Walk of the week: John Muir Country Park, Dunbar

Belhaven Bay. Picture: Nick Drainey
Belhaven Bay. Picture: Nick Drainey
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A CENTURY ago this year one of Scotland’s greatest sons died on the other side of the Atlantic

John Muir left Dunbar with his family for North America when he was only 11 but he had already developed a love for the outdoors. Once he grew up his achievements in promoting the environment were immense and he is known as the founding father of the US National Parks. Next month a festival to commemorate him will be held in Scotland when the extended John Muir Way will be officially opened, stretching 134 miles from Dunbar to Helensburgh. This walk takes in part of the route, a beautiful beach and the country park named in his honour. Keep an eye out for the tide on this walk and don’t try to wade into the sea at any point; as explained there are plenty of options even if the water is all the way in.

DISTANCE 4 miles.


TIME 2∫ to 3 hours.

MAP OS Landranger 67.

PARK The Shore Road car park is on the left as you drive in to Dunbar on the A1087.

IN SUMMARY You can get to the main beach of Belhaven Bay via a strange-looking bridge over Biel Water. For this walk, however, you follow the river inland before crossing it to reach sand dunes. (You will also have to return this way if the tide is high and blocking access to the bridge.)

To start, go back down the road you drove in on and go right at a sign for the John Muir Way. A surfaced path leads to Biel Water and follows it downstream a short way, to a footbridge, which you cross. On the other side go right to follow a path round to the left. This is joined by a track from the left and continues to a junction near a car park. (On your return you may go back via this junction if the tide is in.) Go straight on at the junction and walk past some toilets to continue on the main path with pine woods to the left and salt marsh to the right. As the path starts to bear left, cut across the dunes to the right. On reaching the edge of the salt marsh go left to reach a spit of sand jutting out – this is the best place to cross unless the tide is all the way in when it might be easier further back along the salt marsh (in the direction you have come from).

Once over the salt marsh, follow the edge of dunes to the left to reach the end, at the estuary of the River Tyne. Go round to the right here to reach a long, straight beach which leads all the way back to Belhaven Bay. The best way back is to cross the strange-looking footbridge with the car park on the other side but if the tide is high go right at the end of the sand dunes. A path with duck boards crosses the salt marsh, however, even this can be overwhelmed by water in which case go further right before crossing. Either way, go left on the other side to retrace your steps to the start.

REFRESH There is nothing at the start of the walk but there is a good choice in Dunbar.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA It would be remiss not to visit the house on Dunbar’s High Street where John Muir spent his early years. It is now a museum explaining the work of one of Scotland’s most influential sons.

Nick Drainey

Twitter: @ScotlandWalk