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by Anna Neubert-Wood, WanderWomen Scotland Ltd

1. Walk barefoot at the beach. Barefoot walking is really good for you, not just does it slow you right down, helping you de-stress, but it’s also free reflexology, it grounds you, and gives you a sense of freedom and adventure.

Try it here: any sandy beach in East Lothian will be perfect. We love Tyninghame Beach for it. Add a few rocks for the advanced barefoot experience.

2. Spend some time with a tree, and listen to the sounds around you, notice all the life around you - what do you notice? Can you spot any animals? Can you tell different birdsong apart? Whether you are standing or sitting with a tree, notice how unconditionally the tree has your back, how it supports you, how you can trust it with your weight, and how being around trees calms you.

Try it here: Blinkbonny Wood, Gifford Community Woodland are some of our favourites.

3. Search for sea treasures (sea glass or sea pottery), and build rock stacks. Finding flow in a playful activity, being present and finding joy in the simple things, is beautiful mindfulness. Once you slow down, you will be amazed at all the colours by your feet, shapes and sizes of washed up treasures. Building rock stacks requires a steady hand, balancing skills and a calm mind. Practice, practice, practice - how high can you stack your tower?

Try it here: Morrison’s Haven and Prestonpans Beach.

4. Create some nature art. Wherever you might be on a walk, pick up things that catch your eye - colours, textures, shapes…those might be rocks, shells, feathers, sticks. Collect with a child-like mind. It will make you pay more attention to what’s around you. Eventually, create something nice with it, whether it’s a mandala, a face, a little landscape or anything else that makes you feel creative!

Try it here: Any walk in any East Lothian location will do - beach, woodland or hills!

5. Sea meditation: Sit or stand facing the sea. Become aware of the space. The colours, the sounds. Focus your mind on the sound of the crashing waves and notice it for a while. Eventually try and synchronise your breathing with the rhythm of the waves. Breathing in with the incoming wave, breathe out with the crashing and the retreating of the wave. In and out. Nature makes you feel so good!

Try it here: Anywhere on East Lothian’s beaches. The louder and powerful the waves, the better!

6. Skygaze. Take some time to lie down somewhere comfy - on the sandy beach or a grassy area. Relax. Watch the sky and the clouds, notice whether it’s a still day with slow moving clouds, or whether it’s wild and clouds shapeshift quickly. What shapes can you notice? What stories can you come up with? Become aware of the big space above you - are the clouds far away? Or are they quite low? Which way does the wind blow? Can you touch the sky? Be playful and enjoy!

Try it here: We like Yellowcraig Beach or the grassy plain behind the dunes for this!

7. Climb a hill and feel on top of the world. Getting moving, getting the heart pumping makes you get in touch with your breath - it’s so good for you to breathe deeply, using your whole lung capacity. Think about how shallow your breathing is in other life situations! They can do so much more for you! You are strong! Take in the beautiful views in this stunning piece of the world.

Try it here: Traprain Law & North Berwick Law, with some added wild horse fun!

8. Spend some time by a rock pool. Notice all the life that goes on in this little habitat. Isn’t it fascinating? Notice the colours, movement and calm. Imagine what would change, once the tide comes in.

Try it here: At rocky parts of the coast, at low tide. For example at Longniddry Bents, East of North Berwick and Seacliff Beach.

9. Make yourself a wild flower crown or pick some flowers to take home. Connecting with the plants and flowers makes you feel more connected to any place. Watch all the insects that love the plants, and be respectful to leave some for them to enjoy. Only take what you can use/what you need. Don’t pick all the flowers from the same patch. Notice the scents, and think back to when you made flower crowns as a child. Did you use daisies or dandelions? Go and make one now. Or simply take some home to pop in a vase, to remind you of your special time outside.

Try it here: At field edges, by the side of paths. Anywhere in East Lothian. Once you pay attention you will see wildflowers and pretty weeds everywhere!

