Wildlife spotting, walled gardens, outdoor activities and family fun
I was delighted to be invited to join the Scotlanders bloggers on an April weekend exploring East Lothian. This region, just east of Edinburgh, is easily reached either by car or public transport. It’s also a very popular cycling destination, although I’ve yet to explore it by bicycle myself.
Along with my wife and two year old daughter, we had a busy weekend planned and some wonderful activities lined up, including a boat trip to the iconic Bass Rock which had been on my bucket list for quite some time. This weekend also happened to be the 180th birthday of John Muir, the great explorer and conservationist who was born in Dunbar and later settled in America, so perfect timing for our journey exploring the region.
We were up early Saturday in preparation for our East Lothian trip. I drew the curtains to see a beautiful clear sky and knew it was going to be a great weekend!
Inveresk Lodge Garden
Our first attraction is in the heart of the village of Inveresk by Musselburgh. It’s a National Trust for Scotland property with a well-manicured and pampered walled garden. The Inveresk Lodge was built in 1683 and still stands as beautiful today. We were the first visitors of the day and managed to get it to ourselves, so my daughter made the most of it by exploring every corner of the garden. The grounds and greenhouse are unmanned, leaving you to explore at your leisure.
You’ll see the garden is split into two main areas, with the manicured lawns and beautiful borders near the Inveresk Lodge. Then at the bottom of the garden you’ll find the wilder woodland and ponds, top tip for bigger kids, bring a net and try a spot of pond dipping from the platform.
If you have the time, I would also recommend you spend a bit of time wandering around this historic village of Inveresk. You’ll also find an East coast bus stop just outside the garden.
Next up we made our way South to the town of Dunbar, an old and historic fishing town on the Scottish east coast.
Website: Inveresk Lodge Garden
John Muir’s Birthplace Museum
I have over the years walked various parts of the famous John Muir Way in Scotland and yet not known too much about him, it was therefore an absolute pleasure finally visiting his birth place and understanding why he became so famous worldwide.
On arrival the crowds had gathered and many were having their photos taken and the place was buzzing. What I had only just learnt a few days earlier was that this was in fact John Muir’s 180th Birthday, but not only that, they were also hosting the 30th AGM of the John Muir Trust in Dunbar.
I was greeted by Jo on arrival who kindly welcomed us to the museum and explained about how we would best learn about John’s life, work and travels throughout this building, his birthplace.
The building is filled with character and as you enter the various rooms you get the feeling of what may have inspired John’s deep love of the natural world.
There are three floors, ground floor telling the tale about his childhood and first 11 years in Scotland. The 1st floor then continue the tale of his journey to America.
Finally on the top floor you’ll learn about his world travels and the important work and events in his life.
Although this is a historic building and museum, it is well kitted out for children all of ages with interactive screens, games and we even found a corner with various cuddly toys which my daughter was fond of too.
Website: John Muir’s Birthplace Museum
Scottish Seabird Centre
After a lovely morning in Dunbar, it was onto North Berwick and our lunch stop was at the Seabird Centre cafe.
We were welcomed by James on reception who went through what they offered and also explained what we could see and experience at the centre.
We then went onto the sun deck and picked what must have been one of the best seats for lunch in North Berwick if not in East Lothian! A panoramic view overlooking what was once the outdoor swimming pool now with its colourful beach huts and seeing both Craigleith Island and the Bass Rock in the distance.
I ordered our lunch from Clare at the cafe and we chose a lovely and fresh haddock with chips, my daughter chose macaroni cheese. There is something about sitting outside having your meal that makes it that bit special and this was definitely one of those days where the sun was beaming all over North Berwick and we could hear the local kids playing in the nearby pool and people enjoying themselves on the beach.
After lunch we went down to have a look around the harbour area and the place was buzzing with people out enjoying the sun, taking their boats out for the day and even teenagers going for a dip in the open waters, brave souls!
We came across the Lobster Hatchery where they breed baby lobsters before releasing them into the wild. Their chances of survival as eggs are minimal, but even after a few weeks this improves significantly and they are then released into the local waters to thrive. This helps the local eco system and of course keeping them at a sustainable level for the local fishermen to catch.
Back at the Seabird Centre, we had about an hour to explore the centre and the amazing conservation work they do. Their passion shines through from the moment you set foot in the centre and I was taken aback by the quality of interaction and this was both for adults and young children alike, certainly big kids like myself!
Next up was probably the most exciting trip of the year (if not ever in Scotland for me), the catamaran cruise around Craigleith Island and the Bass Rock. This trip had been on my bucket list for a long time, so when I found out we were going to experience it as part of our East Lothian campaign, I must have been as excited as a kid in a sweetie shop!
Once the catamaran had anchored by the harbour side, we all got aboard and the journey to one of the world’s most important conservation areas for gannets and puffins began.
From here I’ll let the pictures speak!
Website: Seabird Centre
We had just arrived back from the catamaran cruise and the sun was still flooding the harbour area and people were setting on every available space to take in the last of this beautiful Scottish spring day in East Lothian.
