Things to do in East Lothian
I always find myself getting irritable and impatient over winter – especially such a hideously extended winter such as we’ve just had – as my desire to get out and take on the best of Scotland intensifies by the day. Our long-running Scotlanders campaigns are very much part of the itchy feetedness as I anticipate our blogger team shaking off the slumber to team up for another travel challenge. Our first of 2018 sees us head to unearth the best things to do in East Lothian. Welcoming back our friend Kim and new team member Janice for this particular adventure, we head to the east coast to immerse ourselves collectively in the outdoors, history, architecture, culture and nature. All are covered in this, one of the most diverse regions of them all and our individual adventures were brought together across social media using #eastlothian.
Adrenaline seeking at Foxlake Adventures
As you’ll be aware if you’ve followed our campaigns of previous years, they are a tad on the hectic side. By design, we want our audiences to enjoy the ride as much as we do and, given my particular theme of Sports and Adventure I was very keen to get landed right in the deep end with some treetop hijinks at Foxlake. Found outside of Dunbar, it holds a strong appeal for lovers of the adrenaline rush with its on-site wakeboarding (kind of snowboarding on water) and Zipline just two of the activities on offer. An absolute beauty of a day saw me embrace the latter and head into the adjoining woodland to walk, zip and jump between their treetop obstacle course.
Similar to Go Ape for those in the know there, you get yourself strapped in and connected to the cables that join up the course and go from tree to tree via whatever obstruction faces you. A great laugh for groups of friends and colleagues you’re almost certain to make a mess of at least one part of it and be forced to revert to nonchalant self-deprecation. In typically ludicrous fashion, I’d managed to gatecrash a hen doo. Lots of very happy, very excitable young women having a great time. And me. Looking like, well, the spare dude at a hen doo. No matter – they took my bizarrely conspicuous presence in great spirits and made this a fabulous start to the weekend.
With a ‘raw nature’ feel throughout, these super-safe and well-designed courses are a fabulous asset to East Lothian and Foxlake is rightly one of the most popular outdoor centres in the land. Their especially popular wakeboarding is, I am told, done on occasion by particularly insane topless kilted men. After giving myself a quick up and down assessment amid the tiniest glimmer of consideration, maybe next time eh…..
A burst of fitness
enjoyleisure have the delightful responsibility of keeping the region in shape. With numerous sports centres, golfing facilities and child-friendly play areas in their ownership, you’re never far away from one of their bases in East Lothian. And so I took it upon myself to include stops in North Berwick and Dunbar on my active itinerary.
North Berwick Sports Centre offers the largest range of indoor sports facilities in the country – with everything from swimming to trampolining all under one roof. Their 25-metre pool, adjoining health suite with spa and sauna, basketball/volleyball/squash/football courts and on-site gym mean that there’s a constant buzz around the place and locals and visitors alike can pop in to whatever activity they fancy.
Dunbar Leisure Pool is East Lothian’s epicentre for aquatic fun. Beautifully set by the town’s picturesque harbour, it’s hugely popular for young families or fitness enthusiasts that might drift into the gym or take on the swimming lanes. In my all-too-brief visit I was unashamedly engrossed by the carnage resulting from the wave machine as primary school memories came flooding back! Given that a big part of this campaign was to show the suitability of the region for kids, the options with enjoyleisure’s facilities for child-friendly sports and soft-play facilities adds extra appeal to travelling families looking to keep the youngsters positively entertained.
It would almost seem rude not to get the clubs out in these parts. Although the true home of golf is over the water in Fife, East Lothian can still boast some top facilities for fans of the sport. I certainly can’t see me pitching up in my dishevelled ‘hiking boots and a kilt’ state at one of the top clubhouses but, fortunately, less formal options await too. West Links Putting in North Berwick enjoys a ridiculous setting overlooking the sandy coastline and our favourite off-shore friend, the Bass Rock. With a cheery show-up-and-go approach, it’s open to all abilities and ages and allows for some perfecting of that all too frustrating element that can make or break your round. I rock up looking like the business by only narrowly missing out on a hole in one at the first go before going on to make a dismal mess of every subsequent hole and slinking off before too many people noticed.
Hitting the heights in East Lothian
A place for Munro-baggers, East Lothian is not. Home to gentle, flat landscapes you’ll not be needing the crampons for this particular part of the country. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its walking challenges. Namely, the rather amusing mounds of Berwick Law and Traprain Law that bobble up from the straights. With my charge of finding the best outdoor things to do in East Lothian, these two in particular were always going to creep onto my list. North Berwick’s mound enjoys some stunning panoramic views over the town and the east coast. Encompassing Bass Rock, the vast chilliness of the North Sea and the Firth of Forth to the west, the slightly bizarre whale jawbone on the summit completes the memorability of the clamber.