10. Forage some Seabuckthorn! Scotland’s superfood is easy to spot - its orange berries can be found along many East Lothian beaches - Very distinctive, they are best to harvest in October and November. Because of it’s thorny branches, bring secateurs and cut off a branch, which you then pop in the freezer overnight. The next morning you are able to get the berries off really easily. A handful thrown into a smoothie mix, or cooked down into a jam, you will benefit from all its antioxidants and vitamins. Raw, and on its own, it tastes very sour and tart, because of its high vitamin C content. Be healthy and feel good! Good fact - because it’s not a native species, you can’t over harvest Seabuckthorn. (with other foraging, you need to be more careful!)

Try it here: Most places near the beaches - Gullane Beach, Yellowcraig Beach, etc.

For more mindfulness and adventure, join WanderWomen’s activities, with the added bonus of the company of small groups of like-hearted women and guidance and facilitation by Anna.

Find out more at www.wander-women.co.uk on Facebook Instagram and Twitter.                                 

Book yourself onto some Selfcare & Nature Connection now! Currently there is a 50% discount on tickets up to £40, too - use the Discount Code “DaysOutinScotland50” to make the most of the discount!

Blog by Our So Called Life

It’s often hard to know where to begin looking for the best food and drink when visiting a new area, so we have compiled a list of our top places to eat in and around North Berwick!

We were lucky to visit the town over the space of a couple of days and believe that we found some wonderful eateries that we would love to share with you.

The Loft Cafe & Bakery

We stopped for breakfast at The Loft Café & Bakery which is in the town of Haddington, around a 20-minute drive from North Berwick.

If you have the good fortune of visiting on a bright day, they have a gorgeous outdoor seating area which is where we were lucky enough to find a table. Otherwise, if you prefer, you can always opt to sit indoors.

Ordering a Full Loft (full breakfast) and a Breakfast Toastie along with some coffees, we found the service to be quick and friendly. The portions were just the right size for us and it was really fairly priced for the quality of food that we received.

All of the food that we saw being served looked delicious and they have a great, varied menu. I would love to return and try some more of the offerings, especially one of their homemade sausage rolls!

Vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives are available for many of the menu items.

Bostock Bakery

We visited Bostock Bakery twice on our visit to North Berwick and I think that is a testament in itself.

They offer a selection of bread, pastries, cakes and coffee to take away.

On our first visit, we bought a Pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) and a savoury croissant. We sat in the nearby park to eat them and they were both so delicious that we made a mental note to return and buy a loaf of bread for our stay.

On our second visit, we chose a crusty white bread and a cruffin (thrown in for good measure). Again, both were really tasty. This was my first taste of both a Pastel de nata and a cruffin - highly recommended!

This is a very popular bakery and there was almost always a queue outside, so don’t hesitate too much if you are looking to purchase something or they may just have sold out!

I would also say, yes, it’s a little bit more expensive than the supermarkets but it is definitely worth it for the quality, the taste and the freshness of each item.

There was definitely a lot of love put into these recipes.

 

Drift

Drift is a great spot for breakfast, coffee, cake and lunch in North Berwick.

They use a lot of fresh, seasonal, Scottish produce but to me, it was the incredible cliffside views that really caught my attention. Using an upcycled shipping container with large floor to ceiling windows that overlook the water and the incredible Bass Rock, this is definitely food with a view.

The menu at Drift is erring on the side of accessible fine dining in my eyes. While you can still order the full breakfast, sausage roll or soup, the ingredients and flavours are somewhat richer and of a higher quality.

If you don’t have the time to sit in but would still like to try the food at Drift, why not visit their Takeaway Trailer which can be found outside the restaurant, or order one of their Treat or Pick Me Up boxes to eat at home.

Steampunk Coffee

The premises are lovely but at the time of our visit, there was no hot food being served, it was back to basics, good coffee and some cake. I believe that the building was an old joinery warehouse and it looks fantastic, so I was sad that we couldn’t have the full experience.

Nevertheless, we bought some iced coffees as the weather was so lovely and enjoyed them as we walked around the town and took in the sights.

Steampunk are coffee roasters first and foremost, coffee is clearly the passion, and it was great!

