When you visit Edinburgh, there's no reason to feel you have to spend every minute of every day in the city itself!
There are plenty of destinations for day trips out of Edinburgh, and North Berwick is one such place where you can escape the city for a few hours.
Just a thirty-minute train ride from Waverley Station, or a 45-minute drive if you're travelling by car, North Berwick is a picturesque town on the East Lothian coast, and has been a popular destination for visitors since the rise of mass transit in the nineteenth century. Today it's a bustling seaside town with a variety of attractions, from its many cafes, restaurants, fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours to its surrounding golf courses.
The sandy beaches which run along the edge of the town offer access to the chilly North Sea, for those who are brave enough to take the plunge, and give views across the Firth of Forth to Fife, and back towards Edinburgh. The Scottish Seabird Centre in the middle of the beaches is a popular and interactive attraction keeping visitors informed about the colonies of gannets along the adjacent coastline, as well as the wealth of other avian wildlife and natural heritage of the area. The centre offers regular boat trips throughout the year to observe birds in their natural habitat.
Berwick Law is the conical hill which rises behind the town itself, a similar volcanic feature to Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat, which offers walkers an opportunity to stretch their legs and rewards those who climb to the top with uninterrupted views across the whole surrounding landscape. The top of the hill is marked with a modern replica of the whalebone arches which have stood on the site since 1709. Structures at the top of the hill also mark it as a former site of military lookout posts from the Napoleonic and Second World Wars, and remains of Iron Age settlements can be found on the landscape around the summit.
For those travelling by car, a visit to nearby Dirleton or Tantallon castles are worth considering - the former on the way into North Berwick from Edinburgh, the latter on a clifftop further east, overlooking the distinctive Bass Rock, with its colony of gannets (the world's largest such colony!), the rock itself coloured a speckled white from the effects of so many birds occupying it...
North Berwick is also one of the sites along the John Muir Way, a coast-to-coast pathway across Scotland, from Helensburgh in the west to nearby Dunbar in the east.
Muir was a naturalist and conservationist, born in Dunbar, who is known as the father of America's National Parks, having helped institute the National Parks Service in the early twentieth century. The John Muir Way stretches right across Scotland's central belt and takes in a number of beaches and coastal pathways leading through North Berwick and the surrounding areas.
So there are plenty of reasons to take time away from Edinburgh to explore a bit further afield - and with regular train services every day, it couldn't be easier to factor a visit to North Berwick into your plans!
Book a private Edinburgh walking tour to get more tips and ideas for things to see and do in Edinburgh during your trip.
Visitors to Edinburgh often see little of the city beyond the overcrowded tourist hotspots of the Royal Mile and the Old Town - frequently not even venturing as far as the historic New Town!
I'm always keen to encourage a wider exploration of Edinburgh's features, hence this occasional series highlighting areas further from the city centre that are worth exploring - previously I've written about Bruntsfield and Stockbridge.
Duddingston village is less a suburb of the city and more a historic outpost of Edinburgh, nestled at the base of the eastern side of Holyrood Park, behind Arthur's Seat. Sheep were grazed on the slopes of the park until the 1970s, and traditionally would have been slaughtered at Duddingston before being taken for sale in Edinburgh itself.
The area's chief 'claim to fame' is as the home of Scotland's oldest pub, the Sheep Heid, where a tavern or inn has been sited since 1360. The village of Duddingston was on the historic route between the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Craigmillar Castle, and it marked a convenient stopping point for travellers between the two. It is reputed that Mary, Queen of Scots may have played skittles (a form of ten pin bowling) in the Sheep Heid's courtyard.
Bonnie Prince Charlie - the Young Pretender - lodged his forces at Duddingston in advance of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, a key moment in the Jacobite Uprisings of the 18th century.
At the centre of the village is Duddingston Kirk, a church with its origins traced back as far as 1124. This picturesque church is entered through a gateway at which visitors can still see the guard house built to dissuade bodysnatchers from digging up graves in the early nineteenth-century, along with a mounting block for horse riders to use to mount their steeds, and a set of 'jougs', a steel collar attached to a chain cemented into the wall of the graveyard, where those accused of petty offences would be subjected to a period of public humiliation for their crimes.
Famous residents of Duddingston include John Thomson, a former reverend of the church, who gave rise to a popular folk saying in Scotland - 'We're a' Jock Tamson's Bairns' - we're all equal in the eyes of God.
Jean Carfrae Pinkerton, wife of Allan Pinkerton who founded the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency in America in the 1850s (now part of Securitas), was born in Duddingston. Pinkerton played a major role in foiling the attempted assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1861.
The nearby Duddingston Loch was the setting for Henry Raeburn's iconic portrait of the Reverend Robert Walker, Skating on Duddingston Loch - better known as the Skating Minister - which can be seen in the National Gallery of Scotland.
The village is worth a visit to escape the city centre briefly, with access to Holyrood Park and the main cycle path along the the nearby Innocent Railway line.
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