Located on the Southeast side of Scotland, the county of East Lothian is known for its picturesque scenery, captivating history, and impressive array of properties. Geographically, East Lothian borders the Firth of Forth and stretches from Edinburgh in the west to Dunbar in the east. In this area guide, we look at the spectrum of life in East Lothian, from the calm rural lifestyle to the buzz of coastal towns like North Berwick.

We'll delve into the county's history, landmarks, and activities, as well as providing helpful information about schooling, transport, and civic amenities. Whether you're considering a move to the area or you just want a better understanding of East Lothian, this guide is a perfect place to start.

History of East Lothian

East Lothian has a rich and varied history stretching back to ancient times. It boasts archaeological sites from the Iron Age and remnants from the Roman Empire. The region prospered during the medieval period, with strategic castles and prosperous trade. East Lothian played a significant role in Scottish history, with important battles such as the Battle of Prestonpans taking place here during the Jacobite uprising. The industrial revolution brought coal mining and manufacturing, leaving a lasting impact on the economy. Today, East Lothian blends this historic heritage with a modern outlook, creating a unique and attractive location.


East Lothian is home to several iconic landmarks. Tantallon Castle, a semi-ruined cliff-top fortress, offers an insight into Scotland's turbulent history. The National Museum of Flight is a must-see, hosting a variety of aircraft and exhibits chronicling the history of aviation. Finally, the Scottish Seabird Centre provides an interactive wildlife experience focusing on the county’s diverse marine life.

Landmarks we love

  • Musselburgh Racecourse: Located in the town of Musselburgh, this racecourse is one of the oldest in Scotland. Established in 1816, it features a mix of flat and national hunt racing, providing an exhilarating day out.
  • St Mary's Church, Haddington: Historically significant and architecturally arresting, this church is the longest in Scotland and features beautiful stained glass.
  • Dunbar Harbour: A picturesque harbor with traditional fishing boats, lined with quirky shops and interesting eateries.
  • Traprain Law: An ancient hill fort, offering stunning views across East Lothian and a peek into the region’s past.
  • Glenkinchie Distillery: Offering informative tours, this distillery provides a window into Scotland's whisky industry. It is situated close to the village of Pencaitland, within easy reach of Edinburgh.

Top 5 things to do in East Lothian

  • Visit North Berwick: This charming coastal town offers fantastic beaches, golf opportunities, and eclectic shops.
  • Walk along Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve: A haven for birdwatchers, this reserve has a variety of bird species to spot.
  • Enjoy Gullane beach: A pristine sandy beach perfect for family fun, dog-walks, or just a peaceful stroll.
  • Browse the local Farmer's Markets: Get the taste of East Lothian with fresh, local produce at these markets held across the county.
  • Explore Preston Mill: Steeped in history, it’s a joy to explore and boasts a picturesque setting.

Our recommended areas to live in East Lothian

  • Haddington: Known for its high-quality schools, convenient amenities, and historic charm.
  • North Berwick: Ideal for coastal living, with beautiful beaches, a vibrant community, and excellent golf facilities.
  • Musselburgh: This town combines urban conveniences with easy access to the countryside and a short commute to Edinburgh.
  • Gullane: Sought after for its award-winning beaches, outstanding golf courses, and reputable schools.
  • Dunbar: Known for its sunny climate, wide range of amenities, and attractive harbour.

Best schools in East Lothian

East Lothian is home to many distinguished schools that cater to every age group. North Berwick High School and Knox Academy in Haddington are often cited among the best secondary schools. Loretto School, an independent school in Musselburgh, offers a comprehensive co-educational day and boarding experience. For younger children, King's Meadow Primary School in Haddington and Aberlady Primary School are very popular. With a strong commitment to further education, East Lothian also hosts the highly-regarded Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) offering an array of agricultural and rural courses.

Transport links in East Lothian

With excellent transport connections, East Lothian is an ideal choice for those wishing to enjoy a charming county while remaining well-connected to the charms of the city. Regular train services shut you to Edinburgh in less than half an hour. The A1 offers direct road access to both Edinburgh and the south of England. For more distant journeys, Edinburgh Airport is conveniently located for international travel.

In conclusion, East Lothian is a fantastic place to live. Whether you’re looking for tranquil seaside towns like North Berwick, rural escapes or a friendly market town like Haddington, there’s a place for everyone. With a rich history, strong community feel, good transport links, and excellent schooling, it’s no wonder East Lothian is fast becoming one of Scotland’s most sought-after locations.

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