They obviously take a lot of pride in what they do and you can buy some of their coffee and/or equipment from the store.

The Lobster Shack

The Lobster Shack was the one place that I just had to visit. There was no question, this food van had been all over my news feeds for what felt like years.

Unbelievably, I didn’t get the opportunity -  I was on a tight schedule and didn’t have time to wait in the long queue; they were closed; awaiting food deliveries - for whatever reason, we couldn’t make it work!

I was so disappointed because their menu and the pictures that I have seen, look so delicious.

One day…

The Rocketeer

But fear not, because I discovered that The Lobster Shack and its sister The Rocketeer restaurant nearby, offer almost exactly the same menu.

The main differences being, that The Rocketeer has indoor seating and also offer some meat dishes. Now, I would advise you to make a reservation quite early if you would like to dine here, as there are only 10 or so tables.  Book ahead of time especially if you want a lovely beachfront view.

We visited over lunchtime and had two courses. Starting with the sharing platter, we had hot salmon and prawn fishcakes, two prawn fritters and some squid which came with 3 dips.

Each part was delicious and we even had comments from other tables exclaiming that they wished that they had ordered it, so the sharing platter is a must in my eyes!

For mains, we ordered the fish burger and the dressed crab, both came with double-dipped chips.

Both the food and service were brilliant, this is a must-visit.

North Berwick Fry

Sometimes, going out for a meal is not on the agenda, but you still want to treat yourself.

We felt this way after a long day of travel and we could not decide (or agree) on where to eat.

Frankly, we were tired and in desperate need of some rest, so we did what any tourist by the seaside does, and got some takeaway fish and chips!

The North Berwick Fry was the closest to us and had some great reviews. We visited the shop, ordered 2 standard fish suppers and received them almost immediately.

I was a little disappointed that they were served to us in boxes rather than being wrapped in paper as I wasn’t sure how well they would retain the heat, but we got back to our cabin and all was well.

The food was still hot, the portions were large, definitely no complaints and it was really tasty.

Alandas Gelato

Another seaside treat is of course ice cream. You couldn’t miss the long queue outside Alandas Gelato and to me, that’s a great sign.

Using locally sourced ingredients, including milk and cream, there were a huge array of flavours to choose from.

I picked the raspberry ripple, which had full frozen raspberries mixed through it and it was delicious! My mouth is watering at the thought of it!

A festival celebrating St Andrews Day and the very best of Scottish history, heritage, culture, film, music and food is set to take place in East Lothian (home of Scotland’s iconic Saltire Flag) from 24 to 30 November 2021.

Just a short distance from Scotland’s historic capital city of Edinburgh, The Saltire Festival will host a wide range of events and exhibitions, some of which are free, in leading venues throughout East Lothian.

As the original home of Scotland’s iconic Saltire Flag, surrounded by stunning coastline, rolling countryside and vibrant towns and villages, the region is the perfect place to celebrate this important national day and the very best that Scotland has to offer.

It is said that The St Andrew's Cross or Saltire is Scotland's national flag (the oldest flag in Europe and the Commonwealth) originated in a battle between the Picts (with support from The Scots) and the Saxons close to the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in the dark ages (believed to have been 832AD).

Fearing the outcome of the encounter, King Angus led prayers for deliverance, and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against the blue sky. The king vowed that if he gained the victory with the saint’s help, then Andrew would become to be the patron saint of Scotland. They did win and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.

The Flag Heritage Centre at Athelstaneford is open from April to October where visitors can enjoy a short audio-video dramatisation of the traditional origins of Scotland's flag . Admission is free.

The programme includes events at The Brunton, a world-class theatre and entertainment venue located in the town of Musselburgh:

From Scotland’s own highly acclaimed contemporary roots and folk musician, Kris Drever.  General admission price £17; to

West-End star Keith Jack and the MacDonald Bros, who will co-host an evening celebrating some of Scotland’s greatest music icons – including The Proclaimers, Lewis Capaldi & Dougie Maclean.  General admission price £25.

