It’s only when you move to the city after years living in the countryside that you realise you were completely spoilt. As a child, I could close our front door and in minutes be surrounded by fields, thick woodland and one of the most controversial pieces of modern architecture Scotland has ever seen (more about that here). Now, living beside one of Edinburgh‘s busiest streets, I lament the loss of the adjacent hills and clear west coast air.
So when you discover somewhere that simultaneously smells of the sea and autumn, all within a half-hour drive from Edinburgh city centre… Well, you thank the powers from above. And then you blog about it! A few weekends ago, as the seasonal chill began to fade the bright greens to orange, we took the A1 out to Aberlady Nature Reserve on the fertile East Lothian coast.
Becoming Britain’s first ever nature reserve in 1952, the beautiful Aberlady Bay reserve stretches for kilometres through sparse trees, subtle wildflowers and finally north to the exposed Gullane Point. The sand here has swallowed shipwrecks and wears the spots of razor shells, a fitting foreground to the Pentland Hills and faint Edinburgh skyline on the horizon.
Yet the real star on this sweep of coastline is not the views, nor the wrecks, or even the dunes. It’s the wildlife. In just an hour of wandering through the reserve, we’d spotted a frog, numerous geese and three deer attempting to unsubtly camouflage themselves in the grass. The eagle-eyed among us — or those with an expensively long camera lens — may also spot whitethroat, blackcaps and lapwing throughout the seasons.
It’s possible to follow the path further across the dunes, east to Gullane and return to Aberlady in about 3 hours. But if the light is becoming gold in the late afternoon, you could always opt to return to the road and stop at Gosford Bothy. A farm shop and tearoom slightly south-west of Aberlady village, it’s small but full of sweet stuff (like handmade fudge, beef burgers and delicious cakes). It’s busy at the weekends but there’s nothing nicer than a hot chocolate and cake after wandering in the cool autumn air.
Why go? Aberlady Nature Reserve is Britain’s first local nature conservation area. Situated 1km east of Aberlady, it’s an ideal weekend escape from the city.
How to get there: It’s 35 minutes by car travelling east on the A1 from Edinburgh city centre. Otherwise, take the 124 bus in the direction of North Berwick (1 hour) or the North Berwick train followed by the same bus (50 minutes). See travel options.
Where to eat: Grab a warming afternoon tea (cake and coffee!) at Gosford Bothy, less than 5 minutes’ drive from the nature reserve car park.