Search this site:
Amongst the options for Scotland tours from an Edinburgh base its easy to take in the Lothians, the countryside surrounding the capital of Scotland. If you made it to the top of the city's Calton Hill (and you should!)then you might have noticed the glint of sandy beaches as you looked out eastwards along the coast.
East Lothian's Dirleton Castle and Tantallon Castle are just two of the castles of Scotland easily reached from Edinburgh. The Museum of Flight is another interesting visitor attraction tucked away in East Lothian. And the little resorts along the coast are very pleasant places to visit as well, as part of these Scotland tours. Day-trip it from your city base.
Scotland’s weather in East Lothian shows trends towards low rainfall and high sunshine hours - unless the haar, the North Sea mist, rolls in. Your landmark is the distinct triangle of the Berwick Law – a volcanic plug.
Head east for Musselburgh, taking the road by the slow road along the coast, past Musselburgh Race Course and Golf Links, (where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have played). Go through the old communities of Prestonpans (where Mary’s great-great-great-grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie, routed the government army under General Cope in 1745) and Port Seton. (You can miss out this section by taking the A1 until you see a sign for Longniddry.)
By Aberlady, houses are starting to look prosperous, by Gullane it’s looking very well off indeed. Muirfield, sometime venue of the British Open, is between road and sea. Dirleton, with its guardian castle, is signed left, just a little further, in the village of the same name. Driving time is under an hour for these easy Scotland tours.
Amongst Scottish castles, picturesquely ruined Dirleton Castle is quite a survivor, revealing a glimpse of medieval Scotland. This 13th-century fortress was originally built by the de Vaux family, originally a Norman family. Stroll around and below the castle you’ll see what is claimed to be the world’s longest herbaceous border. This type of planting in Scotland is usually at its very best in August.
Distant view of Tantallon Castle from the top of the Berwick Law.
This Scotland tour from Edinburgh continues to North Berwick. This is a very pleasant little Scottish town, with some good shops and a cheery, breezy sea-side setting. You have the option here of visiting Scotland’s Seabird Centre or even taking a boat trip to the Bass Rock, conspicuous offshore to see its spectacular gannet (booby) colony.
It’s another volcanic plug – and this is the last plug these ancient volcanoes are going to get. Anyway, if it’s around lunchtime, then North Berwick has plenty to offer, and the Seabird Centre also has a café, though it’s busy at peak times.
Onward to Tantallon! Just keep on the coast road, enjoying views across the Firth of Forth to Fife. You’ll see this castle up ahead. Its great curtain wall dourly guards a headland, with the sea on three sides. These kinds of Scotland tours are where history seems very much alive. For instance, Mary Queen of Scots once stayed there in 1566. This is another spectacular survivor from medieval Scotland – a massive 14th-century fortress requiring just one main wall for protection because of the sea-cliffs. It is associated with the Douglas Earls of Angus.
Stand on the parapet and imagine the three sieges it withstood – though the last one, by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1651, damaged it to the point of abandonment. While you are leaning on the old worn sandstone parapet, think what you want to do next. (I mean, on your day tour, not in general - though Tantallon is a fine setting for a life-changing moment.)
You could continue for a few more minutes and take in the sea air at the John Muir Country Park. (Look for signs, left, beyond Whitekirk.) Or you could check out the slightly faded but pleasant old seaside town of Dunbar.
Dunbar on the skyline - from the wide-open spaces of the John Muir Country Park.
Alternatively, circle into the East Lothian hinterland, with its prosperous-looking barley and wheat fields and lush hedgerows. You’ll soon pick up signs for the Museum of Flight at East Fortune. (By the way, if you're keen on finding out more about flying in Scotland take a look at this dedicated site.) If you’re any kind of a history buff – and, come on, you’ve read this far – then there is a great atmosphere at East Fortune, as it was an aerodrome in both world wars. In short, there are several options amongst these short Scotland tours.
Naturally , there’s lots of paraphernalia and information and the Concord on display seems to grab an inordinate amount of attention. (It may have been glamorous but, gosh, isn’t it small?) But it’s the ambience of the ‘drome that makes it so interesting. Quite a lot of the original buildings survive. You can easily imagine bumping into some leather-jacketed moustachioed fighter pilot, just at the corner of the huts, and, as such, it’s quite a poignant place. And it’s also where the R34 airship left in 1919 for the very first Atlantic crossing, an 108 hour journey to a landing at Mineola, Long Island, United States.
Lot’s more to see in East Lothian, but it’s been quite a long day on this tour from Edinburgh. Return to the capital by the main A1. Follow signs for Haddington to find it. En route, real Scots enthusiasts may want to look at nearby Athelstaneford for its associations with the origins of the Scotland flag, the Saltire.
Go back to the main seven day tour Scotland page here.
Return to the scotlandinaweek home page.
Search this site:
Scotland in Three Days