View towards Edinburgh from East Lothian
East Lothian,  Hikes & Walks,  Scotland

Coastal Walk From Gullane To Aberlady: Your Complete Guide

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Last Updated On 6th February 2024 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

The coastal walk from Gullane to Aberlady is a perfect day trip from Edinburgh. Discover everything you need to know about this stunning coastal walk in my complete guide.

The wide sandy bay in Gullane is one of the most popular beaches in the east of Scotland, and it is really easy to see why. It has gorgeous soft sand and the water is clear and fresh. It is cradled either side by black rocks and backed by high sandy dunes which support a wide variety of wildlife and plant species.

Aberlady Bay became the UK’s first local nature reserve in 1952 and is widely considered one of the best bird-watching spots in the country. In fact, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (Scotland’s Bird Club) has it’s headquarters in Aberlady.

The coastal trail is part of the John Muir Way, a 215 km /130 mile long distance walking route across Scotland, which is also part of the North Sea Trail as it is along the North Sea coast line.

At low tide you can see the remains of several wrecks, such as World War II midget submarines (X-Craft), ships and boats.

gullane beach scotland
Did you know that Scotland has beaches like this? Gullane Beach is a beautiful sandy beach, only an hour from Edinburgh.

Coastal Walk From Gullane Beach To Aberlady Bay In Scotland: A Perfect Day Trip From Edinburgh

  • Distance: Around 6 km / 3.7 miles one way.
  • Time: 2-3 hours going at an easy, relaxed pace.
  • Terrain: A mixture of level and hilly. The walks begins at a sandy beach backed by dunes. It continues along paths. The walk ends at a wooden bridge and a road.
  • Highlights: On this walk you will see some of Scotland’s best beaches. You will enjoy spectacular views across the sea, hills and towards Edinburgh city. There is a wobbly wooden bridge to cross so be brave! The walk is interesting because of the variety of terrain. You can also enjoy spotting wildlife and exploring historical World War II artefacts.
  • Dogs: Dogs are popular on Gullane Beach, but they are not permitted on the nature reserve from April to July. Dogs must be kept on a short lead at all other times.
  • Start: Gullane Beach.
  • Finish: Aberlady Village.
  • See Travel below on how to get there.

Traveling To Gullane & Aberlady For Your Coastal Walk

Gullane and Aberlady are both accessible by public transport from Edinburgh. They are both best reached by bus.

How To Get To Gullane From Edinburgh By Public Transport

  • Take the East Coast bus service 124 or X24  which operates every 30 minutes every day of the week (Monday-Sunday), or the X5 express service which is a little faster but does not run as often (only 7 times a day) or on weekends (Monday-Friday only).
  • If you have a Ridacard you can use this for part of your journey, to/from Musselburgh, then pay a reduced fare for the remainder.
  • The East Coast services operate with Zones. To/from the city it will be across 3 zones and will cost £2.60-£3.60 one way (single) or £7.50 for a County Plus ticket (all day travel on Lothian county services including in Edinburgh city centre) for an adultcheck the full fares on the website
  • It will take around 1-1.5 hours from Edinburgh City Centre (stops in the city in Semple Street, West End Lothian Road, Princes Street) to Gullane on the 124 service.
  • Get off at stop Goose Green and walk all the way down Sandy Loan to the beach.

How To Get To Edinburgh From Aberlady By Public Transport

  • From the coastal road, head up The Wynd, passing cute cottages, naval houses and the Village Hall, and turn right to go along the High Street to the bus stop at Poplar House.
  • Take the East Coast Bus service 124 or X24 or X5  as above.

There is no train station is either town. The nearest station is North Berwick, Drem, Longniddry.

If travelling by car, there is a car park at Gullane Bents (beach) and at the footbridge in Aberlady Bay. You could do a round-trip the same way (12km) or take an alternative route.

Map Of The Coastal Walk From Gullane To Aberlady

coastal walk gullane to aberlady map
Approximate path of the coastal walk from Gullane to Aberlady
location of coastal walk gullane aberlady from edinburgh
Location of the coastal walk from Gullane to Aberlady in relation to Edinburgh
coastal walk gullane aberlady world war 2 artefacts
World War II artefacts, rolling hills, the view of Edinburgh, the Pentlands and Arthur’s Seat over the Forth – what you’ll see on this walk

Take Time To Enjoy Gullane Beach Before You Begin Your Walk

Why not start your walk by going down to the gorgeous Gullane beach for a refreshing dip in the sea?

gullane beach scotland
The bay of Gullane beach is perfect for a swim or walk across the sand barefoot

We did this walk in early September. Although the water was quite cool it was so refreshing and exhilarating – I highly recommend it! It’s soft sand most of the way out. It gets deep quite quickly allowing you to swim not too far from the shoreline. Go and do it!

Or a walk along the dunes?

gullane beach sand dunes scotland uk
Gullane beach is backed by pretty sand dunes

The dunes are full of little pathways you can go exploring and enjoy the views from higher ground.

Or enjoying an ice cream while overlooking the bay?

gullane beach ice cream scotland
Ice cream from the truck in Gullane beach car park at the start of the coastal walk to Aberlady

We got ice creams from a little van stopped in the Gullane Bents car park. It was about £2 with all the trimmings (sauce, sprinkles and a chocolate flake)!

