WalkingSolo: Levenhall to Seaton Sands


Posted by in July's Magazine

Carolyn McKerracher

It’s that time of year again. The Festival.  

A time in which the nation – or the good citizens of Edinburgh at least – is divided into two camps:  Those who embrace The-Festival-Season like an old friend and those who baton down the hatches/ lock the doors/ go on holiday/ emigrate/ frankly anything to avoid this old friend who has long since outstayed their welcome. 

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I fall into the former camp. But then, I’ve only been here 23 years. Perhaps it hasn’t quite taken its toll yet.

Levenhall Links wetlands

In August, there’s no time for WalkingSolo. I Festival. I see shows. I drink coffee. I eat cake (of course). I have an over-priced beer, in a plastic tumbler. I read the Fringe programme from cover to cover. I chat to randoms in queues (be warned). I sit in Bristo Square in my floral dress, it’s summer after all), fleece (it’s summer after all) and raincoat (as before). I people-watch, for hours on end. 

I drop friends from the latter camp, including those potential visitors who ask to come and stay, but don’t want to Do-The-Festival (can we go shopping on Princes Street?). I tell you, I won’t make that mistake again – full vetting procedure now in operation.

However, magnanimous as I am, I realise that in August, some of you may wish to stretch your legs further than the distance between the Pleasance and Teviot. Or perhaps, as a visitor (not mine), you may like to break up Doing-The-Festival, without venturing too far away. Note that if venturing far away is your preference, then see previous episodes. Or a travel agent.

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled across Levenhall Leisure Park, just behind Musselburgh Racecourse (and anyone who does know, should keep that to themselves). Confusingly named, these 134 hectares do not hide swings, roundabouts, roller coasters or a swimming pool, but instead are host to wetlands, a bird reserve, diverse woodlands, wildflowers and a small lake for water-sports, all on land reclaimed from the sea and landscaped using spoil ash from the old Cockenzie Power Station. 

I took Lothian buses, number 26 for Seaton Sands (Princes St or London Rd) to the first bus stop after the Big Roundabout just past the racecourse. Walk east a few metres (towards Prestonpans) and take a path on the left, up to the playing fields. Cross the playing fields to a small car park beside the water-sports lake. Alternatively, if driving, take a left off the B1348, after the Big Roundabout, signposted for Levenhall Leisure Park and follow the long driveway to the same car park.

Confusingly named, these 134 hectares do not hide swings, roller coasters or a swimming pool, but stunning wetlands 

Hang out at the lake for a while, soaking up the stillness, listening to the birds, or watching the canoeing, then walk north until you hit the sea wall (not literally, I hope). From there, simply follow the coast east (or the signs for the John Muir Way), all the way to Seaton Sands, from where you can get the number 26 bus back again. Simple really.

On the way, stop to admire the stunning views back to Edinburgh, including the best visage of Arthur, clearly reclining on his death bed (Seat) and silhouetted against a clear sky (obviously, it’s summer). 

Next, pass through the old trading (and smuggling) port of Morrison’s Haven, which was once used by Prestongrange Mine. There are excellent information boards, with fascinating stories of East Lothian’s industrial past and the Salt Pans (after which Prestonpans is named) and it’s only a short walk to the Mining Museum itself. Perhaps one to save for a rainy day. 

Further on, if the tide is in, follow the John Muir Way up to street level, where you are met by the first dramatic painting in the Prestonpans Mural trail. Download a full description of the trail from the Prestoungrange (watch the spelling) Arts Festival page.

At Lidl, head back down to the coastal path (after buying some snacks, garden furniture and a rotary screwdriver) and meander through another beautiful undulating greenspace. Beyond this, are the barren remains of Cockenzie Power Station (currently under development). 

The surprise just past the eyesore, is the beautiful little harbour of Cockenzie, the quaint conservation village and the stunning Cockenzie House, a 17th century mansion and gardens, home to local businesses (including the Pea Green Boat who make delicious cheese sables), artists’ studios, craft workshops and an excellent café. A real hidden gem. Ssshhh.

At the far end of Wemyss Place, is Port Seaton Harbour, where you can head back up to the B1348 for the bus, or keep walking along the promenade to a viewpoint, where the waves lash furiously over the edge on a windy day. 

The terminus for the number 26 bus is at Seaton Sands Caravan Park, so you can walk as far as there before heading home, legs stretched, mind expanded and cake consumed.

Have a good Festival Season! 

See you there.

Or on the number 26 bus.

Info: Fuller descriptions of the route can be found on the Walkhighlands website (sections 8 and 9 of the John Muir Way). More photos from Walkingsolo.Scot on Instagram

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