East Linton. You would be hard pressed to find a prettier village. Colourful flower beds, a row of characterful buildings and a fountain with golden figures. When you are cycling on Route 76 it is worth stopping to have a look around and then head to the nearby Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom for a spot of lunch next to the bird feeders.
The previous blog covers the cycle route from Haddington to Hailes Castle. From the castle continue along the narrow road for just under 2 miles and you will enter East Linton over a bridge crossing the River Tyne.
The village has a variety of buildings, which makes it an interesting and attractive place to walk around.
In this photo I like the small white house with the round window in its gable, sandwiched between the grander white building and the stone cottage:
There are some of the characteristic East Lothian cottages with their red roof tiles. In this photo I like how the window to the right of the door is higher up than the window to the left of the door:
The centrepiece of the village is the cast-iron fountain with figures of four boys pouring urns. There is a decorative lamp stand on the top of the fountain.
There are a couple of places to eat in the village, but I tried the Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom less than a mile away, down a long driveway (marked on the map below).
I had pea and watercress soup, a coffee cake and a cappuccino. It was excellent food, but what I loved the best about this tearoom was being able to watch the bird feeders out of the window. A blue tit arrived at one of the feeders just as I sat down. It was pecking at the seeds and I noticed that more seed seemed to end up on the ground than in his beak!
I tried to take a photograph of the birds, but each time I positioned my camera they flew off, so these photos are not brilliant.
The birds waited in a nearby hedge and then flew over to the feeders once the coast was clear. Each time that I made a movement to take a photo the birds flew away back to the hedge. They waited there until they felt safe enough to come back to the feeder. Again, when I moved they flew back to the hedge. I decided to sit still and enjoy watching them than trying to get a perfect photo.
East Linton is due to have its train station reopened. This is written into the contract of the current operator of the Scotrail franchise, but no dates has yet been set. It does mean that it will be much easier to reach this village and access the surrounding area by bicycle.
Where to next?
Preston Mill is in East Linton and well worth a visit. Read my blog about Preston Mill.
How to get to East Linton
East Linton is just under 6 miles from the nearest train station at Drem. For a circular route that starts at Lingniddry station and ends at Drem follow these steps
This ruined castle, once visited by Mary Queen of Scots, sits on a peaceful spot next to the River Tyne. You can explore the great hall, the vaulted kitchens and enjoy the views over the river and the surrounding countryside. The grassy area in front of the castle is a perfect picnic spot. Hailes castle is on National Cycle Route 76 and easy to reach from Haddington.
My previous blog describes the route from Longniddry train station to Haddington. Use this route to connect with the route from Haddington to Hailes castle- the castle is 4.3 miles from Haddington. Look for the Route 76 blue cycle signs in the town and these will send you in the right direction. You can also use the map at the end of this blog.
Once you leave the town you will be on quiet country roads. This is flat farming country, the only exception being one hill- Traprain Law- that dominates the horizon. You will see it continually as you head towards the castle.
The final one mile to the castle is on a very narrow road. Whenever a car appeared in front or behind me it was necessary for me to stop and pull right over to let it pass.
The entry to the castle is completely charming with a path crossing a tricking stream. Several people were using the grassy area as a picnic spot and children were having a fantastic time running around and exploring the castle.
This is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, dating from the early 1200s. It does not take very long to look around. There are some staircases to go up and down, some doorways to go in and out and plenty of window holes to gaze out from.
The great hall is intact, but roofless. Perhaps Mary Queen of Scots feasted here when she spent one night at the castle in 1567. She was on the way to Edinburgh for the wedding to her third husband, James Hepburn.
I have seen many Scottish castles, so I cannot help to compare them and look for what is unique and special about one particular castle versus others. Hailes is far from the most exciting that I have visited because it is small and does not take long to explore. Its best feature is the tranquil location by the river with the grass lawn being a superb place to relax in the sun for a few hours. I also enjoyed the narrow road that takes you to the castle, thick with trees and dotted with farmhouses and cottages.
Where to go next?
Cycle two more miles to the village of East Linton. My next blog will show you what to see and do there.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.