The Out About Scotland complete guide to the John Muir Country Park in East Lothian
Category: Animals, Beach, Forest or woodland, Landscape, Park, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 9 out of 10
About the John Muir Country Park
The John Muir Country Park is located on one of the most beautiful stretches of the East Lothian coastline and it offers a diverse variety of wildlife habitats that nature-lovers of all ages will enjoy exploring.
The park is dedicated to John Muir, the famous Scottish-born 19th-century naturalist and conservationist who preserved many of the wilderness areas in the United States, including Yosemite Valley and the Sequoia National Park after developing a fascination with East Lothian’s countryside.
Although the park wasn’t designated as a preservation area until 1976 it has since become one of the most-loved outdoors areas in the east of Scotland, and nature-lovers flock to the site to enjoy the wild landscape.
This is a great park and it’s one that’s impossible not to like – even if the weather isn’t so good. The beach is always popular when the sun’s shining but it’s also nice for a stroll in the winter months, although watch out for that North Sea wind because it can really howl in across the exposed stretch of Belhaven Bay at times.
The beach extends from Belhaven all the way to the north of the River Tyne and you’ll find there are fantastic views from the clifftops as you walk towards Dunbar.
If you decide to head into the town after visiting the park keep a lookout for the John Muir Birthplace building which is a museum dedicated to the work of…. well, John Muir. Who else would it be dedicated to?
Heading back in the opposite direction to Dunbar will lead you through sand dunes and colourful grasslands that are almost impossibly pretty, and which are also sheltered from those (at times) ferocious winds. The grasses grow thick here and they’re full of insect and bird life, just like the pine woods which comprises the next area of the park.
The woodland is a fair size and has rough tracks running through it in a spiders-web type of pattern so it’s possible to explore it fully. You’ll see the occasional mountain bike as you walk through the pines but to be honest it wouldn’t take to long to see on two wheels so I think you’d be much better off walking instead.
The John Muir Country Park is a great place to take a leisurely afternoon stroll and if you’ve got kids with you you’ll find plenty of things to see to keep them occupied. It really is a lovely park (it’s actually my favourite place in East Lothian) and I totally recommend visiting it if you’re ever in this part of the country.
Things to do at the John Muir Country Park
The John Muir Country Park has become well-regarded for the number of plants that live in the area and to date over 400 different varieties have been recorded growing there.
The park is also a prime site for birdwatchers thanks to its varied habitats and across sand dunes, salt marsh, beach and woodland you can see kittiwakes, eider duck, shelduck, skylark, meadow pipit, ringed plover, gannet and terns foraging for food and flitting about in the skies.
The walk shown on this page will take you through each habitat, starting at the salt marsh before moving on to the beach, through the sand dunes, back across the salt marsh and finishing off with a lovely walk through the coniferous woodland.
While some sections of the path aren’t suitable for people with impaired mobility there are enough accessible areas that anyone can enjoy a visit to the site, and the John Muir Trust has rather thoughtfully installed wooden boards down to the beach so that pretty much anyone can get down there to enjoy it.
Other highlights for families are the large children’s play park at Linkfield car park with a BBQ area nearby, and the East Links Family Park attraction that’s located on the edge of the woodland.
You can see some of the animals in the East Links Family Park as you make your way back to Linkfield car park, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly find an emu or a llama staring at you through the fences!
The facilities on offer at the John Muir Country Park are pretty good and there are plenty of car parking spaces near the kids play-park along with a nearby BBQ area and public toilets. All-in-all, this is a first-class attraction in East Lothian that’s suitable for both families and couples of all ages.
What I liked about this attraction
- The park is beautiful
- There are lots of different wildlife habitats to explore
- It’s a really good, free, family day out
My top tips
- East Links Family Park is right next door so take a look if the weather turns while you’re on the beach
- There’s a dedicated BBQ area at the park so you don’t have to cook on the beach
- Take binoculars. There are a huge number of birds that live around the dunes and woodland
Photos and video
Address and map
John Muir Country Park,
Prices and opening times
There is no fee to enter the John Muir Country Park, however, car parking charges may apply.
The park is open to the public at all times of the year.
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Uneven paths
On-site conveniences: Picnic area, Toilets
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