Nestled along the eastern coastline of Scotland lies a hidden gem, Dunbar Beach (AKA Belhaven Beach) near Dunbar in East Lothian.
Known for its expansive golden sand and panoramic views of the North Sea, Belhaven Beach is a must-see destination for locals and tourists alike.
Whether you’re looking to relax and soak up the sun, take a dip, or explore the natural beauty of the nearby John Muir Country Park, Belhaven Beach is a must-visit destination.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes Belhaven Beach so special and why it has to be on your list of places to visit in East Lothian.
|Opening Hours:||Belhaven Beach is open 24/7, 365 days a year.|
|Admission Price:||There is no fee to visit Belhaven Beach.|
|Parking:||The nearest car park for Belhaven Beach is Linkfield car park (address: Dunbar, West Barns, Dunbar, EH42 1TY). There is a second car park on Shore Road which has public toilets and a picnic area (address: Shore Road, Belhaven, Dunbar, EH42 1NX). Note - Both are paid car parks.|
|Facilities:||Car park, public toilets with shower, BBQ area, play park. Shops and restaurants are located in Dunbar high street (7-minute drive).|
East Lothian’s historic town of Dunbar lies 30 miles east of Edinburgh and 30 miles north of the Scottish-English border.
Once a major fishing port (its harbour dates back to 1574), it’s now best known by tourists as the start/end point of the cross-county John Muir Way and the John Muir Country Park which borders the town on its westward side.
Facing the pummeling waves of the North Sea, Belhaven Bay is situated on the edge of John Muir Country Park between the open mouth of the River Tyne on its northern end and the smaller estuary of the Biel Water on its southern end.
This bay is the location of Belhaven Beach – also known as Dunbar Beach – which is one of the most-visited outdoor attractions in the county.
The beach is around 1.6 miles in length and comprises clean golden sand that’s almost entirely free of shingle and is bordered to the rear by sand dunes, salt marsh, and grasslands that are a haven for wildlife.
The views of the North Sea from Belhaven Beach are nothing short of stunning.
Look north and you’ll see the Bass Rock in the far distance, while the sweeping expanse of Tyninghame Beach lies behind St. Baldred’s Cradle nature reserve on the other side of the River Tyne.
It isn’t possible to reach this nature reserve from Belhaven Beach as the estuary is too wide, so if you’re thinking of heading there I recommend driving to the dedicated car park instead (address Dunbar, EH42 1XW).
Back at Belhaven Beach, visitors can enjoy one of the longest stretches of sand in East Lothian which is notable for the fact that as it’s so close to Dunbar town centre it’s easy to walk to the high street for food – something that’s difficult at pretty much every other beach in the county.
There are plenty of places in the dunes to hide away from the wind if sunbathing is the order of the day, and if you have kids that are bursting with energy there’s a decent playpark behind the dunes complete with toilets and picnic benches along with BBQ areas and bike stands for anyone cycling the John Muir Way.
1: Belhaven Beach is one of the best places in East Lothian for family day trips as its location means it can be easily combined with a visit to East Links Family Park.
2: Facilities at this beach are very good thanks to Linkfield car park which has toilets and a children’s play park, and East Links Family Park which has a restaurant and a gift shop. Visitors that want more options can head 2.5 miles east to Dunbar town centre which has a variety of shops and restaurants.
3: Belhaven Beach is a stunning location with a sweeping expanse of clean sand and lots of places in the dunes to escape from the North Sea breezes.
If sitting on the beach doesn’t appeal then you might like to walk a circular route along the shoreline and double back through the adjoining John Muir Country Park.
1: Although the main entry point is from the Linkfield car park, a handy bridge at the end of Shore Road allows access from the centre of Dunbar in less than 30 minutes on foot. To find the bridge enter this Belhaven Beach postcode into Google Maps: EH42 1NX.
2: The fastest walking route from Belhaven Beach to Dunbar High Street is taking Back Road and then North Road, but a far more scenic route can be enjoyed by following the footpath around the shoreline on the edge of Winterfield Golf Club.
The path goes as far as Dunbar Leisure Pool and the historic Dunbar Harbour. There are public toilets near the pool and a snack kiosk on Victoria Place at the harbour.
3: Belhaven Beach is well known as a great location for surfing and body boarding so if you love water sports it should be high on your list of places to visit. Beginners might like to learn the ropes with the Coast to Coast Surf School which operates from Shore Road on the east end of the beach.
Belhaven Beach parking is possible via two main car parks, one of which is situated near East Links Family Park and the other which is nearer the town centre.
The Linkfield car park near East Links is the larger of the two and has the best facilities with a large children’s play park, a toilet block, and many more parking spaces.
