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May 2018

East Lothian Coat of Arms

Lauderdale, formerly Dunbar, House sits at the top, or bottom, of the high street depending on your perspective but you already knew that?

You've been here before, remember? Junior school camp in the summer of '78 when the World Cup of Soccer was on and Mr Sutherland let some of us boys stay up late to watch it, Argentina-time.

Here's the back of those lodgings, then loaned between local authorities, before they became private apartments or flats if you'd rather.

It's not known if the ghost is still there[1] or the old lady out of a Dickens novel who was called in to boil, down to a mush, enough cabbage for 30 small mouths.

[1] SHUT UP AND GET TO SLEEP!

  Graze Coffee & Chocolate House (65 High Street)

Quite possibly your only option if a sandwich after 2.30 PM is, not unreasonably, required. Nab one of those two tables outside where they'll cater to your savoury needs.

When it's said savoury, they also do sweet including sundaes on a sunny day and also on a Sunday.

Some admiration for Valentin Znoba's sculpture of local lad John Muir where he's eyeing up the birds. John Muir? No? Never heard of him, neither.

Conservationist, farmer, inventor, botanist, explorer, writer, geologist, mountaineer it literally says here at the entrance to his birthplace and what's now a small,  Muir-themed museum. His formative years in Dunbar led to a love of all things outdoors, which he'd put to good use... in the good ol' USofA!

They're possibly overplaying this hand because in 1845 he was only seven years old while heading west. He's best known for eventually having a hand in inventing the US National Park, which is a notion that would be nicked here nearly 100 years later.

That can all be found out inside the museum, probably, but why waste the rays when there's a street full of largely independent traders to check out and a memory of a harbour?

  John Muir Way

This long-distance path runs from Helensburgh in the west via Loch Lomond and Scotland's flat, industrial heartland to finish right here 134 miles later.

There's another in the USA but they call it a  trail there and you'll need oxygen and bear repellent to walk the 200-plus miles from Yosemite to the highest point in California.

They always have to go and do things bigger and better over there, don't they?

Lauderdale House dates from the 1730s but there's a whole lotta history hanging in the air here.

Scotland eventually got Dunbar back from the English and the Vikings in the early 11th century but it wasn't for nearly 500 years that a castle was deemed essential.

It wouldn't last long when it was ransacked by a parliamentary act but the ruins are now free for you to clamber on and damage, at least you could in 1978.

All of this down at the really, rather marvellous harbour and the 2nd oldest RNLI station in Scotland and no, it's not known what is.

It's all made up of what are believed to be called three 'basins'[1], created when they blocked the old mouth off but that caused a bit of an issue... you couldn't get in or out.

No problem, use some of them new-fangled explosives to blast a new channel making sure you destroy even more of what's left of the castle. They weren't quite so sympathetic back in 1842 and this was some pen pusher at City Hall's idea of progress, probably.

[1] Victoria, Broadhaven and Cromwell since you ask.

Dunbar's not all about all about the port, there's some of it about the fort or the Battery if you'd rather.

Built for no particular reason in 1781 other than to protect from invaders unknown, it had a stint in the early 1800s making sure Napoleon didn't include Scotland in his European vacation plans.

Not until 1874 was it in use again, this time as an infectious diseases hospital and that'll be leprosy, no less, not the  nits that were all the rage in 1978.

After nearly a century of lying idle, it was restored in 2017 as an outdoor arts venue including an amphitheatre where you can swot up on the shipping forecast regions.

There are views up the coast to North Berwick Law and out to what may be the Isle of May off the coast of Fife, not shown.

Isle of May? Not the one in 1978 I didn't! Hated it, actually, it rained quite a lot towards the end of that month.

It's a bit of a maze around Cromwell Harbour and yes, that Cromwell. Ollie wasn't being particularly civil when he roundly knocked heads together at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

He'd go on to win and there's a street that even harbours his name but none of the humble, dilapidated dwellings once home to the fisherfolk that might be expected.

They were largely replaced in the 1930s in an act of social mindedness that not nearly enough of is seen today.

There's still a small fleet operating but the fisherfolk have mostly gone leaving a mixture of even more modern residential that's not nearly as old as thought, it's thought.

I'm a little young to be saying it, just yet, but 'Eeeh!... It used to be all  creels round here.'

  Dunbar Town House Museum & Gallery (High Street)

Alternative town-facts provider if it's more than just the Muir you're after.

Displays are divided between the history and frequently changing exhibitions of work by artists who, quite often, are local.

A little further out and there's evidence of another battle only this one's ongoing and this one's with the sea, the North Sea, that is.

Batterings aren't uncommon and the beach is no stranger to a breach so to shore things up, they've brought in some local rocks. Not the Carboniferous or the Agglomerate that you might expect but Devonian red sandstone, of course.

The rusty tinge makes for a scene from  Jaws down there although the spray from the crashing waves isn't thought to trouble too much.

Shame that, it might have dampened the conflagration at the Parish Church that reduced it to a shell in 1987 with an awful lot of tombolas required to fund the rebuilding.

One of the, erm, rougher lads had smuggled in 10 Benson™ from South Tyneside but he ended up with the slipper, seriously, and the dog-ends ended up in the harbour, officer.

Saying that, I know for a fact he ended up in prison so he might have been back nine years later with a burning desire for revenge?

'Sunny Dunny'[1] receives more hours of direct sunlight per year than any other place in Scotland although that's a bit like saying it's one of the warmer parts of the Antarctic.

It's deserving of its reputation this afternoon but not on a previous,  low-visibility visit that postponed this pit-stop for long enough so as to forget all about it.

This is midway between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed on a fairly bland stretch of the  A1 with just a power station for company and, get this, it's nuclear, yoinks!

Despite the short detour to Dunbar, most people will be keen to get to where they're really going so it'll always be difficult to get the visitors in. 'Sunny Dunny', however, explains why a single Australian hasn't been heard today... Strewth cobber, that sounds a bit crook and not-so-bonza!

Nor sight of a rabble of schoolkids, neither, trying two at a time to stock up in the sweetie shop. Only that never happened, you see, too busy forcing down fags at the harbour.

Oh well, not that much has changed since 1978.

[1] If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed some pics have been badly tweaked with contrasting degrees of success.