A Guide to East Lothian’s Best Kept Secret: Gullane Beach

Gullane Beach

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Last updated on January 23rd, 2023.

Table of Contents

Summary

East Lothian is well known for its golden beaches, but this one at Gullane – named one of the best places to live in Britain – is a stunner.

The beach lies between Aberlady Bay nature reserve and Yellowcraig Beach in a location that’s easily accessed within 15 minutes of the coastal town of North Berwick and just 40 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh.

Visitors to Gullane Beach can enjoy a 1-mile stretch of golden sand that’s exceptionally clean and has miles of rough paths through the surrounding dunes to the north and south.

Discover everything you need to know about the picturesque Gullane Beach in this complete visitor guide.

Gullane Beach
Address:Marine Terrace, Gullane, EH31 2AZ.
Opening Hours:Gullane Beach is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
Admission Price:There is no fee to use Gullane Beach.
Parking:Gullane Bents car park is accessed from Sandy Loan road in Gullane. The car park has a rough footpath leading to the beach. There is a car parking charge of £2.50 per day.
Contact:NA
Facilities:Gullane Bents car park has a toilet block with disabled toilets, a changing room and shower, picnic benches, bike lock points, refuse bins, and a temporary ice cream van. Toilets, shops, and restaurants are also located in Gullane high street (0.3 miles).

The highlights

1: Tourists visiting Edinburgh who are looking for a beach escape from the city centre need look no further than Gullane.

This is one of the best beaches on East Lothian’s coastline and is easily accessed from the city centre by car via the A1 and the A198 – a pleasant coastal drive that should take no more than 45 minutes.

2: Gullane Beach is a great place to go for a walk as there are paths that extend north beyond the dunes to the edge of the Archerfield golf course and south into Aberlady Bay nature reserve.

By following the rocky shoreline north past the golf course you will arrive at another highly rated beach – Yellowcraig – which has a snack van, public toilets, and a children’s play park.

For a route map of the Gullane Beach walk, visit Walk Highlands.

3: Those visitors heading to Gullane for a beach day with children will have a great time as the far northern and southern ends are full of rockpools. While exploring the pools, keep your eyes out for roe deer which you’ll often see in the dunes behind the beach.

Gullane Beach

Visiting tips

1: Note that car park charges apply from 1st April – 30 September: 8.00 am – 6.30 pm and
1st October – 31st March: 8.00 am – 4.00 pm. There are pay and display machines but it’s usually easiest to pay via Ringo on your phone.

2: If you’d rather not head onto the beach there are 4 picnic tables located close to the toilet block near the car park which offer extensive views of the Firth of Forth and Gullane Bay.

3: The fish and chip shop opposite the turn-off to Sandy Loan road is a must-visit as the chips are delicious. There’s also a very good restaurant next door for those visitors looking for a more upmarket meal, and a Co-op a few doors down for anyone looking to stock up on picnic supplies.


Overview

There are many reasons to visit East Lothian, from the picture-perfect scenery of the Lammermuir Hills to the attractive towns and villages of North Berwick and Gullane.

The county is easily reached from Edinburgh, it offers good access to Glasgow and the Scottish Borders, and it features some of the prettiest countryside in Lowland Scotland.

The highlight though (in my opinion as someone who lives in the county) is the 20-mile stretch of golden sand beaches which start at Seton Sands (13 miles east of the city centre) and continues all the way around the coastline to the historic fishing town of Dunbar.

Gullane Beach

The majority of these beaches are beautifully clean and have been rated as ‘Excellent’ by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency with clear, unpolluted seas and equally clean and well-maintained beaches.

It isn’t easy to pick a favourite, but the beach at Gullane is definitely near the top of the list.

Gullane – named one of the 50 best places to live in the UK by The Times newspaper – is a popular destination regardless of the beach thanks to the golf courses that surround it (there’s a reason why this part of the country is called ‘The Golf Coast’) including the Muirfield course which is a regular host of the Open Championship.

The other main reason for visitors to go to Gullane is to enjoy the beautiful coastal area that lies between Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve and Yellowcraig Beach, named one of the Sunday Times 50 best beaches in 2022.

Gullane Beach

Gullane Beach is accessed from the village high street close to the Gullane Golf Visitor’s Clubhouse. A council-run car park is located 1/3 of a mile from the high street and is large enough to take well over 100 vehicles, which is just as well as Gullane Beach is an incredibly popular place year-round, and especially so in the height of summer.

A rough sandy footpath leads down to the beach, which is unsuitable for wheelchairs or buggies but is no problem for the able-bodied, after which it opens up onto the sweeping mile-long stretch of sand.

The main section of Gullane Beach is surrounded by a moderately steep verge of grass-covered dunes which offer some protection from incoming winds, and thanks to a number of natural sandpits it’s usually possible to find a secluded spot well away from the north sea breezes that play havoc with the golfers on the nearby courses.

The far ends of the beach are marked by large areas of bedrock that have yet to be ground into sand by the pounding waves, which is actually good news for families as they’re fantastic places to let the kids guddle around in the rock pools left behind by the retreating tide.