The festival will also celebrate Scotland in Film, with a special screening of the cult Scottish comedy-drama 'Local Hero' starring Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster and Denis Lawson.  The film follows a young oil executive on a journey to Scotland to buy a whole village on behalf of the oil company he works for, which is run by Happer (Burt Lancaster).  Those who will be watching the film for the first time at the festival, will find out why to this day, visitors from all over the world come to Scotland just to find a phone box featured in the film.  Tickets from £7 to £8.

For fans of Diana Galbaldon’s best-selling Outlander novels and hit global TV series, Dr Aaron Johnston will host a free Prestonpans Battlefield by Night walking tour.  The event will explore the forgotten story of the events that took place the night before the Battle of Prestonpans.  The battle in East Lothian was the first significant engagement of the Jacobite Rising in 1745, when Jacobite forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated the Hanoverian ‘redcoats’ army under Sir John Cope.  The battle lasted less than thirty minutes and led to the Jacobite’s invasion of England. The first Outlander stories are largely based around the Jacobite rebellion and the events that followed. 

For foodies looking for a stress-free shopping experience, the Haddington Farmers’ Market offers a wide range of local produce and seasonal food and drink.  It’s the perfect place for festival goers to pick up some ingredients to cook their very own authentic St Andrew’s Day meal at home.

Back at The Brunton, the 'Wherever a Scotsman goes...' John Muir and Robert Burns Exhibition will be free to view throughout November.  It tells the story of locally born global conservation pioneer John Muir and the role Scotland’s national bard played in inspiring him.

Whether 'sauntering' in the Sierra foothills, exploring the Alaskan glaciers, rediscovering Scotland or travelling the World, Muir always had Burns with him.  As he said himself, he “had him by heart… On my first long walk, I carried a copy of Burn’s poems and sang them all the way. All the country and the people, beasts and birds, seemed to like them.”

Muir’s knowledge and love of Burns appears throughout his letters and writing, some of which will be displayed in this free Saltire Festival exhibition.

For more information about The Saltire Festival visit www.saltirefestival.com

Taking time for ourselves has always been important but often overlooked.  In recent times looking after our physical health and mental wellbeing has come to the fore.  East Lothian is the ideal location to take time to find balance, to rest, to recharge and indulge in a bit of mindfulness.

How about a digital detox, tuning into your surroundings, enjoying a truly authentic experience or exploring the natural landscape?  

Eat Local Produce

Known as Scotland’s Food & Drink County, the East Lothian larder includes seafood, fruit & vegetables, grains and is great for foraging.  Fine produce is available from shops, delis and farmers markets and can be ordered for home delivery or pick up.  Quiet cafes and restaurants proudly display the local producers featured on their menus.

Scotland's Food & Drink County

Stroll, Jog or Run along a Beach

With over 40 miles of stunning coastline, East Lothian has some of Scotland’s finest beaches.  Some are well known and can be busy at times such as Gullane, Longniddry and Yellowcraig.  However, there are plenty of quieter spots where you can often have the whole place to yourself.

Beaches & Coastal Car Parks

Try a Spot of Yoga

Many established yogis run classes indoors and out across the county.  You can even try SUP Yoga – a great way to test your balance!  Or simply grab your mat and head out for some individual practice surrounded by nature and really reconnect.

Forest Bathing

This activity from Japan means sitting peacefully and quietly in a forest or wood and tapping into your senses to immerse yourself in your surroundings.  East Lothian’s woodlands date back hundreds of years and are perfect for forest bathing. 

Take to the Water

Swimming in the sea and lochs has taken off during the Covid-19 pandemic.  East Lothian has many quiet bays, secluded lakes and lochs for you to take a dip.  Or why not try coasteering, surfing or stand-up paddle boarding?  Follow safety advice and procedures when you take to the water.

Meet the Locals!

Get up close to nature as you walk, cycle or take a boat trip.  There is an abundance of birdlife, marine life and wildlife to be spotted throughout the East Lothian coast and countryside.  A camera is a must if you want to capture puffins, gannets, dolphins, seals, otters, swans, deer, hares and butterflies to name just a few!

Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Looking after our health and wellbeing has come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic.  And as we strive to find open spaces and places where we can relax, take time to reflect and look after ourselves, it is encouraging to see new ideas for outdoor activities and exploration.

Dunbar in East Lothian is the start or end point of the John Muir Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails linking Helensburgh in the west with John Muir’s birth place Dunbar in the east. 

The 134 mile route takes you on a journey through Scotland’s central belt exploring a rich and varied landscape, history and heritage.  East Lothian is home to three sections covering 41.5 miles and taking in some of the country’s most scenic coastline from Musselburgh to Dunbar.  

For 2021 and Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, East Lothian is pleased to partner with the John Muir Way to bring a range of coastal off route itinerary suggestions for those looking to explore further.

There are four walking routes and two cycling routes to try...

Walking routes:

  • Fisherrow to Port Seton - Just east of Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh, lies Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh.  From here you can walk to the traditional fishing village of Port Seton, enjoying the rich birdlife as you go.
  • North Berwick Sandcastles - One of East Lothian’s best loved seaside towns is North Berwick.  This route takes in sandcastles at the stunning Yellowcraig beach and an impressive Historic Environment Scotland castle with beautiful gardens at Dirleton.
  • North Berwick Law to Tantallon Castle - For amazing views you can’t beat The Law in North Berwick and the vista from Tantallon Castle perched dramatically upon a cliff top.
  • Dunbar to East Linton - For some of the finest views on the whole route you need to walk the coast between Dunbar with its harbour, cliffs and miles of golden sand and the picturesque village of East Linton.

For more information on Walking In East Lothian

Cycling Routes:

  • Fisherrow to Aberlady - The Firth of Forth coastline from Musselburgh makes for a scenic cycle to Aberlady Bay nature reserve.
  • Dunbar to North Berwick - This loop takes you along quiet roads and sandy pathways covering East Lothian’s most popular towns to visit. Cycling in East Lothian

For more information on Cycling in East Lothian

Speaking of the new itineraries, Elaine Carmichael spokesperson from Visit East Lothian, the region’s destination marketing and management organisation, said: “As the birthplace of John Muir, East Lothian works closely with the partners on the john Muir Way and is particularly pleased with these new off route itinerary ideas.  We hope that they will inspire those who have already walked or cycled the route to explore further and enjoy East Lothian’s great outdoors.”

Gavin Morton, Marketing Development Officer for the Green Action Trust (the charity behind the John Muir Way) said, “It’s been great to see the growth in popularity of the John Muir Way among walkers and cyclists taking on this coast to coast trail in recent years. Now, with the addition of 20 day trip ideas across the country, even more people can enjoy the landscapes, sights and sounds of central Scotland’s great outdoors, whether it’s a day spent exploring their local area, or a weekend trip further afield.”

Visit here to plan your East Lothian John Muir Way micro adventure!

Blog by Our So Called Life

Like so many others, I go through fleeting phases of active fitness and gym-going, but what I really enjoy, and something that never wears thin, are long walks through some of Scotland's greatest landscapes.

More so, it's heading out with a friend (even better if they have a dog!), walking for miles at our own pace whilst chatting away, stopping for the occasional picture and visiting new locations!

The fresh air and sense of accomplishment that I feel when I come home, hand in hand with memories of incredible views and picturesque stops, is hard to beat. And for this reason, I was really excited to take on part of the John Muir Way.

If you aren't familiar with the name John Muir, he was born in Dunbar, Scotland before immigrating to America.  He became a very well-revered conservationist among many other things and is often referred to as 'The father of national parks in the United States', keen on preserving natural wonders like the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite and protecting them from exploitation.

The John Muir Way is a 134 mile, walking and cycling route that connects coasts, villages and towns across Scotland, from Helensburgh all the way to John Muir's birthplace, Dunbar.

Obviously, that is a mammoth distance to undertake and can take several days to complete.  Unfortunately, this is time that we did not have available, but thankfully, there are many smaller routes on the trail that you can complete at your leisure.

