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Belhaven Bay, East Lothian

Outdoors

Edinburgh 7 Day Itinerary

You could easily spend 7 days exploring Edinburgh, but did you know that there's actually lots of things to do in the Lothians too? See the magic of distilling first-hand, take a tour with a former miner, and find out about conservation work to look after seabirds and rescued animals.

Edinburgh sits on the sunny east coast of Scotland and is surrounded by charming smaller towns, green countryside and a beautiful coastline. This 7-day itinerary takes you through all the things to do in East Lothian, West Lothian and Midlothian. However long you're staying, you can pick and mix your favourite ideas from this Edinburgh itinerary for your next incredible trip.

Covid-19 restrictions

The majority of Scotland is now under a temporary lockdown, though some island communities are under level 3 restrictions. Please follow any current restrictions - you might need to save these ideas to try later on a future trip.

Find out what level each area is under and read more about the 5-level Covid-19 restrictions to plan and book ahead when considering a future trip. You can search for businesses that are Good to Go, where they have a Covid-19 risk assessment.

Transport

Car

Days

7

Miles

84

Route

From Edinburgh to East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian.

Highlights

Outdoors, food & drink and wildlife.

Areas Covered

East Scotland

Day 1

overview

Edinburgh

You could easily spend weeks exploring the magic of Edinburgh, but if you're only going for a short break, here are some ideas of what not to miss in the city centre. Spend today wandering, exploring and admiring the contrasts of Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town, which together have World Heritage Site status. Find more great ideas for things to do in Edinburgh.

You're spoilt for choice with places to stay in this compact area of Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians. Pick a farmhouse in Midlothian, a luxury self-catering property in East Lothian, or a campsite in West Lothian.

Find accommodation in Edinburgh.

Find accommodation in East Lothian.

Find accommodation in Midlothian.

Find accommodation in West Lothian.

Edinburgh

Old Town and New Town

Old Town

Edinburgh's Old Town is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards, all amazingly well preserved and steeped in the city's history. At its centre is the Royal Mile, a remarkable street of Reformation-era tenement buildings leading from the seat of Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock down to the grandiose Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Look out for St Giles' Cathedral, the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh's vaults.

New Town

Inspired by the lofty ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment, the neat and ordered grid of the New Town has broad streets with spectacular neoclassical and Georgian architecture, many perfectly preserved since their construction in the 18th and 19th centuries.

You'll catch a glimpse of how the city's upper classes lived in the 18th century on a trip to the exquisite Georgian House in Charlotte Square, normally open from March to November. The refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery, just a short walk away on Queen Street, houses a magnificent collection of paintings and photographs of Scotland's most iconic figures, from Mary Queen of Scots to Sean Connery and beyond.

Look out for the upmarket George Street which is filled with sophisticated designer shops and chic bars and restaurants, while neighbouring Dundas Street is home to galleries, antique shops and independent boutiques.

Day 2

overview

East Lothian

Today we're looking at things to do in East Lothian, which sits to the east of the city of Edinburgh and stretches over 40 miles along a spectacular coast. You'll find golden beaches, lots of interesting wildlife, golf courses, tasty food & drink and rolling hills. Look out for towns such as North Berwick, Dunbar and Haddington.

Bass Rock, East Lothian

Scottish Seabird Centre

Take a trip to the Scottish Seabird Centre for an interactive experience with the marine life of East Lothian. The Discovery Experience gives you access to all-new exhibits, games and upgraded interactive live cameras on the world's largest northern gannet colony, the Bass Rock. Find out more about the diverse marine life Scotland's seas support from puffins and seals to dolphins.

Did you know?

  • Craigleith Cliff is home to the largest grey seal colony on the east coast of Britain with around 3,000 seals on the Isle of May, Craigleith and Bass Rock.
  • Boat trips to see the islands of the Firth of Forth, including the Bass Rock, can be booked through the seabird centre.