Or just being soppy?

lauren and fiachra soppy couple
🙂 Awww…

Start Your Coastal Walk From The Gullane Bents Car Park (At The Top Of Gullane Beach) Towards Aberlady

start of the coastal walk to aberlady from gullane
The start of the coastal walk to Aberlady begins from Gullane Bents car park

To begin this beautiful coastal walk, start from the west corner of the car park above the beach. The path heads out along the coastline with amazing views over the Firth of Forth and rocks.

Beautiful Coastal Views

views on the start of the coastal walk from gullane to aberlady
View on the start of the coastal walk from Gullane to Aberlady

Soon you will approach a perfectly placed viewpoint where you can have this gorgeous view of the wide sandy bay… 

panorama of gullane beach scotland
Panorama of Gullane beach, Scotland

Either side of the path you’ll find plenty of seabuckthorn bush covered with bright orange berries.

This plant was thought to have been introduced to the area protect the coastline against erosion and dune stabilization. However, as it is not native to the region, it spread quickly and densely and prevented other species of plant from thriving.

Now, the seabuckthorn is managed with the aim to create a balance in conservation. The plant does provide a habitat for breeding birds and shelter for foxes and roe deer. You may be lucky enough to spot these animals leaping across the dunes (we did)!

bright orange seabuckthorn berries and bush scotland

Continue heading along the path (overgrown in parts) uphill away from the coves. The walk goes around the Gullane Golf Club and over Gullane Point. Emerging over the brow the view really opens up. Here you will be offered spectacular views across the forth and over the rocky cliffs to the beaches below.

gullane golf club scotland
Circling the Gullane Golf Club

Looking out over the water to the west you’ll be able to see right across the Forth to the Queensferry Crossing and Forth Road and Railway Bridges. You may also be able to spot Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands in Edinburgh.

view of edinburgh from gullane to aberlady coastal walk
Views towards Edinburgh from Gullane
forth bridges queensferry crossing scotland view from gullane golf club
Forth Bridges and the Queensferry Crossing viewed from Gullane Gold Club

Looking back you’ll enjoy beautiful views across the rocks and beaches…

view of Gullane Beach scotland
View of Gullane beach

Ghostly Remains From World War II

Coastal defenses, remnants from World War II, in the form of anti-tank concrete blocks can be seen arranged in long rows along the beach and dunes. These were strategically placed to create barriers for tanks and artillery landing from the sea. Follow the green way-markers between these where the path will lead downhill through the bushy dunes to another pretty cove.

The path continues past World War II remnants
East Lothian beaches seen on the coastal walk from gullane to aberlady
A beach in East Lothian

Keep A Look Out For Wildlife

The path then stretches on through flat ground and gradually opens out wide following the beach on the right and high dunes towering above on the left. It was here we saw many herds of roe deer which would take a quiet moment to stop and observe visitors before taking shelter between the seabuckthorn bush.

Roe deer

Continue along the clear path following the signs to Aberlady. Following the end of the golf course the path will become increasingly grassy and you’ll pass through marshes and fields with gorgeous views of the rolling hills.

coastal Walk between Aberlady and Gullane Scotland
Mid-way point on the coastal walk from Gullane to Aberlady

Enjoy the view!

View towards Edinburgh from East Lothian
View towards Edinburgh from East Lothian

You may meet another friend along the way, and Aberlady is in sight!…

Deer on the path coastal walk aberlady bay gullane beach
Deer on the coastal walk from Gullane beach to Aberlady
Lauren and Fiachra in the sun
Lauren and Fiachra in the sun

Berwick Law & Marl Loch

Continue along the path which will bear right at a fork and head south between the nature reserve and a golf course.

The track will narrow from open fields to a clear pathway with a fence along the left edge and trees to the right. You’ll have views of Berwick Law, a volcanic plug, on your left as you approach Marl Loch on your right. The path will continue along the east side of the loch. Here you can spot swan, coot and mallard resting in the shallow water.

Berwick Law
Marl Loch

Shortly after this point you’ll turn left through a mini tree-tunnel before emerging out to see the wooden footbridge across the Peffer Burn stream.

Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve

Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve east lothian scotland
Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve

The sign and local notice board gives you some information about the nature reserve and wildlife. The reserve is an important haven for birds and wildflowers. It is a perfect spot for the bird watcher all year round and the botanist as over 540 species of wildflower have been recorded here.

Aberlady Bay Information Sign Nature Reserve east lothian scotland
Aberlady Bay Information Sign
Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve east lothian scotland
Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve notice board at the wooden bridge

Crossing the wooden bridge (which is quite aged in parts and not for the faint hearted!) will lead you to a car park. Here, there is a bench resting spot and memorial to local writer Nigel Tranter. From there, you can follow the coastal road back around into the pretty Aberlady village.

Aberlady Bay Wooden Bridge east lothian scotland
Aberlady Bay wooden bridge

Finish Your Coastal Walk By Crossing The Wooden Bridge & Walking Into Aberlady Village

Don’t forget to look back and enjoy beautiful views across the estuary!

Sunset and sky at Aberlady Bay scotland east lothian
Sunset at Aberlady Bay

Coastal Walk From Gullane Beach To Aberlady Bay In Scotland: Your Complete Guide

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you really enjoy this coastal walk!

Are you planning to do this walk? Or have you done this walk? If so, what were your highlights? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Looking for more wonderful things to do in Scotland? Check out these posts:

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog

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