Walk of the week: White Sands and Barns Ness

White Sands and Barn Ness. Picture: Nick Drainey
White Sands and Barn Ness. Picture: Nick Drainey
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IT’S summer. Head for the beach. Sand and sea are a great combination and on their own are enough for a superb day out.

Combine them with a walk and some other points of interest and the day can be even better. The coast of East Lothian is blessed with some great spots which are perfect all year round. One that is quieter at this time of year runs south from the aptly named beach, White Sands.

Fossils abound in this area, with the limestone and shale containing remnants of life from around 300 million years ago. More recent history comes with the whitewashed lighthouse at Barns Ness – dating from 1901, it was built by David Stevenson. Added to this are great views out to sea and the sounds of a plethora of bird life.

The nuclear power station at Torness could never be described as an attractive part of a countryside walk, but because of the isolation this place enjoys, it is not a reason to avoid the area and, despite its size, the beautiful coast is a good compensation.

Take a picnic on this walk, and remember to pack a bucket and spade if you have children with you.

DISTANCE 5 miles (to Skateraw).


TIME 2 to 3 hours (to Skateraw).

MAP OS Landranger 67.

PARK White Sands car park is to the south of Dunbar. Turn off the A1 on to the A1087. After about a third of a mile, go right down a minor road. Just over a mile further on, go left to reach the parking area above the beach.

IN SUMMARY First of all you may want to spend some time on the lovely beach at White Sands – or save that for the return. The route follows a track at the end of the parking area down the coast. You first pass some old lime kilns (unfortunately covered by metal fencing) before Barns Ness lighthouse comes into view.

Keep on the main track, which meets an access road for a car park at Barns Ness. Follow this down to the left and straight towards the lighthouse (it recently had some scaffolding on it which slightly hampered its aesthetic appeal). Just before the lighthouse a sign points right to a path. It is nicer, however, to continue towards the lighthouse buildings and bear right to reach the shoreline. Go right and follow a grass path (currently carpeted with daisies) as far as you like. Skateraw’s beach is a good destination – keep following any of the paths that run along the low dunes. After a metal bridge over Dry Burn, the path is eroded for a very short stretch, but you can follow the top of a stony beach.

If you are feeling fit you can go beyond Torness nuclear power station to Thorntonloch where there are more lovely sandy beaches. But don’t forget you have to have the energy left to walk back the same way.

REFRESH Dunbar has a good choice of places to eat.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The birthplace of John Muir on Dunbar’s High Street has a museum explaining the work of the man who left Scotland as a boy and went on to help found the world’s first National Parks. n