There’s a rough footpath leading to the beach which is around 1/3 of a mile in length that offers easy access for the majority of people, but it might be a wee bit tricky to navigate for wheelchair users, even though wooden boardwalks have been installed in places.
The other car park on Shore road is nearer to the town centre and has a number of picnic benches overlooking the bay, but it’s smaller and access to the beach is only possible by crossing a stepped bridge which will be difficult for buggies and pretty much impossible for wheelchairs.
Visitors need to be aware that this bridge (locally called ‘the bridge to nowhere’) is semi-submerged at certain times so if you’re intending to make use of it I suggest checking the Belhaven Beach tide times before leaving home.
From the Shore Road car park you can walk along The Glebe footpath which rings the edge of Winterfield Golf Club before finishing near Dunbar Harbour.
This is a lovely 1-mile stroll that can be extended past the harbour to the edge of Dunbar Golf Club and onwards to Whitesands Bay for a 3.5-mile trek that’s highly recommended if you’re looking for a good walk in Dunbar.
An equally enjoyable walk can be had from Linkfield car park where it’s possible to follow footpaths through pine woodland in John Muir Country Park, across a salt marsh, down the beach and then back up to the starting point.
This complete circuit is around 3 miles in total and is by far the best way to experience the beach and the nature reserve in my opinion.
It shouldn’t take more than an hour to walk the loop and if you’ve worked up an appetite afterwards there’s always the option to head into East Links Family Park which has a decent family cafe/restaurant and a gift shop.
Finally, those visitors looking to enjoy watersports at Belhaven Beach should make sure they use the Shore Road entrance as it’s closest to the water and is also the location of a surf school which has equipment hire at reasonable prices.
Things to do
Surfing: Belhaven Beach is one of the best places for watersports in southeast Scotland. With its consistent waves, it’s an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced surfers and there’s a surf school on Shore Road that’s available to provide lessons and gear rental if you’d like to try your hand at the sport.
Cross the Bridge to Nowhere: The iconic bridge at Belhaven Bay, often referred to as the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, becomes surrounded by the sea at high tide. A stroll here offers picturesque coastal views and is an absolute must-do for all visitors to Dunbar.
Bird-Watching: As part of the John Muir Country Park, Belhaven Beach is a haven for bird watchers. Look out for species such as eider ducks, oystercatchers, and curlews. Binoculars (link to binocular reviews) are recommended for the best experience.
Picnicking: With its expansive sandy beach and grassy dunes, Belhaven offers the perfect setting for a picnic. Enjoy a peaceful meal while taking in the panoramic views of the sea to the front and the beautiful country park to the rear.
Exploring Dunbar: Just a short walk from the beach, you’ll find the town of Dunbar. In the town, you can explore historic sites like Dunbar Harbour, visit local shops, and enjoy attractions like the John Muir Museum and the Dunbar Leisure Pool.
Things to do nearby
Dunbar Harbour. 30-minute walk.
This is a historic fishing harbour that has several interesting features including the remains of an ancient castle, a gun battery, and a harbour wall that presents stunning coastal views from the top.
John Muir’s Birthplace Museum. 126 High St, Dunbar EH42 1JJ. 25-minute walk.
A privately run museum that explores the story of John Muir who grew up in Dunbar and moved to America to create some of the United States’ greatest national parks.
The John Muir Way. Dunbar EH42 1YW.
The John Muir Way runs from Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland all the way to Helensburgh on the west coast. This first/last section follows the East Lothian coastline past North Berwick and on to Prestonpans.
Dunbar Townhouse Museum and Gallery. High St, Dunbar EH42 1ER. 25-minute walk.
A small council-run museum that displays historical artefacts and art exhibitions centred around Dunbar’s local history. The museum is located in a traditional 16th-century townhouse.
Dunbar Leisure Pool. Castle Park, Dunbar EH42 1EU. 25-minute walk.
Public swimming pool with a wave machine, fitness centre, water jets and a flume.
Frequently asked questions
Does Dunbar have a sandy beach?
Yes, Dunbar in East Lothian does have a sandy beach. The beach is located 1 mile west of the town centre and stretches for about 1.6 miles. It’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, especially during the summer months. The beach is backed by sand dunes and has great views of the coast and the North Sea.
Where is Belhaven Beach?
Belhaven Beach is situated 1 mile west of Dunbar in East Lothian. Car parks that allow access to the beach are: Linkfield (address: Dunbar, West Barns, Dunbar, EH42 1TY), and Shore Road (address: Belhaven, Dunbar, EH42 1NX).
Is Belhaven beach dog friendly?
Belhaven beach is dog friendly, though be aware it is in constant use by young children so dogs should be supervised at all times. There are no dog waste bins on Belhaven Beach.
How long is Dunbar beach?
Dunbar – or Belhaven – beach is approximately 1.6 miles in length and runs northwest to southeast.