The southwest end is best for this activity as the bedrock is much wider than that at the north, and there are a couple of wee caves in the cliffs behind that kids will have a great time exploring.

Gullane Beach

Tourist information

Activities: The main activities to enjoy are dog walking and relaxing on the beach. Dog walkers are requested to pick up all mess left behind by their pets and dispose of it in the bins at the Gullane Bents car park.

Sunbathers must ensure that all rubbish is collected and deposited in the bins in the car park. In addition, BBQs must not be lit near the dry gorse bushes behind the beach.

Active beach visitors might like to make use of the long stretch of sand for kiteboarding, or perhaps swim in the sea (if they’re brave enough), but be aware that while Gullane Beach is frequently used by hardened swimmers the water temperature is cold throughout the year so a wetsuit is recommended for all but the warmest summer days.

Gullane Beach

Camping: East Lothian has a good range of campsites but many summer visitors prefer to wild camp at places such as Gullane Beach.

Camping is permitted on the beach but certain conditions must be adhered to as part of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and at the request of East Lothian Council. These are:

  1. Camping is permitted only as part of a pedestrian or cycled journey.
  2. Camping must be lightweight backpack camping only – i.e. every piece of equipment is carried as part of that journey.
  3. Camping must be done in small tents (2 person) and a maximum of four campers together.
  4. It is only permitted to camp for a maximum of two nights in any one place.
  5. Camping must be done discreetly, respecting neighbours and nature.
  6. Camping must be done in accordance with local signage guidance.
  7. No trace must be left behind once the camp has been packed away.
Gullane Beach

Parking: Car park visitors have few restrictions other than adhering to car park rules which are generally no overnight parking and ensuring parking fees are paid. Car parking is just £2.50 for a full day, but be aware that if this fee is not paid then fines can be enforced of up to £60.

Frequent visitors may prefer to purchase an annual permit which allows unlimited parking for two vehicles per household for just £50 per year, reduced to £40 for East Lothian residents. Applications can be submitted on the East Lothian Council website.

Access: Disabled access has been drastically improved in recent years and there is now a dedicated disabled parking area at the Gullane Beach car park as well as wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, disabled toilets, and a wooden viewing platform where wheelchair users can view the bay.

A level gravelled surface has been installed from the picnic benches to the viewing platform.

Gullane Beach

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Dunbar & North Berwick – 351 Explorer.

Edinburgh – 66 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Yellowcraig Beach. Ware Road, North Berwick EH39. 10-minute drive.
One of the top beaches in East Lothian. This beach features clean golden sand and shallow water so is well suited to families with young children.

The John Muir Way runs past the rear of the dunes. There is a large car park, a children’s play area, toilets, and a snack van on-site.

Dirleton Castle. Dirleton, North Berwick EH39 5ER. 7-minute drive.
A medieval fortress that is largely intact and has several interesting features including one of Scotland’s best-preserved dovecots, surprisingly large storage vaults, and the world’s longest herbaceous border.

The Scottish Seabird Centre. The Harbour, North Berwick EH39 4SS. 16-minute drive.
An environmental visitor centre that aims to educate and entertain visitors with displays and exhibitions about Scotland’s coastal marine wildlife.

The centre features a viewing platform that overlooks Bass Rock, and a harbour that’s the departure point for pleasure cruises around the nearby islands which are home to thousands of seabirds.

North Berwick Law. North Berwick EH39 5NX. 7-minute drive.
A large volcanic plug that rises 187 metres above the coastal town of North Berwick.

Berwick Law has well-trodden paths that allow relatively easy access to the whalebone sculpture at the top. The summit is famed for the stunning views across East Lothian and the Firth of Forth.

Archerfield Walled Garden. Archerfield Estate, Dirleton EH39 5HQ. 8-minute drive.
An 18th-century walled garden that encompasses wildflowers, roses, a kitchen garden, and vegetable gardens.

Nearby Archerfield Wood has a fairy trail and a play park. There is a modern shop on-site that sells local produce and features a garden café.


Frequently asked questions

Where is Gullane Beach?

Gullane is a glorious sandy beach located in East Lothian, 5 miles from North Berwick to the east and 20 miles from Edinburgh to the west. Access to the car park is via Sandy Loan, opposite the Gullane shops on the A198. The Gullane Beach postcode is EH31 2BE.

How clean is Gullane Beach?

Gullane Beach has been awarded a rating of ‘Excellent’ by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Can you swim at Gullane Beach?

It is possible to swim at Gullane Beach and, in fact, there is a dedicated group – the Gullane Bay Swimmers – who meet every Monday morning to swim together. Be aware that the water temperature is low for most of the year so a wetsuit should be considered.

Are there toilets at Gullane Beach?

Gullane Beach toilets are located at the Gullane Bents car park. The toilets have disabled facilities and changing facilities accessible for RADAR key holders.

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By Craig Neil

Craig Neil is a travel writer from Edinburgh with a passion for exploring the hidden gems of Scotland. From the rugged Highlands to the bustling cities, he's dedicated years to touring the country and uncovering its many attractions. Join him as he shares insider tips and personal experiences to help visitors find the best things to do in Scotland. Follow him on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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