What's On, East Lothian - We just found a remarkable amount to do for families in the utterly beautiful East Lothian coast. We didn't tag it onto a weekend in Edinburgh, we didn't just drive through it, we dedicated a weekend to the region and I thoroughly recommend others to do the same.
East Lothian for Kids – I was visiting East Lothian with a team of passionate Scottish travel bloggers so between all of us we’ve covered numerous attractions, sights, restaurants, cafes and museum. The challenge was on. For inspiration visit VisitEastLothian.org.
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
A key stop for us was the National Museum of Flight. After a fly cup (see what I did there) we came upon the epic Concorde, which flew the world’s first supersonic flight in 1976. It’s a truly elegant machine. Mr Tot had never heard of Concorde but to get so close to such a huge aircraft blew his tiny mind. We boarded the aircraft synonymous with the rich and famous. The Concorde brand once transported everyone from heads of state and royalty, to Posh Spice and Sir David Frost. I have to say it looked like a pretty normal aircraft on the inside but the service was impeccable, flight times short, and status high.
Mr Tot and I much preferred the interior of the BOAC jet plane where a short film and artefacts revealed the heady, luxurious early days of long haul flights. Sunday roasts were carved for guests, the crockery was beautiful, kids sometimes gained access to the cockpit, passengers smoked and being an air hostess was considered glamourous. It was a colourful world.
The military hangar was another a highlight. The courage, intelligence and dedication of the members of the RAF is quite outstanding, the technology is incredible, but the short film about war in the skies was heartbreaking. Some children may find it too overwhelming, Mr Tot declared it ‘wasn’t nice’ but he happily wandered in and out of the aircraft.
Hangar 10 is the kids’ highlight, with numerous interactive toys that educate both adults and kids about how flight is actually achieved. It would be easy to spend an hour in here alone. After a swift coffee in the museum’s cafe it was time to move on.
Lunch Stop: The Loft, Haddington
For quality local cuisine in a chilled setting, with both indoor and outdoor seating, try The Loft in Haddington. Tucked away behind the high street I wouldn’t have found it without a local recommendation.
John Gray Centre, Haddington
This museum focusses on local and social history, covering the likes of early settlers, fishing, farming, mining and salt production at Prestonpans. My factoid of the day was the fact that The Scottish Women’s Rural Institute first met at Longniddry. I like it when local museums throw up small facts I never knew. The rental of pineapples was another highlight – you have to visit to discover more, but once pineapples were deemed so prestigious people hired them to place on their tables, essentially to show off.
The staff are warm and enthusiastic, presenting Mr Tot with a postcard to stamp as he made his way around the building. He was so keen on this he rushed me round every display so it certainly worked for him. There was a small colouring in station where we drew a ‘gift’ for Junior who we’d left at home with Mr Husband. The centre is also next to the library so a quiet stop, especially if the weather is inclement.
Prestongrange Industrial Museum, Prestonpans
This museum is essentially a preserved area of social history that most of us can relate to. In this small area brickworks, glassworks, coal and pottery were manufactured. Rows of terraced houses (now demolished) lined the hills. Entire communities worked long hours in manual jobs in hard industry. Large scale remnants of this era are still standing in this impressive open air museum and, for kids, it’s a great chance to run about outdoors, for free, and learn something in the process. Mr Tot, who only just the other day declared that ‘children’s job is to play’ was swiftly introduced to a coal cart, which he may well have been pushing through the mines as a boy not all that long ago.
From the workers’ baths, to a Cornish Beam Engine and abandoned train tracks and chimneys Scotland’s industrial path feels almost tangible here.
Wiggles Soft Play, Tranent
Travelling with children there’s always an understandable amount of wiggle room, which brings us to Wiggles soft play. If you’re looking for a spot where the kids can let off some steam then Wiggles simply delivers. A good card up your steam if the heavens open, or if you just want to let them play while you decompress. This soft play is tall rather than wide, and of course I was tricked into being shown something at the very top, which meant I had my own go on the slides too. Kids are cunning.