Traprain Law is a similarly straightforward ascent (ideally suited to halfwit bloggers running around against the clock in inappropriate traditional attire) outside of Haddington and East Linton. Rising just 221 metres from the flat stretching countryside, the hill (or certainly nearby) is said to have been the 6th Century birthplace of St Mungo himself. The present-day patron saint of Glasgow, he is thought to have been the estranged grandson of King Loth (from where Lothian originates). I do love a slice of history to keep the mind ticking over on a hike. With yet more vast views in all directions, it’s an ideal spot to look down over the whole region….that is until the mother of all rainclouds comes along, the heavens open and add another element for me to factor in as I charge hell-for-leather back down to the car. Look at it! Charging in there like something out of the Old Testament.
Time for a quick race?
Musselburgh, on the outskirts of the capital, is amongst the best places in the UK to oversee some horse racing. A thrilling experience, I confess that my attendance to the Scottish Sprint Cup was a personal first ever of its kind. Numerous races, a bustling atmosphere and beautiful horses charging by at speeds up to 40 mph – you’ll find yourself getting caught up in the drama in no time. Offering all sorts of hospitality packages and an endless array of events around the year, you can take a look at what the Racecourse has got on here.
And the perfect conclusion…..
Breathless, wearied and with the adrenaline levels finally working their way back to something resembling stable, there was only one way to satisfactorily close off this extraordinary weekend. Funnily enough, alcohol was involved. And, in Glenkinchie Distillery, East Lothian had gone so far as to include even this in their thoughtfulness to travellers.
Less than 20 miles from Edinburgh, the Distillery has been a regular beneficiary of city visitors keen on experiencing the authentic whisky journey. One of just a handful of Lowland malt distilleries now, it does not have the worldwide might of the giants from Speyside and Islay but, as is so often the case with our distilleries, has its own charm and personality that allow it to retain its individuality. Its agricultural past and serene rural setting give it a seemingly remote and even quaint feel as the luscious surroundings lure you dreamily into the centre of the action. Two giant stills reside (interior photography not permitted when in operation) within the immaculate heart of this Victorian structure and, while certainly not a mass-producer, Glenkinchie is one of the favourite ingredients for the top blended whiskies out there.
When thinking of things to do in East Lothian, whisky may not be the first place your mind wanders but you’ll struggle to find a better tour experience than this. Outstanding guided by John and with generous post-tour tastings, access from Edinburgh is easy and the quality of finished product is top drawer. I can’t deny to leaning to our more famous regions in my personal taste but was pleasantly surprised by all of Glenkinchie’s expressions. The 12-year-old is the staple – a solid, citrussy/floral affair that finishes long. The Distiller’s Edition though, with its use of both American Oak and sherry casks, has something more. The sweet, fruity, and even smoky notes are matched by the richness of the sherry influence, making it a big hitter for the taste buds.
With a final nod of thanks to East Lothian and all involved in this campaign for a fabulous and incredibly diverse weekend….Slainte.
East Lothian is a very easy place to get around. While 3 of the 5 of us bloggers travelled by car, you can read about David and Patricia’s experiences as they got about by bus and bike with relative ease from Edinburgh. For accommodation we were warmly welcomed at Gilsland Park, a caravan site on the outskirts of North Berwick. Offering a comprehensive range of accommodation to suit all needs, including young families like Kim’s and Janice’s, the caravan park hosted me in one of their super-cool glamping cabins. Economical, comfortable, serene and with Berwick Law hovering in the background it was the ideal stop for busy forever-on-the-go types like me.
On the all-important subject of food, we wanted to seek out options in both North Berwick and in more central Haddington. Following some research and local tip offs, we went for the Lobster Shack and the Waterside Bistro respectively. The Shack is an outstanding idea – making use of ‘on the doorstep’ local seafood but with an environmental focus. An informal Lobster n Chips has never been more warmly received than by the team on our wearied arrival. This video sums them up nicely. The Bistro meanwhile is an ideal, family friendly venue offering an idyllic location on the River Tyne and tasty grub in abundance.
It all simply adds up to making East Lothian an incredibly easy place to visit….
Disclaimer: This digital marketing campaign was delivered in partnership with the East Lothian Tourism Attractions Group with the aim of showcasing its members and the region of East Lothian. As with all of my work, everything described in the blog is an honest account of my experience on the road and each mention and description is based entirely on personal experience. To my mind, all of the attractions within the membership have an enormous amount to offer locals and visitors to East Lothian and I heartily endorse all mentioned above to travellers in Scotland.
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