’t miss Barns Ness Lighthouse.
Step back in time
East Lothian is a great region for history fans – or those who simply appreciate beautiful architecture. Dating from the mid 1300’s, the mighty fortress of Tantallon Castle was once the home to the Red Douglas dynasty. One of Scotland’s last great medieval castles, this formidable defensive structure was besieged many times, the last in 1651 when Oliver Cromwell’s army caused such destruction that it was abandoned. Nearby, Dirleton Castle is a fascinating place to explore. This medieval fortress is a historical playground, with turrets to climb, passageways to wander and hidden corners to unearth.
Situated in 34 hectares of historical landscape, Newhailes House & Gardens brings 300 years of history to life. A guided tour of this impressive former home of the influential Dalrymple family is like taking a step back in time – marvel at the fine collection of paintings, ceramics and furniture upstairs, while see the hard graft that went on downstairs in the kitchen and scullery.
There are also plenty of museums in the region to visit – Haddington’s John Gray Centre, Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery, North Berwick’s Coastal Communities Museum and the Flag Heritage Centre in Athelstaneford to name a few. Why not stop by the John Muir Birthplace Museum in Dunbar to learn more about the father of the National Parks.
See animals in action
Make fantastic family memories at Dunbar's East Links Family Park, where you can meet a variety of farm animals or let your own little monkeys run riot on a range of fun activities – from crazy golf and go karts to tractor rides and trampolines. Or for something a bit different, head to John Muir Alpacas, also near Dunbar, and go on a trek with some new fluffy pals.
Alternatively, don your best hat and enjoy a flutter at Musselburgh Racecourse. From Ladies Day to Family Racedays, there’s something for everyone at this 5-star visitor attraction.
Play on world-famous golf courses
With 21 stunning courses to choose from, it’s not difficult to see why East Lothian is known as Scotland’s Golf Coast. Stretching along 30 miles of spectacular coastline, this legendary area is home to the greatest concentration of Championship links golf courses in the world, not to mention the host of the 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021 Men's and Ladies' Scottish Opens.
Tee-off at what is considered to be one of the oldest courses in the world, Musselburgh Links, or play a round at Muirfield, the host of 16 Open Championships - the area is a true golfer’s paradise.
Discover more about East Lothian's legendary golf courses >
Get a taste for the area
With vast rural farmland and miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that fresh, seasonal produce is a big part of life in East Lothian.
Pick up some fresh ingredients at Gosford Bothy Farm Shop in Aberlady – they do everything from locally reared boar to homemade jam. Fenton Barns and Brand Family Larder are also great spots for fresh local produce. If you want to dine out, the Waterside Bistro in Haddington serves up an ever-changing menu of delicious seasonal dishes from a peaceful location on the banks of the River Tyne.
For a taste of Scotland's national drink, head to Glenkinchie Distillery – one of the four Scottish distilleries that produces the world-famous Johnnie Walker. Alternatively, visit NB Distillery in North Berwick, home to the award-winning NB gin, rum and vodka.
Or for a sip of something special, join Buck & Birch, the makers of multi-award-winning liqueurs, spirits and cocktails for a Wild Distillery Tasting Session. Visitors will learn about Buck & Birch, its methods and ingredients whilst having the opportunity to sample some of its products along with some tasty bites. There's also the chance to pick up your new favourite tipple from the shop, including limited edition releases and products not available anywhere else.
East Lothian, on location
Take a tour through East Lothian’s film locations to re-live some of your favourite TV and movie moments. There’s plenty for Outlander fans, but several historical films were shot here too – including Mary Queen of Scots and Outlaw King.
Visit East Lothian on the Screen for more information on the best sites.
Take to the skies at East Fortune Airfield
Explore the history of aviation in Scotland, from WWI through to the present day, at the National Museum of Flight. Climb on board Scotland’s Concorde, explore the story of supersonic flight, the race to break the sound barrier, and discover how they designed and built the world’s first supersonic passenger aircraft.
If you fancy taking to the air, East of Scotland Microlights is a unique experience. Take off from the East Fortune airfield and soar above East Lothian’s panoramic landscape in an open-cockpit aircraft. You can even take over the controls!
Travelling from Edinburgh to East Lothian
East Lothian has a reliable rail network, making it easy to reach from Edinburgh city centre. The main train stations are Musselburgh, Wallyford, Prestonpans, Longniddry, Drem, North Berwick and Dunbar.
For timetables, tickets and further details see ScotRail >
Getting around by bike is easy too – there are bike shops in North Berwick and Dunbar and bikes can be hired from Belhaven Bikes in Dunbar. You can also hire a fat-tyred electric bike from EZ Riders to comfortably cruise along the country roads, trails and beaches.
Plan your Trip to East Lothian
For more information on the regions and its attractions, see Visit East Lothian. Follow and tag them on Facebook @visiteastlothian, Twitter @goeastlothian and Instagram goeastlothian. #EastLothian #VisitEdinburgh