f you’re looking to escape the city for the day, a trip along the East Lothian Coast is the perfect way to soak up some fresh sea air, enjoy a stroll along the sands and even visit the odd Castle.
Our usual go-to when it comes to day trips from Edinburgh is to get up early and head out to the Scottish Highlands. We’re so lucky to live relatively close by to such a beautiful part of the country, but it does require getting up at the crack of dawn in order to make a day of it.
If you don’t fancy the early start, a perfect alternative is to head out a little closer to home, to the East Lothian Coast.
There are several beautiful spots and stop offs along the coast of East Lothian. What’s more, the furthest point is just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh city centre.
Whether you’re enjoying a sunny summer’s day or wrapping up during winter, this is a day trip perfect for all seasons.
First Stop – St Abbs Head
We decided to drive out and start our trip from the furthest point we’d planned to visit – St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve.
Close to St Abbs village, St Abbs Head is a stunning stretch of 200 acres of coast with dramatic cliffs, beautiful blue sea, a traditional Scottish Lighthouse plus wildlife and nature aplenty.
When you arrive at St Abbs Head you’ll find a large stretch of Private Road. You can park up and walk the mile or so stretch towards the cliffs or, if you’re feeling lazy like us, drive right up to the cliffs where there are a few parking spaces available.
St Abbs Head is truly gorgeous. We felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere – not 10 minutes off the A1. With fresh sea air, the chirping of birds and crashing of waves on the rock faces. The area is actually renowned for its seabird colonies, so keep your eyes peeled!
We enjoyed a stroll along the cliff edge and even popped down to get a closer view of the Lighthouse. Be aware that the Lighthouse is actually private, but we couldn’t resist popping down to get a picture.
If you fancy a bit more of a walk there are several different routes you can take with times taking between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours. You can find the routes on this site.
Next Stop – St Abbs
A short drive from the Nature Reserve will take you to St Abbs village. As you drive into the village, we’d recommend parking at the top rather than driving down to the car park. There is free on-road parking here, plus you’ll be greeted with beautiful views overlooking the charming village, fishermen’s cottages, jagged cliffs and a vast stretch of sea.
The village itself is small but perfect for a little stroll around the houses and the harbour. There are also a handful of cafes if you’re feeling peckish. We popped into Ebbcars Café who serve up freshly caught crab and fish as well as a menu of sandwiches and drinks. The staff were super friendly, the food was good and the prices were too!
Next Stop: Seacliff
Bellies full, we headed back to the car and drove towards Seacliff beach. It might have been a chilly Spring weekend, but there’s nothing quite like a stroll along a breezy beech to clear the senses.
Seacliff beach is entered through a private road just off the A198. It’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay £3 to get through the barrier to park up so make sure you’ve got some loose change to hand.
Parked up, we wandered down to the beach which has the most spectacular views out to the iconic Bass Rock and you can even spot the magnificent Tantallon castle if you wander round to the left of the beach.
Seacliff beach is a great place to stretch your legs, sit and soak up the magnificent sites and scenery or if you’re feeling brave have a dip in the sea!
Next, we headed to Tantallon Castle which is just a 5 minute drive from Seacliff beach.
Next Stop: Tantallon Castle
As a Historic Scotland site, it is worth noting that will have to buy a ticket if you wish to enter the grounds of the Castle. If you don’t want to fork out, you will get great views of the Castle from Seacliff Beach.
Tantallon Castle is one of the last of the grand Scottish medieval castles sitting on the cliff edge. From the Castle grounds you’ll find even more amazing views out to Bass Rock and over the North Sea.
The Castle contains one of the best examples of a mighty red sandstone curtain wall from anywhere in Scotland, dating back to the 1300s. The perfect way to learn something new whilst enjoying more brisk sea air!
And Finally, North Berwick
Our final stop was the charming seaside town of North Berwick.
There’s plenty to do in North Berwick, with the likes of the Scottish Seabird Centre, Coastal Communities Museum and North Berwick Golf Course all calling this town home. Not to mention the selection of shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as the stunning beach and harbour.
We had a little wander around the town centre, popping my head into some of the shops and refuelling with a coffee break. We’d recommend Steampunk Coffee as a great coffee shop serving up delicious speciality coffee. We then headed back to the beach for our final dose of fresh sea air.
As with Seacliff beach, you get amazing views out to Bass Rock, and you can even get boat rides out to the Rock. Boat rides are seasonal, so make sure to check before you go. If you’re lucky enough you might even spot some puffins!
As we arrived in North Berwick at the end of our day trip we only spent around 45 minutes here before dusk descended, but if you’ve got more time you could definitely spend a whole day here. Just half an hour from Edinburgh on the train or a short drive away it’s also super accessible!