Dirleton Castle

I try to use my car as little as possible, so end up cycling places a lot. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a regular cyclist. Fitness and joy in your heart are an advantage. Weird tan lines and being known as bike bloke not so good. And thus there was a conversation along the lines of ‘You cycle don’t you? Yes I do. Have you cycled to any of our sites? Quite a few. Do you have any pictures of your bike outside them? No. Oh, could you write a blog about it anyway?’

As my wife Kate and I are going on a cycling holiday of the Netherlands soon, we’ve been trying to fit in a long bike ride each weekend to make sure we’re in shape for it. So I agreed to write the blog and cycle to one of our properties rather than one of my usual training routes.

One of Kate’s favourite sites is Dirleton Castle. This combined with my craving for fish and chips by the sea sealed the deal. We would ride to Dirleton!

We live just south of Edinburgh so decided on a route into Edinburgh and then out along the brown sign-posted ‘Coastal Trail’ through Musselborough and Preston Pans, a route of about 27 miles.

View route map for Salisbury Place To Dirleton Castle on plotaroute.com

How to prepare

For a medium length ride like this you should carry out a little preparation:

  • Check your bike is working properly, and check the tire pressure
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Don’t forget to put on some sun block
  • Make sure you’ve got some spare inner tires and appropriate tools
  • Pack emergency cake. Never forget the cake.

The ride

It was a glorious day and — massive cyclist bonus — there was a fantastic tail wind. So it felt great zooming along the road. As we left relatively early (9:15am) there wasn’t much traffic either.

And soon the beauty of cycling was revealed — you go at a speed that you can see things that you’d never notice from the car or train, but can cover much more distance than you can on foot.

In town we decided to pop through Holyrood Park. It’s hard work up the hill, but totally worth it for the view and feeling of smug satisfaction.

Gareth in cycle gear standing next to his bike in Holyrood Park

A glorious view of Edinburgh from Holyrood Park, only spoilt by my hideous-looking legs

Once out of town we began to pick up a bit of speed and started to really enjoy the sun. Kate’s American and although she’s been here for 7 years, there are odd little pockets of the country she’s not been to. Joppa was one of these, so we stopped for a breather, a look at the sea and another photo opportunity.

A view out to sea from Joppa

A view out to sea from Joppa, plus more spindly appendages.

I’ve been here a bit longer than Kate — about 12 years — and have cycled round a lot of Lothian but there are always little bits for me to discover too. In Preston Pans I’d usually kept to the main road when riding through, but this time followed the ‘Coastal Trail’ signs and enjoyed a nice diversion past a lovely harbor.

Past Cockenzie the road really starts to open up and is lovely cycling terrain — we saw lots of cycling clubs out enjoying the sunshine — and we didn’t stop until we reached Dirleton Castle. With a few stops along the way it took us just under 2 hours.

Obligatory Dirleton Castle entrance and bike shot.

Obligatory Dirleton Castle entrance and bike shot.

The castle

Arriving at Dirleton Castle was lovely. The village square outside the castle looked beautiful in the sunshine and we received a warm welcome from Colin, the steward on duty. He came out of the shop and asked us whether we’d like to bring our bikes inside the site, where he could keep an eye on them. We took him up on the offer and then had a good bit of cycling chat. He’d cycled in himself that morning and many of the other staff do too.

We left Colin in peace and had a wander around the site that was looking fabulous. The gardens in particular still had all their summer finery and were abuzz with all the bees sampling the amazing flowers.

Beautiful gardens at Dirleton Castle

Beautiful gardens at Dirleton Castle

The way back

Our heritage and horticultural needs satisfied we looked to fulfilling another objective of the trip — lunch! Back on the bikes and about 10 minutes later we were in North Berwick. I watched the bikes while Kate went to the chippy.
A fish supper acquired we went to the beach and tucked in.

Fully chipped we slowly cycled to the train station and took the train back to Edinburgh. If, unlike us, you don’t think the idea of a 27 mile ride is fun then this is definitely the way to go. If you’re Edinburgh based you can easily take the train out to North Berwick. Dirleton Castle is about 2.5 miles west of the station, and Tantallon Castle is about 3.5 miles east of the station. An easy ride to either. And you probably wouldn’t need emergency cake (though take some — you can never be sure).

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About Author


Donna Laidlaw

Donna works in the Digital Team and looks after our websites, making sure they are kept up-to-date. She's also managed several projects, including the new Edinburgh Castle website.