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5. Dunbar

start: Dunbar
distance: 25 miles
OS map: 67

Dunbar route mapThis route follows the coast through the John Muir country park. It visits the strangest harbour you've ever seen and returns inland with an optional visit to Preston Mill. Part of this route goes along the beach. Depending on the tide it may be possible to cycle some of this on hard sand but you may just have to push for a while. There's a car park at the W end of Dunbar (662 787). Start here.

From the S end of the car park a track runs W to cross a small bridge at (656 784). Turn R over the bridge and follow the path which soon turns to the NW, passes another car park and some woodland on your left. In order to follow the coastline it turns to the SW and crosses another small bridge at (640 788). The path passes old wartime defences and comes to a 'corner' at (626 785). Ideally, we should like to follow the bay round and if there was a bridge over the river we could - but there isn't. It might just be possible to wade across at low tide but it would be a messy - and possibly dangerous - business and is not to be recommended.

Instead, we must go inland a little. Take the track going W and when it meets the A198 turn R. Just over a mile and just past the brow of a hill, turn R. This is Limetree Walk and there's a small car park at the end. Take the trail that heads E down to the bay at (633 807) but notice a track off to the L after a couple of hundred metres - you'll need it later. It's worth taking a look at the coast down here. There's a complete contrast between high and low tides here - take a stroll out to the spit running SE.

We head now for St Baldred's Cradle out at the point. If you want adventure, work your way along the coastline path through the woods but it's not the easiest route - for this you need to head back towards the car park and take that R turn we mentioned earlier. When you get to the beach there's a path on the R which takes you round to the headland. Enjoy the view from here, it's a nice spot.

Time to head along the beach now and, depending on conditions, you may need to push. Don't be tempted by the track marked on the map as being just behind the sand dunes - it ends up in a pig farm! You're aiming for a point at (622 825) where a vague path goes through the dunes to a centre owned by the Scripture Union. Take the track out of the centre heading N for Pefferside and Scoughall. Turn L at a crossroads (612 838) and follow this round to the L of some houses. Take the track down to the beach at (601 846). This is as close to the Bass Rock as you're likely to get. Walk out to the E end of the beach and you'll discover the strangest and smallest harbour you've ever seen. The brooding Tantallon Castle sits on the cliffs nearby.

NB: it is quite feasible to follow the beach - instead of going inland - all the round to the small beach and the Gegan. There are a few rocky areas where you'll need to push/carry but nothing serious.

Back up the hill to the road. We follow minor roads E to Blackdykes, S then E again to a T junction at (571 828). Go S then E then S to another T junction at Bankhead (586 808). If you have time you might want to go back via Preston Mill. In any event go L then R down a long hill. If you're not going to Preston Mill go to the far end of the woods and take the track to the L, opposite a lodge, which goes through them to the A198. Turn R here and you've a choice of routes to get you back. Using the A1 (cycletrack) is probably quickest, or you could retrace the route around the S of the bay; maybe cutting off the corner.

Much of this route has been part of the John Muir Country Park. For more information about John Muir, see the link on the info page.

jb, gala

Download GPS data in GPX format.

John Muir Country Park, Dunbar

John Muir Country Park, Dunbar

Preston Mill, East Lothian

Preston Mill, East Lothian

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