September in Britain so often offers better weather than the preceding month. Perhaps not scorching, but bright and clear. As the kids head back to school things get quieter too. A good time to make the most of exploring one of the lesser-known tourist areas in Scotland, at least as far as those of us from south of the border are concerned: East Lothian.
Neighbouring Edinburgh being Scotland’s capital is naturally more famous, and for those making the trip to the county east of Auld Reekie the city will probably be on the itinerary for one day; but it’s not as if you’ll run out of things to do and see in East Lothian in a week or a fortnight, and in a long weekend you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice.
For those of a sporting mind Musselburgh, the county’s largest settlement, has a splendid racecourse, with three meetings in September this year, on Friday 3, Monday 13, and Sunday 26. Combine a flutter with a stay in Inveresk House, a B&B with a bit more history than most – it was built in 1596; even older is Carberry Tower, which can offer accommodation in the ancient building or two modern lodges within its 35 acres of parkland. Only a brief gallop east along the coast you’ll also find another stylish B&B, Adniston Manor in Prestonpans.
More active sporty types could well be making golf the focus of their trip. There are 22 courses in the county, a couple on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills to the south, and one in the county town of Haddington – near which you can stay in the Georgian splendour of the farmhouse at Eaglescairnie Mains. But most are dotted around the lengthy and lovely coastline, including historic North Berwick and Dunbar. How about classy Nether Abbey Hotel in North Berwick, or for something different 16th century Fenton Tower that looks like it belongs in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. In Dunbar there’s plenty of choice, including Hillside Hotel and the MacDonald Marine Hotel both near the sea, and the majestic Gilmerton House. Regular venue for The Open Muirfield is just a short drive (though not with a three wood) away from Dirleton where the Castle Inn Hotel, a 19th century coaching inn, seems somehow right for an evening discussing that long putt on the 3rd before retiring to a comfortable bed.
It would be churlish – other than for teetotallers – to visit Scotland and not fit in a distillery tour. Glenkinchie about halfway between Pencaitland and Humbie has a visitor centre that can bring the water of life to life for the curious, with a drop of the good stuff for the thirsty at the end.
The pleasures of the flesh don’t only come in liquid form here either – try restaurant with rooms Duck’s at Kilspindie House in Aberlady for fine dining. This is an area abounding in history, with fortresses aplenty – try Tantallon Castle opposite Bass Rock, the once mighty but long ruined Dunbar Castle; or Dirleton Castle atop its rocky outcrop. More recent history is explored entertainingly in two museums in the county, The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield (with a Concorde!) and Myreton Motor Museum in Aberlady.
Simpler pleasures are to be found in East Lothian too: there are long stretches of beach on a coastline that provides a habitat for many seabirds, as The Scottish Seabird Centre on North Berwick Harbour explains; walks in the hills cost nothing but energy and shoe leather; and the views whether over the sea or the rolling landscape don’t even demand that. Or take an easier stroll around historic Haddington.
For those who want a bit more privacy or a home-from-home Information Britain can point you towards a plethora of self-catering options in East Lothian, including accommodation booked via Scotland Cottages, or Easy Cottages, as well as many independent lets.
East Lothian may not be the first place to spring to mind for a break, which probably recommends it to those who enjoy quieter areas and finding hidden gems. And we bet you’ll want to come back for more.
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Previous destinations of the month:
Starry Starry Night, Look You – Dark Skies Tourism, South Wales | Mills and Hills in Central Lancashire, Lancashire | Get Fit on the North York Moors, North Yorkshire | A West Country Christmas – Dorset in December, Dorset | Nottinghamshire – Rural and Urban, Nottinghamshire | The Test Valley, Hampshire | Ashdown Forest, Sussex | The Rugged Northumberland Coast , Northumberland | The Resorts of North Devon, Devon | The Queen's London, London | Denbighshire , North Wales | York and Its Surrounds, North Yorkshire | The High Weald of Kent, Kent | Leisure, Luxury and Retail Heaven in Leeds , West Yorkshire | Rejuvenate Yourself in Rejuvenated Belfast , Belfast | Seasonal Fun in Brum, West Midlands | Autumn in the Southern Chilterns, Buckinghamshire | Cheshire Peaks and Plains, Cheshire | Essex’s Colne Valley, Essex | Cardigan Bay, West Wales | South Wales Valleys, South Wales | Highland Perthshire, Perthshire | South Downs National Park, Sussex | Royal Wedding London, London | Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire | The Oxfordshire Cotswolds, Oxfordshire | Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire | Edinburgh at Christmas, Edinburgh and the Lothians | Marvellous Manchester, Greater Manchester | The National Forest, Derbyshire | East Lothian, Edinburgh and the Lothians | Regency Brighton and Hove, Sussex | Isle of Purbeck, Dorset | The Somerset Levels, Somerset | Llandudno, North Wales | Hereford, Herefordshire | Cheltenham, Gloucestershire | Bristol, the Great West City, Bristol | Weardale, County Durham | Festive London, London | Islay, Isle of Islay | Blackpool and the Lancashire Coast, Lancashire | The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire | Land of the Prince Bishops, County Durham | The North Cornwall Coast, Cornwall | Torbay, Devon | Dumfries & Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway | West Highland Way, Argyll | Caithness and Sutherland, Highlands | Harrogate & its Surrounds, North Yorkshire | Sheffield, South Yorkshire