East Lothian

Family attractions in East Lothian

East Lothian

East Lothian, an often-missed gem in Scotland, is a county that offers an astonishing blend of idyllic landscapes, charming towns, and a wide array of sightseeing opportunities. Often called the ‘Garden of Scotland’ due to its fertile farmland, East Lothian is situated to the east of Edinburgh, extending along the southern shore of the Firth of Forth before arcing south to the Scottish Borders.

The landscape of East Lothian is truly awe-inspiring. The county is known for a number of natural wonders such as the Lammermuir Hills – an enormous range of moorland-covered hills, and mile after mile of golden sand beaches that provide the perfect place for a quiet walk or a day of family fun.

East Lothian is home to several quaint towns and villages, but there are three that are perhaps best suited for tourists. Haddington, the county town, is known for its beautiful countryside and historic architecture, as well as a superb walking trail that follows the meandering waters of the River Tyne.

North Berwick, meanwhile, is a charming seaside town that’s a popular destination for its beaches, the Scottish Seabird Centre, and the splendid views of Bass Rock. Dunbar, the birthplace of naturalist John Muir, is another lovely coastal town boasting stunning sea views, an attractive fishing harbour, and the ruins of one of Scotland’s oldest castles.

Wildlife is abundant in East Lothian, with a wealth of bird species making the region a paradise for birdwatchers. The Bass Rock, visible from North Berwick, is home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets, while Aberlady Bay – a designated Local Nature Reserve – is home to a variety of wading birds.

Tantallon Castle, a semi-ruined clifftop fortress dominated by Scotland’s oldest curtain wall, offers a fascinating insight into the country’s turbulent past, and the National Museum of Flight, located at East Fortune Airfield, allows visitors to explore Scotland’s aviation history.

Gullane Beach

Find places to visit and things to do in East Lothian with these visitor guides.

  • A Guide to Historic Attractions in East Lothian

    A Guide to Historic Attractions in East Lothian

    The historic county of East Lothian is situated to the east of Edinburgh and is highly-regarded for its historic buildings and castles. Discover the best historic attractions in East Lothian in this complete visitor guide which includes suggestions for places to visit and information about the main towns.

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  • Aberlady Bay

    Aberlady Bay

    Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve is a small but exceptionally scenic stretch of East Lothian coastline situated between the coastal villages of Longniddry and Gullane. It is a popular destination for walkers as well as photographers due to the wildlife that thrives near the beach overlooking the Firth of Forth. Visitors can see a wide…

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  • Archerfield Walled Garden

    Archerfield Walled Garden

    Nestled in the picturesque countryside of East Lothian lies a hidden gem that is a much-loved attraction for locals and tourists alike. Archerfield Walled Garden is a beautifully restored 18th-century garden that features beautifully manicured lawns and flower beds, a delightful garden café, and a charming gift shop. In this article, you’ll discover the fascinating…

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  • Athelstaneford

    Athelstaneford

    This walk from the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford – the birthplace of Scotland’s Saltire flag – passes ancient hill forts and beautiful countryside in an often-missed part of the country that’s close to Edinburgh. Discover this scenic village and the area that lead to the founding of the flag in this guide which includes…

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  • Bass Rock

    Bass Rock

    The Bass Rock is an island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. The volcanic rock is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of gannets, and visitors can take a boat from the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick to see the Bass Rock and its noisy inhabitants close up.

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  • Dirleton Castle

    Dirleton Castle

    Dirleton Castle in East Lothian served three Scottish noble families for over 400 years. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction managed by Historic Environment Scotland. Discover the castle and gardens in this guide which includes an overview and handy visiting tips.

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  • Dunbar Beach

    Dunbar Beach

    Nestled along the eastern coastline of Scotland lies a hidden gem, 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 both locals and tourists alike. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes Belhaven…

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  • Dunbar Harbour

    Dunbar Harbour

    The historic harbour at Dunbar in East Lothian dates from the 17th century. At that time it was primarily used for fishing vessels and while it is still used for commercial shellfishing today it is also a tourist attraction that offers visitors superb views across the North Sea from the Dunbar Battery.