The trail has been split into 10 sections, each with its own incredible offerings.  So, not only can you enjoy the captivating scenery but you can also learn more about the culture and history of Scotland, whether that's by travelling through our first National Park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, experiencing nature and beaches, visiting The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies, admiring The Forth Bridges in South Queensferry or climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.

I have already experienced some of the things mentioned above, so we decided to travel somewhere entirely new to us both and chose to visit East Lothian, particularly, North Berwick.  There were a few reasons why we decided to visit East Lothian but primarily, we wanted to see the Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle, Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot.

Hiring a Bike

Upon arriving in North Berwick, we sought out one of the many bike hire shops in the area. I know it's not always an option to take your own, or perhaps you don't own your own, so this is a really easy and accessible way to partake in some outdoor activities without the added stress or packing.

The first shop that we came across was Law Cycles who not only sell bikes and bike equipment for children and adults but offer bike and electric bike hire.  You can hire bikes for as little as £20 for a 1/2 day which includes your safety equipment such as helmets.

We had definitely taken the time to plan our chosen path as we really wanted to make the most of our visit.  For us, we knew that the route itself would be very scenic but we were particularly keen to visit as many of the points of interest as we could manage, and as we struck lucky with the weather, we chose to set off early to achieve this.

Climbing North Berwick Law was initially high on our agenda of places to visit but we didn't feel that we would have enough freedom in the time that we had, so we are going to save this as a walking route for another visit.  However, if you do have the time, I think this would be a great one to add to the list!

Tantallon Castle

First off, we stopped at Tantallon Castle.  Our accommodation was near Tantallon Castle, we had driven past it numerous times, I had seen it in the distance whilst on our trip to the Bass Rock and I just knew that it had to be top of the list of places to visit.

I think there's something so bewitching about cliffside castles, but sadly, at the time of visiting there were some structural checks happening and we couldn't gain entry to the castle itself.  However, this is somewhere that we will definitely return to complete that experience and although we couldn't enter the castle, we did have access to the surrounding grounds.

This was still ideal for us, we had a lovely sunny day, with barely even a breeze and as the first people to arrive, we had the grounds to ourselves.  We took the time to walk around, reading the many signs and taking it all in.  If you are a fan of history, I would highly recommend visiting the castle but I also think it would be an exciting stop for families because it is so enchanting, with plenty of space to run around.

Dunbar

Last up on our John Muir Way journey, was a trip to Dunbar.  As John Muir's birthplace, it seemed a fitting place to end our experience.  It meant turning back on ourselves from Preston Mill and took just over half an hour to reach but again, it was a lovely day and we got to pass some amazing sights.

If you are visiting with children, friends or family, another stop you might want to make on your trip, is to Foxlake Adventures which sits on the edge of the John Muir Way.  This looks great for water sports, ziptrails and some segway fun.

John Muir Country Park

We ended our trip with a visit to John Muir Country Park.  John Muir Country Park is a wonderful place to visit if you love the outdoors and seeing more of the nature John Muir was so passionate about.  From the grasslands, saltmarsh, bird watching, spotting wildflowers and finally the beach at Belhaven Bay and the 'Bridge to Nowhere' – you won't be disappointed.

Pictures of 'The Bridge To Nowhere' have appeared on my social media over many years and it was great to finally visit.  People were learning to surf and canoe around this area, especially the bridge when we arrived, and I couldn't help but feel that this would be a very idyllic location to grow up.

We took some time to sit on the sand and soak it all up before we had to leave.  It brought a real sense of calm and serenity. Many happy memories!

When I mentioned to friends and family that we were initially looking to visit North Berwick, I was met with many coos of envy.  It's a funny thing, we have all heard such wonderful things about the area, yet many of us had never been before.

I have done nothing but recommend visiting since my return.  What an adventure!

For years, I have seen pictures of the Bass Rock on those 'top must-visit places in Scotland' lists, you know the ones, yet nothing could have prepared me for the surprise I got when I finally experienced it in person.

