The John Muir Country Park is located close to the town of Dunbar in East Lothian. The park features grassland, pine woodland and a beach. It is dedicated to the 19th-century conservationist John Muir.
Review of 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 offers a range of wildlife habitats that people 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 large park and it’s one that’s impossible not to like – even if the weather isn’t so good. The park is always popular when the sun is shining but you’ll need to wrap up on windy days because the North Sea winds really whip across the exposed beach at Belhaven Bay.
The beach extends from Belhaven all the way to the north of the River Tyne and you’ll find there are superb 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 grassland. The grassland is thick with wildflowers that are full of insect and bird life and they’re ringed by pine trees and mudflats that are home to kittiwake, eider duck, skylarks and lapwings.
The woods have rough tracks running through them and you’ll see the occasional mountain bike zooming about, but to be honest you’re much better off on two feet as it’s not exactly the biggest woodland in Scotland.
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 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.
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Things to do at the John Muir Country Park
The John Muir Country Park is highly regarded for the number of plants that grow there and to date over 400 different varieties have been recorded.
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 pine 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.
The public toilets are great as they have showers to freshen up after a swim, but unfortunately they’re cold only so you might want to leave the loofah at home unless it’s the middle of summer.
All-in-all, this is a first-class attraction in East Lothian that’s suitable for families of all ages.
Discover more attractions in the area with my Lothian Attractions articles.
- The park is pretty big but it’s the beach that’s the main draw.
- There are lots of different wildlife habitats to explore and the woodland is a great place to take the dog.
- It’s a really good, free, family day out that you can combine with a visit to Dunbar.
- East Links Family Park is right next door so take a look if the weather turns while you’re on the beach, or if you’d prefer to explore inland I highly recommend Pressmennan Wood which is located just a few miles to the south of the John Muir Park.
- There’s a dedicated BBQ area at the park so you don’t have to cook on the beach. It’s situated near the car park.
- If you’re a bird-spotter I seriously recommend you take binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens because there are a huge number of birds that live in the dunes and grassland.
John Muir Country Park,
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near the John Muir Country Park
- Tyninghame Beach. 14-minute drive. A very clean and less-visited sandy beach that is separated from Seacliff beach by a lengthy section of shingle. There is a rough path that follows the coast south past Whitberry Point and St. Baldred’s Cradle local nature reserve. Tyninghame beach has a paid parking area.
- Dunbar Harbour. Dunbar EH42 1HW. 8-minute drive. A historic fishing harbour that is still in use by Dunbar fishermen. The harbour is famous for Dunbar Battery which is a historic landmark that has been converted into an outdoor amphitheatre. The ruins of Dunbar Castle overlook the harbour though access to it has been closed off.
- Dunbar Townhouse Museum and Gallery. High St, Dunbar EH42 1ER. 8-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.
- East Links Family Park. East Links Family Park, Dunbar EH42 1XF. 2-minute drive. A family-oriented theme park that has a go-kart track, animal enclosures, a petting zoo, play parks, a café, a shop and much more. The park is located on the edge of John Muir Country Park.
- Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot. Preston Road, East Linton EH40 3DS. 11-minute drive. An attractive historic mill and a 16th-century dovecot that was used to house over 500 pigeons. The mill is open for viewing but the main attraction is often considered the nearby River Tyne which is a haven for otters, kingfishers and herons. There are footpaths that follow the river for several miles.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange 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.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.