Dinner: The Lobster Shack, North Berwick
When we visited The Lobster Shack the sun was splitting sky, and sitting in the evening rays by the picturesque North Berwick harbour, sharing a lobster and chips with Mr Tot (he loves seafood) was not far off idyllic. Fish and chips was another tempting choice. This informal shack gets its produce fresh from the local fishermen. Covered seating is available, but when the sun’s out dining al fresco is unbeatable. So fresh, very chilled, and a bit of a food education lesson for Mr Tot who doesn’t often see whole fish or crustaceans on his plate.
Theatre: The Brunton, Musselburgh
The Brunton has a varied programme of theatre on offer. When we visited Dad’s Army was playing, but I first heard of The Brunton due to its exceptionally child friendly Hogmanay celebrations. They often hold events, and consider children a valued part of their clientele, so keep an eye on their listings, or time a visit around a particular show, and support a cool, family friendly theatre with inclusive culture at its heart.
Accommodation: Gilsland Caravan Park
Mr Tot and I stayed in a very slick, and comfortable Family Studio at Gilsland Caravan Park. It had a compact kitchenette, shower room, pull down double bed, a sofa, and Mr Tot revelled in delight when he saw a bunk bed. Our decking, with chairs and table, looked onto a small play park. It felt very sophisticated for a caravan park. My fellow bloggers, another family, were in a two bedroom caravan, others were glamping in pods, so a real mix of accommodation is on offer. Situated next to the iconic jawbone of Berwick Law in North Berwick, you need a car ideally to stay here, so it worked well for us.
Art: Westgate Gallery and Tantallon Studios
For a touch of culture, and also an opportunity to purchase unique gifts or mementoes of your trip Westgate Gallery and the Tantallon Studios are worth a stop. The former offers offering quality gifts from Scotland with a café serving light lunches, wines and beers, teas, coffees and home baking. The latter is a working artists’ studio that runs workshops for adults (or older children), offers self-catering accommodation and sells a range of crockery, tiles, jewellery and art. Mr Tot had had his fun at Wiggles, so these were stops primarily for me, and I chose a mug from Tantallon as a tangible memory of our time in East Lothian.
Icecream Stop at Luca’s, Musselburgh
We rallied young Mr Tot’s spirits with an ice cream from this renowned local ice cream parlour. When you start to notice you’ll see the famous purple packaging stocked all over East Lothian, it’s a local favourite. By the time we left the shop a queue was already forming so on a sunny day make sure you get there early. Is 11am too early for ice cream?
Dunbar Town House and Beach
Dunbar has a beautiful seafront and when we visited a Standing Stones competition was underway. Who knew? There was also a great wee play park right next to the beach. All in all a lovely stop for families.
We also took time to visit Dunbar Town House. Placards and artefacts tell the story of the local area, and visitors can access the chamber where the provosts and officials meet, but the highlight for us was the old gaol. With an ominous black wooden door, and a bare bed inside we were told that in its day it could house up to thirty prisoners, and once it one held a witch! Mr Tot’s eyes widened. East Lothian was the Scottish hotbed of witch hunts in the 17th century, from Tranent, through to Dunbar and North Berwick, and many local men and women found themselves on the torturous and quite frankly terrifying wrong side of the law. For kids, the tale of a witch is exhilarating, for adults it’s a slice of Scottish history that beggars belief.
Lunch: Waterside Bistro, Haddington
Right next to the river this traditional eaterie has an enviable setting. We tucked into hearty pea and ham soup with sandwiches, with the good folk of Haddington before hitting the road for home.
As you can see we were pretty spoiled for choice when it came to sights to see, and places to dine. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the offering in East Lothian. Check out my fellow bloggers for more #eastlothian ideas.
Kim Kjaerside reports back on the Scottish Seabird Centre, Inveresk Gardens and a Catamaran Cruise.
Mad About Travel visited Newhailes and Preston Mill on an architectural theme.
Travels with a Kilt spills the beans on Foxlake Adventures, Berwick Law and Glenkinchie Distillery.
The Castle Hunter hit up Dirleton, Tantallon and Hailes Castle.
OUR STORY – East Lothian for Kids
We drove independently from Aberdeen to cover East Lothian with Kids. We needed a car to achieve this type of journey, and sat nav came in handy due to all the short cuts through un-signposted rural country roads. For more ideas click on visiteastlothian.org.
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