Tantallon Castle

The sea views alone at this part of east Scotland are remarkable. But then you add in Tantallon Castle and it's simply stunning. The semi-ruined fortress sits on a dramatic clifftop, and you can climb the towers of this ruined castle and see right along the coast. Below ground you'll find a scary pit prison, a reminder of Scotland's warring past.

Belhaven Bay

Belhaven Bay in Dunbar stretches from Belhaven to the north of the River Tyne in East Lothian, offering amazing views across the Forth Estuary. This beach is surrounded by low sand dunes, salt marshes and rich grasslands. It's the perfect spot for walking, enjoying a picnic or soaking up the warm weather.

Did you know?

  • With regular waves, it's also the ideal beach for surfing. Learn all the basics from expert instructors, rent equipment or enjoy a tour of the coastline at Coast to Coast Surf School.
  • Belhaven Bay is home to a most peculiar bridge. At low tide you can see a footbridge appear, known as the Bridge to Nowhere, which seems to have no purpose whatsoever.

Day 3

overview

East Lothian

We're staying in East Lothian again today and exploring some of the top attractions, which make for a really interesting day out amongst spectacular aeroplanes and watching the magic of distilling.

National Museum of Flight

be blown away by four enormous hangars of interactive exhibitions at the National Museum of Flight. Keep dry in the traditional WWII aircraft hangars, located at East Fortune Airfield, and see impressive aircraft, such as Concorde, Spitfire and Tornado F3.

Did you know?

The museum also has acres of green grass and an assault course for the hardier among us.

Glenkinchie Distillery

The Glenkinchie Distillery is just a short drive outside Edinburgh and can spirit you away on a fascinating tour through the process behind making Scotch malt whisky. Having recently reopened after a large redevelopment to create the 'lowland hub for Johnnie Walker', this Victorian distillery has orchard gardens and is set within farmland and sweet-scented wildflowers, just 15 miles from Edinburgh. They distil the Edinburgh malt which makes up the Johnnie Walker whiskies, a rare Lowland-style whisky evoking fragrant flowers, dried cut grass and nutty cereal.

Day 4

overview

Midlothian

Today we're looking at some of the great things to do in Midlothian. You're going to explore a building worthy of the film screen, and head out amongst the beautiful hills south of Edinburgh for a proper breath of countryside air.

Rosslyn Chapel

The enigmatic Rosslyn Chapel achieved global fame when it was featured in the Da Vinci Code book and movie. But it deserves all of your attention and more. It's set in an atmospheric wooded glen, and has intrigued locals and travellers for many generations with its exquisite masonry of carvings and scenes.

The ruins date back to the 15th century and the chapel is filled with myths and legends, with its ornate stonework alluding to biblical stories and moral messages from times gone by. Hear all about the various theories from expert guides throughout the visitor centre. Once you've explored the chapel, enjoy an afternoon hike along the beautiful Rosslyn Glen Walk.

Look out for:

Angels playing bagpipes, people dancing with death and the famous apprentice pillar - the story goes that the apprentice mason who carved this exquisite pillar was killed shortly afterwards by his jealous boss.

Pentland Hills

The Pentland Hills Regional Park is a living, working landscape which consists of around 10,000 hectares of countryside and 100 km of paths. It's a protected landscape containing a rich mosaic of farmed land, heather moorland, reservoirs, woodland and hills.

Follow one of their recommended circular routes suitable for different abilities, and make a donation knowing your contribution will help make environmental improvements to the hills. Check out the Glencorse Reservoir to rent boats, the Threipmuir Reservoir for stunning scenery and the Flotterstone Inn for traditional Scottish fare.

Check out this handy map of the Pentland Hills for the full 100 km of waymarked paths, how to donate via mobile and learn more about how this living, working landscape changes throughout the year.

Distance from Edinburgh:

The regional park is only 40 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh.

Day 5

overview

Midlothian

Staying in Midlothian today, we're heading to a national museum showcasing local industry, and a local brewer producing award-winning drinks. Did you know the Borders Railway runs through Midlothian so it's an area you can combine with a trip further south?

