East Lothian, which was formerly known as Haddingtonshire, stretches east from Edinburgh, between the Firth of Forth to the north and the Lammermuir Hills to the south. While the A1 from Edinburgh would be considered the main road through the area, in reality this is nothing more than a modern-day bypass! To see what the area has to offer it is necessary to follow a other roads that pass through the towns and villages, each of which has its own bit of history and culture to offer.
Heading east from Edinburgh, the first town reached in East Lothian is Musselburgh, which is also the largest. To the south of Musselburgh, near Wallyford, is the location of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, one of many battles that took place in East Lothian. Another, more famous battle, took place at nearby Prestonpans, while two more took place further east, near Dunbar.
However, we are getting ahead of ourselves here as there is much more to see between these two towns. Both Musselburgh and Prestonpans are located on the Firth of Forth and both take their name from connections with the water: mussels in the case of the former and salt for the latter. Fishing and coal mining were other major industries in the area and many of the other East Lothian settlements along the Firth developed due to one or both of these.
To the northeast of Prestonpans is Cockenzie, with the view dominated at this point, as it is in much of the surrounding area, by the coal-fired power station. Coal was originally provided by mines in East Lothian, such as those at Tranent to the south, but now it comes from all over Scotland. Port Seton, to the east of and now part of a combined burgh with Cockenzie, is still a source of coal for the power station; it was also another area where salt was produced.
Continuing along the Firth of Forth; Longniddry is another settlement that was involved with coal mining; Aberlady was once the port for Haddington; while Gullane is probably best known for its golf courses: Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship 15 times since 1892 and is due to do so again in 2013. Musselburgh Links, which is said to be the oldest golf course in the world and where Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have played in 1567, also hosted the Open six times between 1874 and 1889.
Heading from Gullane through Dirleton, we are now approaching the northern most point of the East Lothian mainland. The views at this point begin to be dominated by some of the islands in the Firth of Forth: Eyebroughy; Fidra; Lamb; Craigleith; and the Bass Rock. They are all noted for their sea bird colonies and, back on the mainland, North Berwick is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre. The town is also the location of North Berwick Law, another prominent landmark that can be seen for many miles in all directions! Yet another prominent landmark is Tantallon Castle, which is located to the east of North Berwick.
The coastline and the road begin to head south now, taking the traveller back towards the A1 that we mentioned earlier. It is near the line of this road that many of the other attractions in East Lothian lie, including: Tranent, the old mining town that was mentioned earlier; Haddington, the county’s administrative centre and the town that at one time gave its name to the area; East Linton, which was an important bridging point along the Edinburgh-London road; Dunbar, a quiet town that has had a turbulent history, not least the two battles mentioned above; and Athelstaneford, a seemingly insignificant village, but one that is said to be the birth place of Scotland’s national flag!