On the trail of castles, seabirds and Concorde

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2020 has been a difficult time for encouraging people to use the bus. Richard Walter looks at the current provision of public transport across East Lothian for both locals and tourists and discovers that even in the middle of a pandemic, there is much still to see, subject of course to the Covid-19 travelling restrictions that might be in place

The territory
East Lothian is within easy travelling distance from Edinburgh and has seven railway stations at Dunbar and Musselburgh on the East Coast Main Line and North Berwick, Drem, Longniddry, Prestonpans and Wallyford on the North Berwick Line.

There are also a number of bus operators providing a link from East Lothian into nearby Edinburgh and connecting the many rural villages down the east coast. Lothian Buses and its subsidiary East Coast Buses operate a number of services from cross city destinations serving amongst other places Musselburgh, Wallyford, Pencaitland, Haddington, North Berwick and Dunbar. Eve Coaches of Dunbar and Prentice of Haddington provide a comprehensive network of routes connecting the villages in rural East Lothian with larger towns while Borders Buses’ service 253 passes through a number of East Lothian locations on its way to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

East Coast Buses operates a number of Wrightbus Eclipse Urban 3 Volvo B8RLEs. These 13.2m-long high spec buses feature leather seats and have proved to be very popular. They each carry different rear vinyls for some of the tourist attractions in East Lothian.

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On the tourist trail

According to the weathermen, East Lothian is officially the sunniest place in Scotland although this could well be argued by the locals due to the frequent showery days even in summer. However the weather shouldn’t be a reason to put off visiting this beautiful little section of Scotland. The most spectacular part of the area has to be the 40 or so miles of coastline running from the ‘honest toun’ of Musselburgh, famous for its horse racing, down to the seaside town of Dunbar. The area is ideal for long walks, and day explorer bus tickets are perfect for hopping on and off the regular services. There are many golden sanded beaches to be discovered at Gullane, Yellowcraig and Dunbar, spectacular cliffs and hills including Berwick Law, a conical hill that rises majestically from the surrounding landscape and stands at 613 ft above sea level. Also present are some of the world’s finest links golf courses including those at Gullane and North Berwick where many tournaments are held. There is a large holiday home campsite at Seton Sands which is an ideal location for longer stays and is easily accessible from all areas within East Lothian.

Well worth a visit is the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick, where on a good day you can view the Bass Rock which features the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. Also highly recommended would be a visit to see Scotland’s Concorde on display alongside other vintage aircraft at The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune and there is the opportunity to experience a little ‘alcoholic’ sample from the Glenkinchie Distillery at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills. Buses also serve the larger county towns such as Haddington, Dunbar and North Berwick which offer a selection of unique small gift shops and galleries with a variety of locally made art and crafts on sale and where there are numerous places to stop for refreshments – again subject to Covid-19 restrictions at the time.

Using the bus for business travel and pleasure

The accompanying photographs show how bus services and tourist links within East Lothian has been developed over the last few years. Whilst bus usage has been severely reduced this year, it is hoped that when Coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted, the region will once again become a popular destination for tourists and day trippers alike.