East Lothian is one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. With a unique microclimate that offers more sunshine than most other locations in Scotland, it is rich in rolling farmland, cliff top walks, beaches, golf courses, rambling cycle routes, historic houses and castles, charming villages and seaside towns - in fact everything you might want for a relaxing holiday or a short break in the country.
Stately Homes and Castles
Tantallon Castle, just a few miles to the other side of North Berwick, is one of Scotland’s best! Originally built by the dreaded Douglas family in the 14th Century, it sits on top of a cliff and has never succumbed to storm, only to guile. General Monck, one of Cromwell’s henchmen, finally sacked it in the 1650’s but you can still climb to the top of the battlements, go down to the dungeon and peer nervously over the oubliette.
Dirleton Castle is a splendid 13th century ruin set in lovely gardens with a world famous herbaceous border only 2 miles from Greywalls. Hailes Castle near East Linton. was the hide-out of the notorious Bothwell, Mary Queen of Scot’s husband, and has an infamous bottle dungeon two thirds full of bone and hair - because once dropped in you physically could not be got out!
Scotland boasts many fine houses. One of the closest to Greywalls is Gosford, the home of the Earl of Wemyss which is occasionally open to the public. However, if you are prepared for a couple of hours drive, there are several excellent options. Abbotsford near Melrose which was the home of Sir Walter Scott and Manderston often described as the swansong of the great classic house. These houses are all situated in the Scottish Borders, itself a pleasure to drive through on even an indifferent day. Two other excellent options are Mellerstain and Bowhill, both beautiful houses with lovely gardens, the first owned by the Earl of Haddington and the second by the Duke of Buccleuch.
Beaches and Walks
There is plenty of golden sand in East Lothian. Probably the best beaches are Seacliff, just past Tantallon Castle on the other side of North Berwick, Yellowcraig, 2 miles away towards North Berwick, and Freshwater Haven, in which the action in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book “Pavilion on the Links” is set, just the other side of Muirfield golf course.
In the Lammermuirs which can be seen in the distance from Greywalls, there are beautiful views and walks. A particularly good area is near the Whiteadder reservoir beyond Gifford, a very pretty village nestling under the moors. Only two miles from Greywalls there is the Aberlady Nature Reserve, which is renowned for its bird life. This reserve is a mud flat where the tide goes out for three miles. If you get your timing right and walk (gum booted) out to the low water mark in the middle of the bay, there are two wrecks of ‘K’ class First World War submarines. Make sure you leave them on time, as the tide comes in at the speed of galloping horses!
The Seabird Centre and John Muir Park
The Scottish Seabird Centre is located in North Berwick. An innovative interpretation centre with great displays on the puffins, seals and seabirds to be found in the Firth of Forth it is a must for the naturalist, birdwatcher or anyone with an interest in seabirds. Live webcams link the centre to the islands and their inhabitants.
The John Muir Country Park takes in some of the most spectacular East Lothian Coastline. Eight miles from Greywalls it is named after John Muir, the famous explorer, naturalist and conservationist who was born in Dunbar in 1838. His pioneering conservation work and various nature publications led to him being dubbed America’s founder of National Parks. A small display commemorating his work can be seen at John Muir House in Dunbar.
There are two boat trips available from North Berwick harbour; to Fidra (the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”) and to the Bass Rock. The Bass Rock is a paradise for ornithologists who will see gannet, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, shag, kittiwake and fulmar. You should go! It is a volcanic rocky crag and one time prison, standing guard on the southern coast of the Firth of Forth. A trip round it will take about one hour by boat piloted by the Marr family (Tel 01620 892838). If you arrange it in advance you can land on them both.