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Find your way around Dunbar

FIRST THINGS FIRST! The best way of finding your away around Dunbar is to purchase a copy of Ronald P A Smith's Haddington/Dunbar/North Berwick Street Plan, available from the publisher. First published in 2003, the map includes Dunbar and West Barns (as well as Haddington, East Linton and Gifford and coloured coverage of North Berwick, Dirleton, Gullane, Aberlady and Longniddry) at the large scale of 8 inches to 1 mile (1:7500), considerably larger than any other similar maps available, and consequently the most detailed town map of its kind, aimed at walkers/pedestrians as well as motorists and commercial drivers.  The map was fully updated, showing all the new private housing developments on the southern fringes of the town.
It forms part of the only series of Scottish street maps with comprehensive indexes and locations of antiquities and places of interest; leisure facilities; schools and colleges; places of worship; health and welfare facilities; and other information including the locations of industrial estates, emergency services, etc.  Together with the Musselburgh/Tranent/Prestonpans Street Plan, it provides detailed coverage of all the towns and main villages in East Lothian.

To order by post direct from the publisher, please click on the 'Map Ordering' button at the top of this web page.



Dunbar is an attractive holiday resort and residential town (1991 resident population: 6,518), strategically situated on the North Sea coast at the very south-eastern extremity of the Firth of Forth.  The town received its Royal Burgh charter from King James II on 16th August 1445, having been recognised as a burgh since the 13th century.  The burgh was torched twice by Hertford - in 1544 and 1547 - and was reported to be 'ruined' in 1598.  The wide High Street is believed to have been laid out in the early 17th century, complete with the traditional gable-end houses, closes and long back gardens or riggs.  In common with most old Scottish towns, nearly all of the gable-end houses were altered so as to face the street in the 18th and 19th centuries.
During these times, Dunbar developed as an important port, fishing and agricultural centre.  In addition, it was a garrison town from the late 18th century until the end of the Second World War.  Over the past century, its role as a tourist resort has risen and waned - its busy outdoor swimming pool with its 'Miss Dunbar' competitions is a thing of the past.  However, it is still a very attractive and interesting place to visit, with a picturesque harbour, clean sandy beaches, old buildings and coastal walks.  The town is well-provided with recreational facilities, most notably the Dunbar Leisure Pool, the new Hallhill Healthy Living Centre, and the golf courses to east and west.
Not far from the town is the John Muir Country Park, named in honour of the town's best-known former citizen who was largely responsible for the establishment of the USA's first National Parks.  Another of Dunbar's claims to fame is as the location of the Belhaven Brewery - one of Scotland's main independent breweries specialising in 'real ale'.  The town is assuming increasing importance as a dormitory town for Edinburgh, and large-scale private housing developments are taking place on the southern outskirts.
The town is readily accessible by road and rail.  The upgrading to dual-carriageway of the A1 link to Edinburgh is nearing completion and Dunbar has a railway station on the east-coast main line.


Antiquities and Places of Interest

- The tolbooth or Town House of Dunbar, with its lead-covered spire, occupies a prominent position in the High Street (right).  Dating from the early 17th century, its red-sandstone walls became badly weathered because of the removal of protective harling in the 1920s - happily the harling has recently been replaced.  In front are the pedestal and shaft of the ancient mercat cross, surmounted by four skewputts salvaged from the demolition of a building!
Further up the High Street on the opposite side is John Muir House, which is maintained as a birthplace museum to John Muir (1838-1914), geologist, explorer and naturalist.  

Closing the view at the north end of the High Street is Lauderdale House, built by James Fall MP and later extended by the Earl of Lauderdale to the designs of Robert and James Adam.  In 1859, it was converted into a barracks, and more recently into flats.  Down the West Port, next to the pedestrian approach to the town's supermarkets is an old doocot which represents the sole remains of Dunbar's  Trinitarian priory, established by Christiana de Brus, Countess of Dunbar in the 1240s.


Dunbar Castle - The rocky outcrops at the harbour (left) accommodate the rapidly-deteriorating remains of Dunbar Castle, originally demolished in 1567 on the orders of the Scottish Parliament after Mary, Queen of Scots' visit to the town.  At the opposite end of the New or Victoria Harbour, built in 1842 and once crowded with fishing boats, is the Battery, 16th century fortifications probably built by the Duke of Albany.  Also at the harbour is an interesting Lifeboat Station and museum.  Stretching to the south-east is a clean, sandy beach, above which is the distinctive tower of Dunbar Parish Church, built between 1819 and 1821 to the designs of J Gillespie Graham on the site of a collegiate church built by the Earl of Dunbar in 1842.

We hope that this information on Dunbar has whetted your appetite for a visit to the town - and remember to buy R P A Smith's Haddington/Dunbar/North Berwick Street Plan to find your way around!

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