Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Charms of the Far East. (pt 1. East Lothian & it's Castles)

So you're staying in Edinburgh for a few days, perhaps not for the first time, and haven't seen much outside of Edinburgh - what to do? 

A quick glance at the coach tour companies seems to suggest a fairly fixed set of day-trip options - Loch Ness (that's an awful long way as a day trip, but you might just see the monster), Loch Lomond (beautiful, full blown wilderness without the marathon journey), Stirling (lovely Castle and the Wallace Monument) or St Andrews (Steeped in the History of both Scotland and Golf). Add a passing mention to the Borders and Perth/Scone Palace and that's just about your menu. 

Under your own steam you could jump on a train or bus to Glasgow, Perth, Stirling or St Andrews (the latter being our top suggestion by public transport) and have a nice day out. But rarely do tourist plans seem to look East from Edinburgh - and what a great pity that is. Unless you have a very limited itineray in mind, public transport will be a bit of a struggle sadly, but if you have come to Edinburgh by car or if you either choose a day hire from any of the big companies or a local choice such as, or if you treat yourself to a personal guide (with a vehicle of course) then East Lothian offers a wonderful day out.

A dazzling array of attractions are open to you - none of which are more than an hour's drive from the Capital -  'classic' castles, an original Concorde, a whisky distillery, Sealife Centre and top rank fish 'n'chips to name but a few! Here we catalogue the main attractions which you can tailor to your own interests - it can't all really be covered properly in a day- some have tried, but failed! In Part One - the Castles!

So What's a 'classic' Castle? Now don't get me wrong Edinburgh Castle and its stunning location deservedly wins just about every poll its eligible for - its rightly Edinburgh's number one attraction. Its a complex series of buildings dripping with history. Physically its a Fort - there is no one element that you can point at and single out as the 'Castle'. What East Lothian has by contrast is a dusting of 'fairytale' or 'impressive single building' Castles that are equally rewarding to visit. Our pick are Dirleton and Tantallon. Dirleton Castle is set in a village with a huge green, not hard to imagine how things were centuries ago. It has a massive outer wall with an area inside it that swallows up a Dovecot and a bowling green with plenty of space to spare. The big wooden 'drawbridge' passes over the site of the moat, and you enter into a Castle beautifully balanced between ruin and survivor - you can literally walk up one spiral staircase and look across at the mirror image ruin on the other side, the banqueting hall is as impressive as the views to the coast (including lighthouse) from the top.

Tantallon Castle is just beyond North Berwick and the furthest point we'd suggest on your East Lothian day out. It is jaw-dropping in its stature - a huge solid structure sitting on the coast which makes a fantastic shot in late light in particular. Its in looks in good shape as you approach from the West, but its in ruin to the coastal side, as if half of it had sheered off and plunged into the sea down the cliffs below. This though, only adds to its appeal.

See the links for more detail on each of the Castles on their official sites, or take a look at East Lothian's tourism website.

Other attractions and suggested routes in part two!

No comments:

Post a Comment