Did you know Scotland has beaches like this? 😍
Fun facts about Gullane and Aberlady
- The wide sandy bay in Gullane is one of the most popular beaches in the east of Scotland, and it is really easy to see why. It has gorgeous soft sand and the water is clear and fresh. It is cradled either side by black rocks and backed by high sandy dunes which support a wide variety of wildlife and plant species.
- Aberlady Bay became the UK’s first local nature reserve in 1952 and is widely considered one of the best bird-watching spots in the country. In fact, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (Scotland’s Bird Club) has it’s headquarters in Aberlady.
- The coastal trail is part of the John Muir Way, a 215 km /130 mile long distance walking route across Scotland, which is also part of the North Sea Trail as it is along the North Sea coast line.
- At low tide you can see the remains of several wrecks, such as World War II midget submarines (X-Craft), ships and boats.
- Distance: around 6 km / 3.7 miles one way
- Time: 2-3 hours going at an easy, relaxed pace
- Terrain: level, hilly in places, sandy, beach, dunes, paths, wooden bridge, road
- Highlights: amazing beaches, views across the sea, hills and city, feeling super brave crossing the scary wobbly wooden bridge, variety of terrain, spotting wildlife and artefacts
- Dogs: Popular on Gullane Beach but not permitted on the nature reserve from April to July and must be kept on a short lead at all other times.
- Start: Gullane Beach. Finish: Aberlady Village. See Travel below on how to get there.
Accessible by public transport, it is best reached by bus.
Getting to Gullane
- Take the East Coast bus service 124 or X24 which operates every 30 minutes every day of the week (Monday-Sunday), or the X5 express service which is a little faster but does not run as often (only 7 times a day) or on weekends (Monday-Friday only).
- If you have a Ridacard you can use this for part of your journey, to/from Musselburgh, then pay a reduced fare for the remainder.
- The East Coast services operate with Zones. To/from the city it will be across 3 zones and will cost £2.60-£3.60 one way (single) or £7.50 for a County Plus ticket (all day travel on Lothian county services including in Edinburgh city centre) for an adult – check the full fares on the website
- It will take around 1-1.5 hours from Edinburgh City Centre (stops in the city in Semple Street, West End Lothian Road, Princes Street) to Gullane on the 124 service.
- Get off at stop Goose Green and walk all the way down Sandy Loan to the beach.
Returning from Aberlady
- From the coastal road, head up The Wynd, passing cute cottages, naval houses and the Village Hall, and turn right to go along the High Street to the bus stop at Poplar House.
- Take the East Coast Bus service 124 or X24 or X5 as above.
There is no train station – the nearest station is North Berwick, Drem, Longniddry.
If travelling by car – there is a car park at Gullane Bents (beach) and at the footbridge in Aberlady Bay. You could do a round-trip the same way (12km) or take an alternative route.
Why not start your walk by going down to the gorgeous Gullane beach for a refreshing dip in the sea?
We did this walk in early September and although the water was quite cool it was so refreshing and exhilarating – I highly recommend it! It’s soft sand most of the way out and it gets deep quite quickly allowing you to swim not too far from the shoreline. Go and do it!
Or a walk along the dunes?
The dunes are full of little pathways you can go exploring and enjoy the views from higher ground.
Or enjoying an ice cream while overlooking the bay?
We got ice creams from a little van stopped in the Gullane Bents car park. It was about £2 with all the trimmings (sauce, sprinkles and a chocolate flake)!
Or just being soppy?
Start from the Gullane Bents car park (the top of Gullane Beach)
From the west corner of the car park above the beach the path begins and heads out along the coastline with amazing views over the Firth of Forth and rocks.
Soon you will approach a perfectly placed viewpoint where you can have this gorgeous view of the wide sandy bay…
Either side of the path you’ll find plenty of seabuckthorn bush covered with bright orange berries. This plant was thought to have been introduced to the area protect the coastline against erosion and dune stabilization but as it is not native to the region it spread quickly and densely and prevented other species of plant from thriving. Now the seabuckthorn is managed with the aim to create a balance in conservation. The plant does provide a habitat for breeding birds and shelter for foxes and roe deer which you may be lucky enough to spot leaping across the dunes!
Heading along the path (overgrown in parts) uphill away from the coves the walk continues around the Gullane Golf Club and over Gullane Point. Emerging over the brow the view really opens up and offers spectacular views across the forth and over the rocky cliffs to the beaches below.
Looking out over the water to the west you’ll be able to see right across the Forth to the Queensferry Crossing and Forth Road and Railway Bridges, and Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands in Edinburgh.
Looking back you’ll enjoy beautiful views across the rocks and beaches…
Coastal defenses, remnants from World War II, in the form of anti-tank concrete blocks can be seen arranged in long rows along the beach and dunes. These were strategically placed to create barriers for tanks and artillery landing from the sea. Follow the green way-markers between these where the path will lead downhill through the bushy dunes to another pretty cove.
The path then stretches on through flat ground and gradually opens out wide following the beach on the right and high dunes towering above on the left. It was here we saw many herds of roe deer which would take a quiet moment to stop and observe visitors before taking shelter between the seabuckthorn bush.
Continue along the clear path following the signs to Aberlady. Following the end of the golf course the path will become increasingly grassy and you’ll pass through marshes and fields with gorgeous views of the rolling hills.
Enjoy the view!
You may meet another friend along the way, and Aberlady is in sight!…
Continue along the path which will bear right at a fork and head south between the nature reserve and a golf course. The track will narrow from open fields to a clear pathway with a fence along the left edge and trees to the right. You’ll have views of Berwick Law, a volcanic plug, on your left as you approach Marl Loch on your right as the path continues along the east side of the loch. Here you can spot swan, coot and mallard resting in the shallow water.
Shortly after this point you’ll turn left through a mini tree-tunnel before emerging out to see the wooden footbridge across the Peffer Burn stream.
The sign and local notice board gives you some information about the nature reserve and wildlife. The reserve is an important haven for birds and wildflowers. It is a perfect spot for the bird watcher all year round and the botanist as over 540 species of wildflower have been recorded here.
Crossing the wooden bridge (which is quite aged in parts and not for the faint hearted!) will lead you to a car park (with a bench resting spot and memorial to local writer Nigel Tranter) and from there you can follow the coastal road back around into the pretty Aberlady village.
Finish crossing the wooden bridge and walking into Aberlady village
Don’t forget to look back and enjoy beautiful views across the estuary!
Thanks for reading! Have you done this walk? What were your highlights? Share your comments!