Walk of the week: Musselburgh's Lagoons

ON THE edge of cities it is sometimes possible to find an escape with minimal effort. To some this is akin to cheating; you are not really going on a walk unless there is nothing manmade in sight, there is a considerable amount of physical exertion involved and it takes most of the day.

The contrary view would be firstly that it is extremely difficult to find a place in Scotland that has not been altered by man (footpaths are often the closest intrusion on true wildness) and second, a short walk with family or friends is just as satisfying as an expedition in remote areas.

To me, real lovers of the outdoors can appreciate both forms of getting out and about, the most important thing being to enjoy the fresh air and whatever is in front of you. With views of the Firth of Forth, wide open spaces and a level gradient, this is a perfect family walk for the Christmas holidays The history of Musselburgh's lagoons is far from natural; they are on land reclaimed by Scottish Power to deposit waste ash from Cockenzie power station. Some of the lagoons are still in use but the laying out of paths means the industrial work is barely noticed and the unused lagoons are a haven for wildlife with dunlin, curlew, golden eye and cormorant all present.

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For those of a more sporting outlook, armchair or active, there are two landmark venues passed on the way. Musselburgh Links Old Golf Course dates back to 1672 and is the oldest course in the world still being played (it was the venue of six Open Championships between 1874 and 1889). It is surrounded by Musselburgh racecourse, which arrived in 1816.

So get out there, enjoy all that you can and have a happy Christmas.

DISTANCE 2 miles. HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible. TIME 1 to 2 hours. MAP OS Landranger 66. PARK There is a car park at Levenhall Links. Follow the A199 east, past Musselburgh racecourse, and go left at a roundabout on to the B1348, following a sign for Prestonpans. After passing a national speed limit sign go left and follow a narrow road then a track to the edge of the racecourse where you turn right to reach the car park.

IN SUMMARY Go to the end of the car park and on reaching two paths take the one on the left. This leads past a lagoon and across a meadow, to the edge of the Firth of Forth. Go left, following the shore which bends left as it reaches the estuary of the River Esk.

The path reaches the edge of Musselburgh where you go left, away from the shore. At a junction of paths go right to reach a road and, after about 200 yards, the entrance to Musselburgh Links Old Golf Course, on the left, which you go through.

A track leads along the edge of the racecourse (the golf course is contained within it). About 100 yards before the six furlong marker post go through a gap in a fence on your left and follow a path which runs parallel to the track. This takes you to a metal gate.On the other side go left and follow a track for about 200 yards to the car park.

REFRESH Try the Birdcage bar and restaurant on Station Road, Eskmills.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA You are on the edge of Edinburgh so head into the centre for all the delights of the city's winter festivals (www.edinburghschristmas.com, www.edinburghshogmanay.org). On New Year's Day there is racing at Musselburgh (www.musselburgh-racecourse.co.uk).