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Walking Fife & East Lothian

Written and researched by Linda Jackson / September 2007

Imagine yourself a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visualise wild panoramic views that take your breath away. Picture a vast expanse of beach stretching far into the distance; listen to waves breaking on the shoreline, and feel the breeze blowing unwanted cobwebs away. Half a mile offshore lies a small picturesque island - reputedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

This wild haven is not a million miles away from a city..... It's just 25 miles from Edinburgh.

 
   

The region is East Lothian and the haven is Yellowcraigs, a beach popular with walkers and more recently kite flyers - which offers great views across the Firth of Forth to Fife and of the 'treasure island' of Fidra. Home to populations of herring gulls, guillemots, razorbills and puffins, this magical little island is also where a pair of peregrine falcons regularly stop by to picnic on their prey.

   

All this can be witnessed by an island webcam set up by the Scottish Seabird Centre, an award winning wildlife visitor centre (and a world leader in remote wildlife viewing) located in North Berwick less than three miles from Yellowcraigs.

Zoom in on the wildlife on four offshore islands (Fidra, Lamb, Craigleith and Bass Rock) with live action cameras or powerful telescopes, and observe around 100,000 sea birds that nest on them.

Sir David Attenborough reckons that Bass Rock, a 95m-high (313ft) trachyte plug a mile off the mainland, and the largest single island gannet colony in the world, is "one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world", and with approximately 10% of the world's population of North Atlantic gannets there, he's probably right. Across the Firth of Forth visitors can find a myriad opportunities for walks of all types.

   

Snaking around the Kingdom of Fife coastline is the Fife Coastal Path, which offers a range of walking levels along its 80 miles (generally tackled in bite-size chunks), from flat and painless to wild and demanding. Castles, churches, distinctive rock formations, fossils, seals and dolphins can be seen as the path meanders past villages, picturesque fishing harbours, long sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs.

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A good base from which to explore this coastal path is St Andrews. Recognised worldwide as the 'home of golf, it not only boasts six centuries of sporting tradition and ten golf courses within ten minutes' drive of the town centre, but also two award-winning beaches and a choice of gentle walks. These include a guided walk of the famous Old Course; a scenic stroll past ancient castle and cathedral ruins (part of the Fife Coastal Path) and an MP3 audio walking tour of the historic town. For a truly relaxing stroll the choice has to be the stunning landscaped gem that is St Andrew's Botanical Garden - a seven-hectare botanic garden a tranquil haven in which to amble amongst varied collections of plants and flowers.

Back to Edinburgh for a more relaxed approach to walking as we follow in the footsteps of JK Rowling. A brisk stride up from Waverley Station along Edinburgh's famous Mound overlooked by the Castle and The Old Town and we're ready to mull over a coffee and some delightful homebakes in The Elephant House on George IV Bridge. This is where Rowling penning her first Harry Potter novel - and like the novel, this famous Coffee House is also full of intriguing characters.

Wander down the Royal Mile with its vistas out over the new Town,along the Canongate, past the 'architecturally interesting' Scottish Parliament, around the Palace of Holyrood (the Queen's official residence in Scotland), and on into Holyrood Park where you'll find Arthur's Seat - a great volcanic plug that provides some of the most invigorating walks to be found within any city. Choose the red route for not-too-steep paths, but take heed, the purple route needs a head for heights.

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There's no problem with heights on the Edinburgh's city walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens; it's a walk of historical interest along street after street of fine Georgian architecture. And the end reward? Seventy acres of gardens, glasshouses and glorious botanical displays.

These Scottish gems warrant accommodation to match. For North Berwick-Yellowcraigs.

Stay at Lutyens-designed Greywalls. a 27- bedroom country house hotel: it's refined, cosy and relaxing; the food is; divine and service impeccable, there are lovely gardens and the house overlooks Muirfield Golf Course.

   

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For the St Andrews area, stay at the elegant 142-room Old Course Golf & Spa Resort (opt for a suite, it's worth it) where there's a choice of dining venues ranging from traditional pub 'Jigger Inn' home-cooking to fine dining in the Road Hole Grill (3 AA Rosettes).

As for the Kohler Waters spa signature facial, savour it, it makes toes curl!


In Edinburgh, head for the 260-room Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. It's sophisticated, a stone's throw from Princes Street, serves afternoon tea in style, and has the dream spa complex One-Spa in a fabulous, translucent, six-storey, coloured glass building. There's nothing better than being pampered to round off a memorable day. Or maybe there is just one thing, the dramatic, memorable and incredibly beautiful East Lothian sunset.

    

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east lothian sunset

Article reproduced by kind permission of Devon Life who commissioned and first published the article. Linda Jackson is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and the Golf Travel Writers Association; she is Travel Correspondent for two regional magazines and writes travel-related features for a number of lifestyle magazines, national press, online, and golf publications.

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