The area east from Edinburgh (East Lothian) is very well known by beach walks and coastal paths enthusiasts. There are countless beaches in the area, with various characteristics; wast sandy beach of Aberlady Bay lined by high dunes, Yellowcraig- with a small island of Fidra and a lighthouse, small Seacliff Beach (private) with views to Tantallon Castle. I have no doubt that everyone would find a beach or cove to their liking. Most importantly, generally speaking, the beach line stretches from Seton Sands (east end of Edinburgh) to North Berwick and beyond and it makes a fantastic (full day) walk. In this post I will focus on Gullane to Aberlady stretch as it’s easily accessible by public transport and the beach is spectacular.
Both Aberlady and Gullane are well connected to Edinburgh by public transport, East Cost Busses number 124 and X24 (direction to North Berwick), journey time from Edinburgh city centre (Leopold Place) is circa 40 minutes. The bus first arrives to Aberlady and then, next stop, Gullane. Get off the bus in Gullane and walk back to the very beginning of town (near golf courses, next to small church ruins, along main street). Turn into Sandy Loan, there is a signpost for Gullane Bents. Follow the road till it comes to a T-junction, and there you are, turn left and after another 100 yards you’ll reach a small car park. There is a narrow, paved path (near information board) leading to the beach. After a few steps down the paved path you’ll come to an opening and face the golden sanded beach.
When I come to Gullane Bents and intend walking to Aberlady (which is to the left, actually) I usually start by walking all the way to the right end of the beach, just to make the walk longer… and then I walk back towards Aberlady. The beach is an interesting place to visit in high and low tide, however the best walking experience is at low tide when it’s easy to bypass any rock outcrops by keeping near to water line. In high tide, however, the beach is wide enough to have a decent walk, the rocky outcrops are straightforward to cross – they’re not very high and there are some natural steps, very easy to see, and passing the rocky bit will not be a problem.
So what is this walk like? Apart from the obvious, bare feet on golden sand experience, the walk passes unique rocks formations (look closely!), Gullane Point (rock outcrop, very good viewpoint, not marked, but easy recognisable by large concrete blocks, WWII related) and very soon comes to a sharp turn. By this point you will have passed an Aberlady Bay signpost. Follow the shore line, which now becomes a bit rocky with amazing volcanic rocks examples. In low tide it’s possible to walk around the rocks on sand again, then continue ahead, either on the beach, or a little bit to the left, just at the edge of dunes (there are numerous paths: along the beach, at the edge of dunes or a bit further from the shore). Very soon you’ll come to a rocky outcrop and the vast Aberlady Bay beach can be viewed in full glory.
At this point I can’t ever resist and walk down to the beach, far towards the water line. It’s amazing how vast the beach is. It stretches to the horizon, it actually is impossible to see the end of it. It takes quite a bit of time to walk it all, believe me, many times I was already ‘satisfied’ half way down.
As I mentioned in the intro, there are some boat wrecks, a ship wreck and 3 wrecks of small submarines (used as practice targets during WWII), but please remember that they will only be visible at low tide, as they’re quite far from the shore.
The beach is lined with some great, high dunes almost all the way along. It’s good to keep in mind that just at the very end of the dunes, there is a path- and I recommend taking this one to come back to main road in Aberlady or to the car park in Aberlady (for coming back to Gullane, please retrace your steps or simply take one of numerous paths along golf course).
Before I leave the beach, I usually climb the highest dune to have one, final look at the beautiful beach in front of me, to take one last photo. Then I walk down the wide, grassy path towards main road. It can’t be seen from the dunes, but is at the tree-line in the distance. Walking back to the main road takes circa 20 minutes and is very pleasant. To the right there is a muddy, saltwater marshland, fantastic for seabird watchers. To the left there is a golf course. The path also passes a small pond and then ‘disappears’ into a tunnel of low trees, but for a short time only. At the other end of this ‘corridor’ it widens up again and soon comes to a small wooden bridge and the car park. The bus stop to Edinburgh is located on the opposite side of the road, nearer the village (to the right)
What is your favourite beach walk in Scotland? Share your thoughts with us!
*GULANE BENTS QUICK INFO*
Height: flat Level of difficulty: 1/5* Time: 2-2.5 hours (approx 3 miles)
Path begins at: Gullane Bents beach, at the end of Sandy Loan, Gullane or at Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve (pay and display car park at Gullane Bents and Aberlady Bay, £2 per day, also accessible by bus)
Which OS map: OS Explorer 351 Dunbar and North Berwick
What we love about Gullane Bents and Aberlady Bay: it’s an ultimate beach walk, especially at low tide. The beach stretches for miles and miles and is accessible by public transport. There are wrecks of boats and small submarines (at Aberlady end).
*Level of difficulty explained: 1– easy walk, mostly flat 2-easy hillwalk, good path 3-moderate, possible some steep sections 4-long hillwalk, possibly some scrambling involved, possibly pathless 5-difficult, possibly pathless, long, requires technical skills