scotland-edinburgh-castle-1393484290ifrScotland’s capital, Edinburgh, might seem a rather obvious holiday destination, but the surrounding area of the Lothians also has much to offer and really is not to be missed. The advantage of combining the two is that you can choose from a good range of self-catering accommodation and holiday cottages and enjoy the opportunity to visit Edinburgh itself.

 

Exploring East Lothian

Home of the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick is a seaside town with stunning views of the Firth of Forth. You can also see the Bass Rock from North Berwick, home to the world’s largest colony of northern gannet seabirds. North Berwick is a classic seaside town, with great beaches to go with the coastal scenery, alongside fish and chip shops, tearooms and other attractions.

It’s a good base for taking boat trips around the local islands, some of which are seasonal homes to colonies of Puffins.

Further along the North Sea coast is Dunbar, a small town with lots of character. It has a ruined castle, once a strategically important fortress and shelter to Mary Queen of Scots. It’s also home to the John Muir Country Park, a nature reserve named after the explorer and conservationist who was born in Dunbar.

Closer in, six miles from Edinburgh is Musselburgh, with its shoreline on the Firth of Forth. It’s home to both a historic racecourse, dating from 1816, and the Musselburgh Links, a 9-hole golf course, said to have first been used by James IV in 1504.

This small market town also has some fine examples of historically important architecture, Newhailes House, now run by the National Trust, and the Tolbooth in the High Street, dating from the late 1500s.

 

Two Towns, One City

The centre of Edinburgh is divided into two very different parts, with Princes Street running between them, from east to west.

The Old Town retains its medieval layout, replete with winding alleys and compact spaces. It contains both the imposing Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, along with the National Museum of Scotland. It’s also filled with shops selling traditional Scottish wares and speciality goods.

Edinburgh’s New Town is only new relatively speaking, as it was actually built in the 18th Century to relieve overcrowding in the Old Town. It has a distinctly Georgian character, with plenty of sandstone buildings and cobbled streets, but it is also the contemporary commercial hub of Scotland’s capital.

In close walking distance to one another in the New Town are three of Scotland’s national art galleries, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery.

In the New Town you’ll also find the Scott Monument, an architectural tribute to Sir Walter Scott in the form of a spire. It’s 200 feet tall with 287 steps to its summit – an effort that’s really made worthwhile by the fantastic views of the city it gives you.

 

Out West

In West Lothian the iconic Forth Bridge has been in operation since 1890. It was Britain’s first bridge to be made completely of steel and weighs 53,000 tonnes. It’s 2.5km long. Visitors can enjoy views of this enduring Victorian wonder by visiting the Forth Road Bridge, which has pedestrian and cycle access.

Between these bridges is the village of South Queensferry, on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. You can get good views of the bridges from here, and you can catch boat tours from South Queensferry that will take you under the Forth Bridge. You can also travel by boat to Inchcolm Island, home to a 12th-century abbey.

The Lothians, East and West, combined with Edinburgh itself, make for a fascinating region of Scotland to explore and immerse yourself in.