I was awestruck.  It is so much closer to land than I had expected, and yes, I knew that it was close to land but still, it was much closer than expected.  I saw it in all of its glory long before we reached the shore of North Berwick, a sight that I had not anticipated so early on and it was wonderful.

Safe to say, we struck lucky by visiting East Lothian on one of the hottest days of the year so far and with that, I was really thankful for my planning on this occasion, as we had pre-booked one of the visit Bass Rock sightseeing tours with Sula Boat Trips where the cool breeze and sea spray were very much welcomed!

But I'll be honest, I had a lot of anxiety ahead of this boat trip as I recently injured my foot and was afraid that any (small as they may be) jumps could damage it further.  However, there was no need to worry as there was a small gangway with barriers on either side that made access very easy and comfortable.

We booked the first sailing of the day, 10 am, for our trip.  You do have to arrive at North Berwick harbour around 20 minutes before departure but it was nice to be up and see the town a little earlier in the day as it was much quieter.  We also had the chance to admire the gorgeous houses and views before our trip.

Once aboard, we took our seats overlooking the water and settled in.  I know that many of us tend to scramble for the best seats and the best views when on these trips, especially if you enjoy photography and want those dramatic shots with no obstruction, but the boat does turn and stop frequently to allow everyone that opportunity, so do not worry about your seating!

The tour is 1.5 hours long, leaving you with plenty of time to explore North Berwick afterwards if you are on a brief visit as we were, and I think the trip was a great length for the younger children on board while still feeling that you had enough time to experience and enjoy the Bass Rock.

As we had gorgeous weather, we passed lots of families and children enjoying the sun while we made our way out of the harbour, watching as they took part in activities like sailing, canoeing and jumping into the water.

We enjoyed a lovely, smooth journey towards Craigleith Island and once we arrived, we had the pleasure of seeing puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes among many other birds.

Our guide for the trip, Caroline, was fantastic.  She was engaging, personable, enthusiastic, and extremely knowledgeable.  I feel that we learnt so much about the birds along with the history of the Bass Rock and the surrounding area thanks to her passion, which was clear to see.

Once we learnt a little about the birds on Craigleith, we made our way to the main event.

Standing at approximately 350 feet at its highest point, the Bass Rock is an imposing volcanic plug that is now home to the world's largest colony of Northern gannets.

The island is so imposing and incredible to see close up, and it only gets more impressive as you make your way around.  Now obviously, the gannets are the big attraction.  Around 150,000 gannets are nesting on the island, we even had the opportunity to see some guga (gannet chicks) and despite the scores of birds flying above your head, it's a very serene experience.

And yes, it comes with its faults, I did get pooped on… twice!

But it's a small price to pay and without going into too much detail, it's easily cleaned and doesn't stain.  Although, you might want to consider taking a hat if you can!

Making your way around the island and navigating your eyes through the mass of Scottish seabirds, we ventured closer to the rocks and towards the sea caves. The smell was pungent.  Manageable, no retching, but as you can imagine with so many birds, it's not entirely pleasant!

We did not go into any of the sea caves but that allows a clearer view of the birds nesting, the fluffy baby guga and the opportunity to see some of the rituals and behaviours of the birds, which were really interesting.  Many traits are just like us in a lot of ways.

As you continue around the island, you will spot the now out of use foghorn.  It is visible on one of the highest points, and though there's not a huge amount to see, we were told a couple of facts about its time in use.

Shortly thereafter, as you make your way to the other side of the island, you can see the Lighthouse.  I'm not sure if this is a personal thing, or if we all have an appreciation for lighthouses, but I love to see unique ones, especially when they have a story.

The Bass Rock Lighthouse is no longer operated by a keeper on site, I believe it is all operated by technology now.

And in terms of history, we learnt that Robert Louis Stevenson's cousin built the Lighthouse but another fact that really shocked me is that the Bass Rock was considered the Scottish Alcatraz.  I'm not implying anything as recently as Alcatraz, but many centuries ago, people were banished to the rock as punishment.