National Mining Museum

Marvel at one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian pit colliery just outside Edinburgh. Dating from 1895, the National Mining Museum of Scotland has been described as the country's 'first super pit'. Since its closure in the early 1980s it has been reborn as an award-winning museum and venue which offers a guided tour with real personal insight. Former miners lead you around the pithead and reveal what life was really like for the pitmen and their families.

Highlight:

See the museum's recent acquisitions - two carefully restored steam engines including a Lady Victoria and Ayrshire Barclay locomotive.

Stewart Brewing

Described as Edinburgh's original craft beer brewery, Stewart Brewing was set up in 2004 by couple, Steve and Jo Stewart in Loanhead. These two and their staff have mastered the art of micro-brewing and offer tours to tell you more about what goes into making craft beer. Sample their award-winning ales, lagers and stouts including Hollyrood and Edinburgh Gold.

Did you know?

They are based in a custom-built facility which they created in order to let them get as many people in as possible to see what goes on behind the scenes. They're also home to the UK's first experimental brew-it-yourself Craft Beer Kitchen.

Day 6

overview

West Lothian

We've had a busy few days but now it's time to enjoy things to do in West Lothian, which sits in-between Scotland's two largest cities. There are some bigger towns to explore in this area, lots of history and legend, and some great family attractions too.

Shopping

Explore over 150 shops, eateries and more at the Centre, Livingston, a purpose-built shopping centre in the heart of the town in West Lothian. You can shop for beauty, candy, teddy bears, luxury chocolates, diamonds, colourful stationery, clothing and much more. Or enjoy a beauty treatment, lunch for all the family, and learn about the local community.

Did you know?

The Centre is home to a range of activities with Aerial Adventures - you can climb the wall, freefall, zipline or let the kids run wild in the soft play centre.

Livingston Designer Outlet

Next door is Scotland's largest designer outlet, which offers even more retail therapy, entertainment and food and drink. The Livingston Designer Outlet is home to over 80 premium brands, restaurants and cafés from Hugo Boss to Lacoste, Molton Brown to Under Armour.

There's also a cinema and an adventure golf centre with two 18-hole courses to play.

Almond Valley

After some serious shopping, head out to Almond Valley Heritage Centre, a family-friendly museum set on a peaceful riverside site surrounded by woods and fields. Meet the friendly farm animals in the traditional farm buildings and working watermill, with Highland cattle, rare breed sheep and Clydesdale horses. The museum itself has exhibits on the local history, while there are indoor and outdoor play areas including a simulated archaeological dig, trampolines, go karts, tractor and trail rides and a narrow-gauge railway.

Did you know?

There's a daily programme of activities including milking demonstrations and handing sessions so you can get up close and really meet some of the farm's residents.

Day 7

overview

West Lothian

We're wrapping up our Edinburgh itinerary with one last day in West Lothian, meeting the animals and birds being cared for, and exploring just one of three country parks you can choose between.

Five Sisters Zoo

With 160 species of mammals, birds and reptiles from across the world, Five Sisters Zoo has plenty to see on a day out. The zoo is dedicated to supporting animal welfare and is home to rescued circus bears and lions, as well as monkeys, otters and crocodiles. Look out for the lynx, gibbons, meerkats, owls and lemurs too.

Did you know?

The zoo is a non-profit organisation so all the money goes back into the zoo to pay for the animals upkeep, vet bills and maintenance of the enclosures.

Scottish Owl Centre and Polkemmet Country Park

Get up close and personal with these beautiful birds at the Scottish Owl Centre in Polkemmet Country Park, approximately 20 miles from Edinburgh in West Lothian. Learn how to handle and fly the owls, get a photo opportunity while holding one, or take a photography workshop with the owls under expert tuition for some incredible shots that you'll definitely want to show off. Set in 168 acres, Polkemmet Country Park also has its own golf course, driving range and other activities including horse riding, orienteering and cycling paths.

Did you know?

There are three country parks all in West Lothian - Polkemmet, Almondell & Calderwood, and Beecraigs.