East Lothian offers a 40mi (64km) coastline of stunning landscapes, with plenty to do for the whole family or a group of friends. Less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, the area is a popular choice for a day trip or weekend away. From Yester Castle to the NB Gin Distillery, here are some of our favourite things to do and see in this region of Scotland.
Part of Archerfield Estate, whose history stretches back to the 13th century, Archerfield Walled Garden served Archerfield House from the 18th century into the early 20th century. The garden grew an impressive range of exotic fruits and vegetables, as well as 110 varieties of apple and 57 of pear. The site also has a popular cafe, and the menu includes tasty offerings like fish and chips and spicy chickpea salad. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, they offer locally baked cakes and traybakes. The Walled Garden’s gift shop, food market, microbrewery, fairy trail, running routes and outdoor trails mean that a visit here can easily be stretched into an all-day event.
About a mile and a half (2km) from the village of Gifford lie the ruins of Yester Castle, previously home to magician and necromancer Hugo de Giffard, or the Wizard of Yester. Sorcery was thought to have been practised here around the 13th century. According to local legend, Hugo had a pact with the devil that enabled him to raise a magical army. It is this army of hobgoblins that was considered to have built the still-intact Goblin Ha’ (Goblin Hall), where Hugo performed his magic. The castle can only be reached on foot, however, and visitors often park at Castle Park Golf Club and follow the edge of the course to get to the castle. It’s overgrown and dark inside, so wear sensible shoes – and bring a torch!
One of Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin’s newest culinary ventures, the Bonnie Badger has become a staple of East Lothian dining since it opened in 2018. Sitting in the quaint town centre of Gullane, 50mi (80km) east of Edinburgh, the restaurant is famed as much for its menu as for its interiors. Incorporating a blend of Scottish and Scandinavian design, it offers a cosy dining and hotel space to enjoy anything from a morning coffee date to evening cocktails. The food menu features seasonal, Scottish dishes like the Highland wagyu beef burger and Loch Fyne oysters.
Since opening in 2018, the NB Gin Distillery has become a key North Berwick venue for spirit lovers. As the creators of their own brand of gin, which was voted the world’s best London dry gin in 2015, the distillery also creates its own unique vodka and rum. Available for private events, NB Gin Distillery offers tasting and production tours, making it a great activity or party venue for those looking to make their trip to East Lothian a memorable one.
Also part of John Muir Country Park, Belhaven Bay stretches from Belhaven, around 30mi (48km) east of Edinburgh, to the north of the River Tyne. Its large size makes it popular for dog walkers, but the beach is also a great picnic spot thanks to its low sand dunes and spectacular views across the Forth Estuary. Belhaven Bay also caters to its more adventurous visitors, with local companies offering surf and paddle-boarding lessons and equipment hire. It’s a private beach, but nearby public parking costs £2.
Fancy a trek through the East Lothian countryside with a (very) furry friend? Head to John Muir Country Park to experience taking one of the park’s friendly alpacas for a one-hour walk through picturesque woodlands. They offer morning and evening walks for £20. The park also has tipi marquees on site for visitors who fancy a sweet treat or a snack afterwards. Or you could bring your own picnic and relax while admiring the stunning landscape. They also have a wood burner onsite, where you can toast some marshmallows.