We were told a really interesting story about some prisoners that had been on the island, yet escaped the guards.  Of course, I won't spoil that for you in case you choose to go on the trip, but I'm definitely going to be reading more about that now that I'm home!

All while you are listening to the history of the island and trying to take in the surroundings, the experience of seeing the sheer number of gannets flying above your head and diving by the water is incredible. They are beautiful birds and it's not until you are close that you can really appreciate how big they are.  They have a wingspan of around 6ft!  Yet, they are so uninterested in the boat and the people that it does have tranquil elements.  You are very much in their world.

All in all, I would consider this to be an all-around age and family-friendly trip.  We even had a dog on our boat so do not consider that completely off-limits!

As we made our way back to the harbour, we passed the ruins of Tantallon Castle in the distance along with a section of the John Muir Way, which is a coast to coast walking and cycling route.

These were two things that I was quite excited to see as I will be returning to North Berwick shortly to hopefully see the castle a little closer, experience more of the town and attempt a portion of the John Muir Way by bike.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Sula Boat Trips and I would highly recommend it but there are many other tour options to choose from such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, both of these options are priced around £26 per adult and £10 for children (although prices can differ).  Alternatively, you can book BlueWild for exclusive boat hire.

East Lothian is such an undiscovered area of Scotland.  Home to one of the fastest growing puffin colonies in Scotland and with miles of stunning coastline it's a diverse and beautiful area.  It is also home to one of the best bakeries I have ever stepped foot in! 

Let's start with food, because it’s always the best bet!  I can't go any further without mentioning the mecca of pastries, and location of the most incredible hybrid baking- Bostock Bakery.  We stopped in here twice, and almost cleaned them out of Cruffins (a muffin croissant hybrid) both times.  I have never in my life loved a pastry as much as I did eating these!

A lovely spot to sit out in the sunshine is Tyninghame Smithy.  The most picture perfect courtyard tearoom nestled in the quaint village of Tyninghame near Dunbar.  It's the perfect pit stop for cyclists, walkers and road trippers.  Serving coffee, tea and homemade cakes.

The food highlight of the trip was undoubtedly Hector's Artisan Pizza. A vegan heaven and with the most amazing pizzas made right in front of you it was through the roof! It is a lovely little industrial style restaurant, and to top it all off it’s totally dog friendly!  You'd never know it only opened last year (amidst the height of Covid).  The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the dogs got a lot of attention which they were very pleased about! 

My favourite place to catch a sunset is undoubtedly Barns Ness lighthouse with a beautiful stretch of beach, that is often overlooked in favour of the more popular locations such as Gullane.  Of course the emptiness of this stunning spot only adds to the charm of the place.  The dogs were able to run wild as the sun set behind us; lighting up the lighthouse with some beautiful pastel colours.

No visit to East Lothian is complete without a trip to the Bass Rock, and to the stunning Isle of May which is absolutely crammed with puffins, and come the summer pufflings (baby puffins!!).  If seeing puffins is at the top of your UK bucket list, then this is an essential activity;  watching the puffins hopping around and fishing is a must see if you can!  The Bass Rock itself is home to one of the largest colonies of gannets in the UK; it is a sight to behold and almost unbelievable to witness, especially close up.  If you don't fancy a boat trip, the Bass Rock is a striking and iconic sight, even from the shores of East Lothian.

Preston Mill is like stepping back in time.  Hidden at the back of the village of East Linton, it is a popular spot for dog walkers and has a beautiful wildflower meadow behind the mill itself.  Photo tip;  head through the five bar gate and turn right.  Here you can walk down to a little shore and get a lovely reflection shot of the mill.  If you are still hungry, head across the road to Smeaton Garden Centre for a cup of tea and a potter around the lovely gardens.

There are so many amazing spots in East Lothian, it's almost impossible to list them all; but the above are my personal favourites.

Get outside and explore #eastlothian there's plenty here to whet your appetite! #loveeastlothian responsibly #RespectProtectEnjoy

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