Do Not Disturb The Dolphin Inn, Dunbar - Scotland on Sunday Travel

A modern take on a hostel puts Sunny Dunny on the map

The Dolphin Inn hostel, Dunbar, East Lothian, an ideal budget base for exploring the area's outdoor opportunities. Pic: Contributed
The Dolphin Inn hostel, Dunbar, East Lothian, an ideal budget base for exploring the area's outdoor opportunities. Pic: Contributed

What was I doing booking into a hostel? Memories of chores and dorms and being booted out into the rain each morning mean I’m old enough to know better. However, Dunbar’s modern take on a hostel is a world away from what I knew in the 1980s. Yes, there is a communal area but it makes you smile with its quirky vintage vibe and the well-equipped kitchen puts my own to shame. Showers are shared between only a couple of rooms at a time and there are even two ensuite doubles. More importantly everyone who stays raves about the Dolphin Inn and locals tell me it’s just what “Sunny Dunny” has been calling out for.

Dunbar on the East Lothian coast is only 25 minutes from Edinburgh by train, at the heart of holiday park territory and there are plenty of family attractions in the area. Foxlake has wakeboarding and an over-water rope course, while go-karts, trampolines and farm animals sit beside East Links’ wooden adventure fortress. Then there is surfing, diving and wild swimming on the coast.

For the less energetic, it’s an ideal base for walking, golf and birdwatching and when the microclimate fails, the leisure centre has an indoor pool with wave machine and flume. Dunbar itself is a place to explore with history and a wealth of independent businesses giving it a refreshingly unique character.

A communal lounge area at The Dolphin Inn hostel, Dunbar, has a quirky vintage vibe. Pic: Lisa Bryson

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Budget or boutique?

Budget - this is a hostel with shared facilities – but the standard, its attractive environment and user-friendly staff make it worth so much more.

Room service

Decor in the 11 bedrooms is simple and fresh, with a splash of the quirkiness you find in the public areas. The stand-out feature in my room is the record player – and LP collection. What better way to switch off than a side of vintage vinyl then as the needle clicks round to silence hearing the call of the gulls?

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A double bedroom at the 11-bedroom Dophin Inn Hostel, where the decor is simple and fresh, with a splash of the quirkiness you find in the public areas. Pic: Lisa Bryson

Wining and dining

Evening meals are up to you - but the kitchen facilities will tempt you to seek out East Lothian’s fine produce to prepare. Or return with fish and chips from a choice of a variety of cuisines at nearby takeaways. Breakfast is provided, with cereal, bread, spreads and drinks, in an atmosphere more convivial than a formal hotel buffet I met my hostel-mates – a Swiss woman, Italian couple, Dutch family and Shane the manager, from New Zealand: it couldn’t have been more cosmopolitan.

Worth getting out of bed for

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No visit to Dunbar is complete without an introduction to its most famous son, John Muir. Born in 1836, the conservationist is credited with founding the world’s first

Dunbar's Belhaven Beach is a popular destination for surfers. Pic: Contributed

national park, in California and the small John Muir Birthplace Museum is packed with information - return time and again, picking up a different nugget each time.

In celebration of having spent wisely on my accommodation, I head to the harbour for an indulgent al fresco meal and the sun finds me as I tuck into freshly cooked lobster and fries from one of the seafood “shacks” there followed by home baking and coffee at the Kittiwake “cabin cafe”.

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The other “half” of Dunbar is Belhaven and that means two things. First it’s the bay and the expanse of sand revealed at low tide to the west of the town – the perfect destination for surfing or a brisk cliff top walk, maybe stopping at Winterfield Golf Club for coffee and filled rolls in the Bunker Bar. Secondly it’s a pint, so a new brewery tour discovering its roots with 12th-century monks and the family who established it in 1719 and ran it for the next 250 years is recommended. Today it’s an efficient beer-making operation based at glorious red sandstone buildings. Tastings are in the Monks Retreat and its pretty, secret gardens.

Little extras

The well-equipped kitchen/dining area at The Dolphin Inn, Dunbar. Pic: Lisa Bryson

The Dolphin Inn’s secure board and bike store and laundry/drying room make sporty types feel at home. Dogs are welcome too.

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Guest book comments

Get in there quick to book the ensuites and plan a harbour lobster and B&B break.

Fact file

Prices are £60 for two in a double room or £70 for two in an ensuite. The Dolphin Inn, 2 Queens Road, Dunbar, EH42 1JZ (01368 868427 dolphindunbar.com)

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Further information: visiteastlothian.org; www.foxlake.co.uk;

Breakfast is provided, with cereal, bread, spreads and drinks, in an atmosphere more convivial than a formal hotel buffet. Pic: Fiona Laing

www.eastlinks.co.uk; www.belhaven.co.uk; www.eastlothian.gov.uk/museums

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