A half-hour train journey from Waverley along the East Lothian coast will bring you to the smashing little seaside town of North Berwick.
The first time I came here I immediately fell in love with it. Little did I know at the time that it was one of the most expensive seaside towns to live in Scotland.
It doesn’t have an outward appearance of wealth or anything like that, in fact it’s quite an unassuming sort of place in many ways.
It doesn’t have much in the way of seaside attractions in the conventional sense, but more in the way of natural attractions. A conical volcanic hill known as North Berwick Law overlooks the town, its beaches and small harbour, but its location overlooking a handful of small islands in the Firth of Forth is what makes it a bit special.
Craigleith and Fidra are known for their puffin colonies, some of whom wandered into the North Berwick Fry fish n’ chip shop in Quality Street one day to see what was on the menu.
In between these two islands is the tiny island of The Lamb which was bought by Uri Geller (of spoon-bending fame) in 2009. He bought it because he believes there are connections between the Pyramids of Egypt, King Arthur and Robert the Bruce.
Maybe so, but it’s difficult to land on The Lamb, let alone live on there, but Uri Geller was going to try and spend some time on the island hoping to find some Egyptian treasure that he believed was hidden somewhere. Maybe he was getting confused, because Robert Louis Stevenson who used to be a regular visitor to these parts, is said to have got the idea for his novel Treasure island, from the island of Fidra. Either way, I reckon the bloke who sold it to him for £30,000 was the one who really ended up with the treasure!
You can see the Bass Rock easily enough with the naked eye from North Berwick, but you can see it even better from the excellent Scottish Seabird Centre. Admittedly, it’s not particularly cheap, but it’s a must visit in my opinion, and you can gain some comfort from the fact that you’re helping the conservation cause as well.
So that people can see the islands up close, the wardens have set up cameras on the Bass Rock, Craigleith, Fidra and the Isle of May (which is nearer to the Fife coast). At the Seabird Centre Joe public can manoeuvre these cameras around to enjoy close encounters with the gannets, puffins and seals.
The cameras are not the only way to view the wildlife either. Out on the Scope deck are some high-powered telescopes which you can use to focus on the nearby islands in much the same way, and it doesn’t end there. The lower level Discovery Centre has a wealth of features explaining the local coastal environment, and more. There’s a Wildlife Theatre and plenty of stuff for the kids to get excited about.
All this is run as a conservation charity of course including plenty of educational resources, which is why I think it’s money well spent.
The centre is usually open every day except Christmas Day, but in 2019 it’s closed between January 5th and the beginning of April for refurbishment.
You can find all the details here;
North Berwick may not have been on your list of things to do when visiting Edinburgh, but if you want a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, then the short train journey down to this very likeable town on the banks of the Firth of Forth may be just the antidote you need.