Seaside Holidays in East Lothian

Railways spread in to East Lothian in the 1840s and with them came a wave of holidaymakers.

First came those looking for health – the benefits of sea air and sport. East Lothian can claim to be the historic home of golf and sea bathing became popular as a ‘cure’ for all kinds of skin conditions and other illnesses. Cool and salty sea breezes were promoted as health-giving – and the East Lothian coast can be fairly breezy!

Then came mostly middle class families looking to spend a summer (or at least a month) by the sea. They wanted accomodation and sandy beaches. Gentle sports like tennis and putting were a bonus. Open air entertainers and band music just added to the mix.

Finally there came a mass of working class holidaymakers spending their breaks by the seaside. They took short stay holidays and avoided the more expensive hotels, preferring instead to ‘take rooms’ (like bed and breakfast today) or camp.

All the seaside towns of East Lothian grew during this time. They built paddling ponds and swimming pools as well as putting greens and tennis courts. People found work in new hotels and restaurants. More golf courses opened. In the second half of the twentieth century caravan and camping sites began to replace hotels. But at the same time cheap overseas holidays became possible. A large part of East Lothian’s tourist trade disappeared within the space of a few years.

Our coastal communities began to adapt, each in their own way. A new tourism market developed. Today East Lothian is promoted through its outdoor activities and natural environment. Seaside activities such as fishing, yachting, surfing and diving are increasingly popular. More golf courses have been built. The coast and countryside is varied and interesting with beaches, estuaries and cliffs and an abundance of wildlife. The John Muir Way covers it all.

Tourism still plays a large part in East Lothian and it probably always will! The Gallery on this page shows a selected range of images featuring coastal attractions and holidaymakers from the past. We’ve just posted low resolution images in the Gallery (so some are blurry) – higher resolutions are available if you contact us.




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