The first time I had ever tried Lobster was in Scotland, in a small village in Fife about 13 years ago and I completely blown away by its quality and freshness. Now what the Lobster Shack offers with their quality and also setting is outstanding. The sheer passion by Stirling Stewart who owns the place is wonderful and he is very particular about who he works with and the genuine quality of the produce they sell, may that be the finest lobster or indeed the fish and chips also served. They also have a licenced, so you’ll even be able to enjoy a refreshment while tucking into your lobster.
Website: Lobster Shack
On the Saturday evening we stayed in the outskirts of North Berwick, with breathing views across the Fifth of Forth towards Fife and over the Berwick Law which towers across the town. You would be able to walk into town from the site in about 25 minutes or a very short drive.This is not like the caravans I was use to as a boy. We use to travel all over Scandinavia with my grandparents and it really was the highlight of our holidays, packing up and off we went.
This felt more like a lodge or Glamping posh style, with power shower, comfortable seating, en-suite bathroom, there was even USB power sockets in the plugs. The accommodation provided is second to none and I am taken aback by the quality and comfort.
We got settled in and located next to the play park, my baby daughter was right out there on the slide and climbing frame. My wife even managed a wee gin on our private balcony with the sun setting over the Firth of Forth and watching the hare making it’s way in from the water.
Website: Gilsland Park
After a comfortable stay at Gilsland Caravan Park in North Berwick, we were onto East Linton, dropping Patricia and Michael off on route at the Old Preston Mill which I have yet to visit properly.
Our stop was Tree-ditions, which is an outdoor and bush craft learning experience. This is owned and run by Dave, who initially worked and trained with Cyber Tracker. He now also works with them on various courses at the site.
There are various bushcraft and survival courses, which are carried out on the 50 acers of woodland in the heart of East Lothian. These range from day courses to week long courses and for all ages, young and old.
I got a chance to look around the site and see the facilities. Having grown up in the countryside of Denmark, much of what Dave offers, such as making fires, home-made wooden tools and outdoor living is right up my street.
You are able to stay on site with basic kitchen and compost facilities, so hopefully we’ll be able to bring the family and a few friends soon.
St Mary’s Gardens
The Haddington House is a short walk from the town centre and the garden is adjacent to the house. A wonderful and secluded area, overlooking St Mary’s Church and also the River Tyne beyond the wall.
The house dates back to 1648 and is the oldest house in Haddington. It has been run by the Haddington Garden Trust since the mid 1970’s and you’ll find various annual events on their website St Mary’s Gardens
Lunch was at the lovely and quaint bistro on the banks of the River Tyne and this gave us a fantastic opportunity to catch up and exchange great experiences from our adventures around the region.
Website: Waterside Bistro
We all arrived together, well almost David (the castle hunter) was battling the rolling hills towards the borders and a windy Sunday afternoon.
The distillery is the closest to Edinburgh and can either be reached by car or they run a shuttle bus from the city centre on Waterloo Place.
We were greeted by Janette on arrival who was our guide for the new Wildlife Tour, which they have just launched to try and offer something a little different from their regular distillery tours.
The tour takes you around the distillery and then past their lagoons which has been build onsite as part of the distilling process. You get to see some of its local wildlife and hear about what they get up to and how they live alongside the team at Glenkinchie and have done for a long time.
Because of the nature of the lagoons, you’ll see many different forms of wildlife, from amphibians, toads, newts, frogs. Also many types of insects, butterfly and moths. There is also over one hundred species of birds and numerous deer, badger, foxes, rabbit and hare to name just a very few. Otter tracts have also been found and they are of course hoping to see them thrive in the area.
Photographs of the wildlife are by Janette McIntosh
At the distillery you’ll also find a colony of pipistrelle bats roosting in the top floor of what used to be the old malting house, now being used as the visitor centre. The bats are as much a part of Glenkinchie as the whisky itself.
This is a new Tour, so we only saw the beginning and heard of the ideas behind the reasoning for starting this great new Tour. With a selection of drams as you make your way around, this will certainly make you appreciate how this has become the ‘water of life’.
Where better to finish off what was such a fantastic weekend throughout East Lothian. Scotland was really showing off and this is truly why we cannot stop roaming it’s shores, rolling hills, beautiful gardens and it’s many other hidden
Website: Glenkinchie Distillery
This weekend we had been invited by East Lothian Council and all its partners to visit and experience their region. A big thanks goes it to them for making us feel welcome and making sure we all made the most of it.
Our weekend was in collaboration with the Scotlanders travel bloggers and our friend Janice, some of the best travel bloggers and writers in Scotland. Therefore make sure to also check out their posts on; Neil Sports and Activities, David Castles and Historic Sites, Patricia historic and architectural sites and Janice with Family Friendly activities
All opinions and photos as my own, unless otherwise stated. When you next visit share your stories and photos using #eastlothian and @goeastlothian
Start planning your journey to visit East Lothian here
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