A Single Day
Start your visit on the historic High Street, a wide boulevard with little closes and an eclectic panorama of buildings with some striking architectural details. Browse the local shops and galleries – there are some excellent independent shops and community owned businesses. Drop into the tranquil Backlands market garden behind the Black Bull Inn to see how this area behind the High Street has been transformed. (If you are lucky you will see crops collected here crossing the High Street to be sold in the Community Carrot grocery store).
Visitors should definitely stop at the Town House Museum and John Muir’s Birthplace on the High Street ,which also hold regular events and exhibitions. John Muir was born Dunbar in 1838 and here discovered his love of wild places which inspired him to become one of the world’s most famous conservationists, starting a global movement and the creation of the worlds’ first national park in America.
From the High Street, visit the harbour area with its ruined castle and witness the expansive views up the Forth and across the North Sea from the Battery. There is always something to see around the harbours, whether it is the fishermen at work, kittiwakes nesting on the castle walls, local festivals or events at the Battery or McArthurs Store. There are several food outlets here in the summer so sit by the harbour and watch for seals.
If you have extra time take a stroll from here to the East Beach or take a longer walk following the Clifftop Trail to the town’s spectacular Belhaven Beach.
Many people visit Dunbar to play golf on either of its stunning links courses: Dunbar Golf Club which is one of East Lothian’s Open qualifying championship courses or the popular Winterfield Golf Course with its stunning views. There is much to see beyond the golf course for golfers and their families and adding a few days to your visit will enable visitors to see more of this stunning town and perhaps try out some of the attractions and activities in the area.
Add Two or Three Days
If you haven’t already managed a walk to the beach or the Clifftop Trail a few extra days will mean that you can start your day with beautiful sea views. Take care to look out for seabirds especially the diving gannets, and if you are lucky you might also spot a dolphin out at sea. A visit to the John Muir Country Park on the far side of Belhaven beach is also well recommended. If you have a car there is a large car park or buses pass by regularly from the town centre.
To find out more about the history of Dunbar there is an excellent self-guided tour or if you are fortunate you might catch one of Roy Pugh’s guided tours on Friday afternoons in the summer. (Plans are underway to launch an app for this early in 2022). If you have younger children with you then the Treasure Trail app is a fun and informative activity.
John Muir, the American naturalist, is Dunbar’s most famous son and in 2019 a statue created by the sculptor Andy Scott was unveiled on the town’s outskirts. Walk to the “Dunbear” and you can combine this with an afternoon tea or lunch at the garden centre. (Find out more about John Muir in the Birthplace Museum on the High Street if you haven’t already done so).
An alternative way to explore the area is on a sightseeing trip with Bluewild who offer regular boat trips from the harbour. If you would like a little more sea-based adventure the surf school run stand-up paddle board (SUP) trips that explore the area around the harbour.
Another excellent attraction whilst you are in Dunbar is the Belhaven Brewery Tour. This 300 year old brewery is Scotland’s oldest working brewery and produces a wide range of products including award winning beers.
Before you leave Dunbar head over to the Strawberry Barn and combine their cafe and browse the independent shops in their back garden. This is also an events venue and it is worth checking their calendar. Nearby is the Belhaven Smokehouse selling locally smoked fish and meats as well as a range of deli foods.
Five Days to a Week
If you are able to spend longer in Dunbar then we would recommend that you use the town as a base to explore the local area. Keen walkers will find that there are a large number of stunning walks close to the town and cyclists will be spoilt by the many quiet routes that explore more distant parts. Cycle hire (including ebikes), is available from Belhaven Bikes if you haven’t brought your own set of wheels. East Lothian Council has put together excellent resources to help you discover these walking and cycling trails and there are many more suggestions in the walks section of this website.
If you have come with children (or grandchildren), then there are great half day holiday camps at Foxlake Adventures and Coast 2 Coast surf school so they can have fun whilst you explore the local area or try some different activities.
There are plenty of local sites of interest and we would recommend visiting Preston Mill, Hailes and Tantallon Castles and the Museum of Flight for a start. For more ideas see the walks section of this site or East Lothian Council’s website which lists tourism and visitor attractions.
If you don’t have a car the area is very well served by local buses (and taxis) and Dunbar is ideally situated to explore East Lothian, Berwickshire and parts of the Borders with relative ease. Dunbar is also an excellent base for day trips to Edinburgh or Berwick. Regular trains leave Dunbar Station to both towns with a journey time of less than half an hour.