Witch trials, fierce battles and huge volcanic blasts; the town of North Berwick and its surrounding landscape has a long, fabled and fractious past. Yet in the 19th century, as the hum and smoulder of the industrial revolution largely bypassed the town, its character began to shift.
In 1850, the North Berwick Branch railway was built, connecting the seaside town with Edinburgh. Workers and retiring Lothians began to flock to the coast, set on replacing the toil of city life with ice cream, verdant golf courses and sandy shores.
Old and New
Today, the town’s Victorian past remains embedded within its charming backstreets and broad, sweeping seafront. Dip sandy toes into the 1930s tidal pool, admire Beach Road’s reef of 19th-century balconies and bay windows, or hop aboard the Sula II for a boat trip that’s been running for 50 years.
This town is vintage, but there is far more to it than a step into the past. Head to the Scottish Seabird Centre and learn about the local wildlife, or for those with a stomach for heights, get in touch with East of Scotland Microlights for a tour of the sky and expansive, aerial views of the island-flecked coast.
A short bus ride away is the harbour town of Dunbar, birthplace of John Muir. Thought by many to be the father of modern conservation, Muir’s commemorative museum is a fitting start to this rewarding inland ramble.
1. Sea in your wake
Follow the John Muir Way out of town via the Old Harbour, skirting the fringe of a golf course before reaching Belhaven Bay. The path soon enters the John Muir Country Park, a wildlife-rich landscape of grassland, marsh, woodland and dunes.
2. Banks of the Tyne
Look for gregarious eider ducks nesting in the dunes, and then head inland on the waymarked trail. You will soon meet the bubbling waters of the River Tyne, its modest banks flecked with wildflowers and tree-cast shade.
3. Beyond the mill
Pass through East Linton, noting the conical roof of the 18th-century Preston Mill, before crossing arable fields.
4. Take on the law
After about four miles you will reach the foot of Berwick Law (187m). Detour to the top of the hill for fine views of Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock, then descend to North Berwick.
Images: Getty, Shuttershock
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