in Scotland   –  The North Berwick Coast

visitor to Edinburgh can very easily spend all their time
within the city itself, there is so much to see. But do
try to find time to look around the nearby countryside
which also has many spectacular views.

Steeped in
history the Lothians has many castles and historical sites
and the eastern part is well known for its golf courses –
Mary Queen of Scots played at nearby Musselburgh.

Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board publish many helpful
leaflets including some about “car touring trails”. These
give a suggested itinerary and the historical sites on a
reasonable short drive of up to 40 miles from Edinburgh.

 My wife
and I chose to follow the East Lothian trail to North
Berwick via the coastal road along the Firth of Forth
through the small towns of Musselburgh, Prestonpans,
Cockenzie and the golfer’s paradise of Gullane, (there are
some 11 courses in this area) to the ancient burgh of
North Berwick. From here we chose to go off one suggested
route to another to see places
interest to us. Having an interest in the

I was especially keen to see for
myself the infamous Bass Rock which was used as a prison
in 1685 for the most vociferous (rather than dangerous)
Presbyterian ministers, including John Blackader who lies
buried at North Berwick church.

got its name from the salt pans there dating from the 12th
century, but its monopoly on salt was ended by the Act of
Union in 1707 which allowed salt to be brought in from
England. It was the location of a great victory for Bonnie
Prince Charlie in 1745 when the army of Sir John Cope was
routed in minutes.

In Port
Seton can be found the 15th century Collegiate Church and
Aberlady has some pretty cottages with a motor museum
nearby at Myreton. The Gullane area is a veritable
golfer`s paradise including Muirfield golf course which
will host The Open championship in 2002.

off the coastal road are the 12th century Dirleton Castle
and gardens. Behind the town of North Berwick stands the
600 foot
Tantallon Cstle
Berwick Law, a conical hill on top of which are excellent
views as well as a ruined watchtower and an arch formed
from the jawbones of a whale. From North Berwick the road
can take you to Tantallon Castle, the home of the Douglas
family until 1699 and the Bass Rock, famous as a
Covenanter prison.

castle was the home of the Douglas family probably built
by William, the first Earl Douglas, and it remained the
family’s stronghold until 1699. It was from here that the
Douglas’ exercised enormous power and influence and
indulged in their intrigues with English kings. Their coat
of arms bears the emblem of a heart, symbolizing the heart
of Robert the Bruce which Sir James Douglas was to take to
the Holy Land to fulfil the Bruce’s dying wish. The
intrigues with the English meant that Tantallon was itself
subjected to attack by Scotsmen themselves, although it
surrendered to General Monk in 1651 after a 12-day siege
and bombardment.

 The castle
was built in the 1300s on a natural promonotory
jutting into the sea, which has three sides dropping sheer
to the shore. The fourth side is protected by two dry
ditches cutting across from cliff to cliff , and a a
narrow drawbridge for access to the castle itself.

The walls of the castle with
its towers and gatehouse are 12 foot thick and the outer
gate has a gun platform dating from the 1500s (when guns
took place of bows and arrows). In its day, the castle
must have been an impressive sight with five floors in the
West Tower, lean-to buildings against the curtain wall and
a hall block, a bakery and a brewhouse.

Preston Mill
Tantallon we took the road to East Linton and stopped by
Preston Mill, the last  operating water mill in
Scotland. Time seems to have stopped here with the
buildings showing a distinct tilt, but the grinding of
grain continues to this day.

From East
Linton we went to Athelstaneford and the home of the
Scottish national flag – the Saltire or cross of St.
Andrew. The white cross on a blue background is the oldest
flag in both the Commonwealth and Europe and is said to
have originated in a battle fought in 832 AD between Angus
mac Fergus (King of Alba) and aided by the King of
Dalriada against a large force of Angles and Saxons led by
one Athelstan.

 Fearful of
the coming battle, King Angus held prayers and saw a cloud
formation of a white saltire against the blue sky. He
vowed that if with the saint’s help he won the day, then
St Andrew would be the patron saint of Scotland.

Saltire Memorial
Saltire memorial is in the churchyard and was built in
1965. It consists of a battle scene carved in a granite
slab. The main panel shows the combatants facing one
another and the other side the acceptance of defeat
beneath the St Andrews cross in the sky. The inscription
on the memorial reads:

Tradition says that near this place in times remote
Pictish and Scottish warriors about to defeat an army of
Northumbrians, saw against a blue sky a great white
cross like St Andrew’s, and in its image made a banner
which became the flag of Scotland.

 Next to
the Memorial is a flagpole on which the flag is flown at
all times and which is illuminated at night.

To the rear
of the church is a 16th century “Doocot” or dovecote, in
which pigeons were kept for supplementing the diet during
the winter months. This was built in 1583 by George
Hepburn whose son , Sir John Hepburn, was the founder and
colonel of the Royal Scots Regiment founded in 1633 for
service in France under Louis XIII. The title Royal
Regiment of Foot was conferred by King Charles II. The
regiment has used the saltire as its emblem since the 17th
century. Within the doocot is a short audio visual display
that relives the battle and operates automatically as the
door is closed.

is the county town of East LothianDetail, Saltire Memorial
and dates from the 12th century. The 15th century St.
Mary’s Church is known as the “Lamp of Lothian” because
there used to be a lighted lantern in its tower. From
Haddington, if there is time, the visitor must be tempted
to head for the Glenkinchie Distillery to seek out the
Edinburgh malt whisky and the tour round the distillery.
The tour will show you the use of Scottish barley and pure
local water being mashed to produce the “wash” from which
the alcohol is distilled. In law the spirit must be stored
in oak barrels for at least three years before it can be
called whisky. A snippet of information for you – the
official description of a barrel is ” the middle frustrum
of a prolate spheroid ” There is an exhibition of malt
whiskies and a complimentary “dram” is very tasty. But
please remember the “Drink Drive” rules are pretty tough
in the UK, so don’t over-indulge. Buy a bottle in the shop
and take it back with you for an evening nip before
retiring !.