It may only be a short drive east of Edinburgh, but I think that the Scottish region of East Lothian is one of the most criminally unexplored corners of the country. You also have to love travelling around here as it is the sunniest region in Scotland!
East Lothian may not attract the tourist crowds that flock to the nearby capital, but it packs a serious punch. This land of rolling hills and sweeping sandy beaches is awash with history, with country houses and castles punctuating its bucolic landscape. There are attractions on hand to please all ages, from family theme parks and museums, through to walking trails and championship golf courses (the British Open is regularly held at Muirfield).
The choice of where to stay in East Lothian is all part of the fun. You can go glamping at Harvest Moon Holidays in their funky luxury safari tents, which boast proper beds, a wood burning fire and stove and (most importantly) even proper toilets and showers! Then there are superb hotels like the grand MacDonald Marine Hotel & Spa, with its award-winning restaurant, spa and swimming pool that lets you ease outside to bubble away in their hot tub. At the even more unusual end of the scale is Colstoun House, a stately country house that claims to be oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland, but only started taking guests this year. Here you can live like a lord in your own exclusive use fully catered retreat, which sits at the heart of a 2,000 acre estate.
The most renowned tourist hub in East Lothian is undoubtedly North Berwick. In its heyday trains used to run direct from London to North Berwick to enable stressed out city dwellers the chance to take the local waters and come down a few gears. Today the main attractions are the independent shops, the chance to enjoy local lobster and chips by the water’s edge at Lobster Shack and one of Scotland top visitor attractions, the Scottish Seabird Centre. The latter is fun for a real cross-section of visitor, with everything from bountiful information to please the most avid ornithologist, right through to soft play for kids and live cameras for everyone to spy on the birdlife on Bass Rock, the mighty rock stack that rises like a leviathan from the Firth of Forth in front of the centre. The best view of Bass Rock is from the centre’s excellent café.
In East Lothian’s interior reclines another world class attraction, the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune. A riot of planes and helicopters of all shapes and sizes await in the hangers and on the airfield here. The real star is one of the last remaining Concordes. You can don the captain’s hat and stroll up the stairs right into the heart of this aviation icon for a good nose around. There are also opportunities to sit in a cockpit and enjoy lunch or a snack in their Aviator Café.
East Lothian these days is actually becoming increasingly well known for its excellent fresh food and drink. In the market town of Haddington down by the banks of the River Tyne is the characterful Waterside Bistro. Here you can feast on local beef and seafood washed down with East Lothian’s superb Thistly Cross cider, a fitting end to a trip that opens up one of Scotland’s less visited, but also one its most rewarding, corners.