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  • East Links Family Park

    East Links Family Park

    East Links Family Park in East Lothian is a family adventure park where kids of all ages can run, jump, slide and bounce in a variety of fun activities. The animal-themed park borders the John Muir Country Park and Belhaven Bay near Dunbar. Discover one of East Lothian’s top family attractions in this comprehensive visitor…

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  • Fascinating Facts About Attractions in East Lothian

    Fascinating Facts About Attractions in East Lothian

    East Lothian, often referred to as the ‘Golf Coast’, is a county in the south-east of Scotland, bordering the City of Edinburgh, the county of Midlothian, and the Scottish Borders. In this article, we’ll take a look at some fascinating facts about the best attractions around East Lothian from towns and castles to hills and…

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  • Gosford House

    Gosford House

    Gosford House is a grand stately home located 16 miles east of the centre of Edinburgh. Built in 1800 by celebrated Scottish architect Robert Adam for the 7th Earl of Wemyss, it is now a popular tourist destination due to the expansive gardens that feature ponds, woodlands, and sweeping lawns. While the house is closed…

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  • Gullane Beach

    Gullane Beach

    Gullane Beach is located between Aberlady Bay nature reserve and Yellowcraig Beach in East Lothian, a 15-minute drive from North Berwick and 40 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh. Visitors to the 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…

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  • Hailes Castle

    Hailes Castle

    The 14th-century Hailes Castle in East Lothian is located in a beautiful setting next to the River Tyne that’s ideal for an afternoon of exploring with the kids. The castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and entry is free of charge. Discover this hidden gem of an attraction with this complete guide which features…

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  • Inveresk Lodge Garden

    Inveresk Lodge Garden

    Inveresk Lodge Garden is a National Trust for Scotland property located in the pretty village of Inveresk in East Lothian, around 6 miles from the centre of Edinburgh. This charming garden is a haven for wildlife and is a must-visit for anyone looking to escape the hubbub of the city centre thanks to its beautiful…

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  • John Muir Country Park

    John Muir Country Park

    John Muir Country Park – dedicated to the 19th-century conservationist John Muir – is located close to the town of Dunbar in East Lothian. The park is one of the top visitor attractions in East Lothian and features grassland, pine woodland, and a wide golden-sand beach. Discover John Muir Country Park in this guide, which…

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  • Lammermuir Hills

    Lammermuir Hills

    The Lammermuirs are a range of hills in the south of Scotland that border the county of East Lothian and the Scottish Borders. Visitors can explore the ancient hill forts at White Castle and Addinston, go for woodland walks at Pressmennan Wood and Yester Estate, and climb the highest point of the hill range at…

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  • Musselburgh Beach

    Musselburgh Beach

    Nestled on the shores of East Lothian, just a short drive from the bustling city of Edinburgh, lies a wee hidden treasure that’s often overlooked by visitors to the capital – Musselburgh Beach. This charming stretch of coastline is much quieter than nearby Portobello Beach yet it’s just a 20-minute drive from the city centre,…

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  • Musselburgh Lagoons

    Musselburgh Lagoons

    Nestled along the picturesque coastline of East Lothian lies a lesser-known treasure that’s sure to captivate nature enthusiasts and sightseers alike. Musselburgh Lagoons is a diverse habitat that’s a hotspot for a multitude of bird species, from waders such as curlews and redshanks to gulls, terns and eider ducks. Whether you’re a local or a…

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  • National Museum of Flight

    National Museum of Flight

    The National Museum of Flight in East Lothian offers an amazing family day out for anyone with a love of air travel and aircraft. This popular tourist attraction features outdoor displays as well as aircraft hangers full of planes, helicopters and more. There’s also an on-site café and a gift shop that’s stacked to the…

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  • North Berwick

    North Berwick

    North Berwick is one of the top seaside towns in the southeast of Scotland. Not only is North Berwick the home of the Scottish Seabird Centre which operates boat trips to the Bass Rock, but it also boasts golden beaches to the east and west along with an eclectic mix of artisan shops and cafés…

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  • North Berwick Law

    North Berwick Law

    Standing 600 feet (187 metres) above sea level, The Law dominates the landscape around the popular seaside town of North Berwick. This gigantic remnant of an ancient volcano is a favourite destination for walkers, dog owners, and families looking to get some fresh air. You’ll find Berwick Law on the outskirts of the coastal town…

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  • Pressmennan Wood

    Pressmennan Wood

    Pressmennan Wood is a woodland in East Lothian that features a large lake (one of only four designated lakes in Scotland) and peaceful walks along several trails. The 212-acre site is managed by the Woodland Trust which has saved the native broadleaf trees from invasive Rhododendrons planted by the Victorians. The trust also maintains the…

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  • Preston Mill

    Preston Mill

    Preston Mill is located next to the River Tyne in picturesque farming country in the heart of East Lothian. The mill dates from the 18th-century and was used commercially until the 1950s but is now open as a tourist attraction managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Discover this unique historic attraction with this guide…

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  • Prestongrange Museum

    Prestongrange Museum

    Prestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.

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