A historical tour of East Linton – 6.5 miles

Is there anywhere in Scotland that doesn’t look its best on a warm, sunny afternoon in early summer? It’s been a long time coming, but now the trees are in full leaf, seemingly overnight. With a sunny weekend forecast, the rolling countryside of East Lothian beckoned. We packed a picnic lunch and headed for the neat, picturesque village of East Linton to try some of their local paths which loop around the surrounding area and link up interesting local historical sites. This route is around 6.5 miles, but can be made shorter.

Our first destination was Hailes Castle,1.5 miles outside the town. Starting from the bus stop opposite the Linton Hotel, we walked down Station Road, under the railway and followed signs to the left for the River Tyne. This is an idyllic riverside path with a good surface and is mostly flat, apart from a short, stepped section. The steep banks of the Tyne were bursting with wildflowers – white maythorn, purple comfrey, and yellow gorse – while birdsong filled the air. The route passes under the A1 and then we followed signs across a footbridge to Hailes Castle. Established in the 14th century, the castle is still a substantial ruin and a prime picnic spot with its riverside setting. Once the home of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, husband of Mary Queen of Scots, it is looked after now by Historic Scotland.

You can go back to East Linton the same way, but we decided to return along the single-track road running on the opposite side of the river, to gain more expansive views across the lush East Lothian countryside. Crossing over the busy A199, we reached a T-junction and turned right on the B1377, away from the town centre. Preston MillOur destination was Preston Mill, once the last working watermill in East Lothian and now a jumble of quirky, red stone buildings looked after by the National Trust for Scotland. Follow the road for around 300 yards and then turn left on the signed path to Preston Mill. On the way we passed the 16th century Phantassie doo’cot – still in use, judging by the number of birds flying around!

After a rest in the sunshine to eat ice creams at the Mill, we headed across the car park to the entrance and turned left. A short distance further on, turn right into a long wooded lane signed for Smeaton Nursery. As the road bears right, after about half a mile, take a path through a metal gate leading to a circular route around Smeaton Lake. Smeaton LakeOnce part of the designed landscape of a large house, now demolished, the lake is now a lost world of tangled rhododendrons and specimen trees, and highly atmospheric. A visit to the nursery tea-room is recommended, then return to the lane’s entrance and turn right to reach a junction, then left to walk along the town’s main street and return to your start point.

There are regular buses from Edinburgh to Dunbar which stop at East Linton (First X6/106/X8, Perryman’s 253). There are also plenty of information boards, signposts and maps of the town to help you get your bearings!

You can find more information about organised local walks here

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