Weekender: Dolphin Dunbar Loop

Ride level Beginner cyclist
Distance 11 mi / 18 km
Type of bicycle Hybrid
Traffic free
Circular route
A birds eye view of a Scottish coastal town. A port is in the foreground, red-roofed houses and buildings in the background
Thirty miles east of Edinburgh is the coastal town of Dunbar. Markus Stitz is your guide for a ride that celebrates its most famous son

Route name: Dolphin Dunbar Loop. 
Start/finish: John Muir’s Birthplace, 126 High St, Dunbar, EH42 1JJ (NT 67860 79008). 
Maps: OS Landranger 67. 
Ride length: 17.5 km (10.9 miles). 
Climbing: 70m. 
Bike type: Touring bike, gravel bike, hybrid, tandem – anything but a road bike, really. 
Ride level: Beginner.

The surroundings of Dunbar provided the perfect playground for John Muir, who emigrated to the United States as a boy and later in life became known as ‘Father of the National Parks’. Muir was born in the seaside town, and this mostly flat and family-friendly route takes you through East Lothian’s stunning countryside, past long beaches, through sheltered woodlands and past the DunBear, a massive sculpture by Andy Scott.

Dunbar also marks the start or finish of the John Muir Way. And while the historic Herring Road only exists in a few places, this was once the main route across the nearby Lammermuir Hills in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. It was used by the fishwives carrying baskets of cured herring from the coast to the market in Lauder.

This route loops the small town, which offers a quieter alternative to nearby North Berwick. There’s a direct train connection on the East Coast mainline from Edinburgh to London. 

1 Dolphin Dunbar

Part of Scottish Hostels, Dolphin Dunbar offers great budget accommodation for cyclists, and also offers advice on what to do in and around the town of Dunbar. The interior is entirely recycled from old furniture, and the bright, airy rooms have a pleasant retro, vintage vibe to them.

2 John Muir’s birthplace

The house where Dunbar’s most famous resident grew up is situated right in the heart of town on the high street. The small museum gives a great insight into Muir’s life and his legacy, and is also the start/finish of the John Muir Way.

A statue of a man in a town square

 3 The Bridge to Nowhere

At high tide you’ll wonder why someone has built a bridge here. At low tide you can find out why, as locals and visitors use the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ to walk over the Biel Water to get to nearby Belhaven Beach, which is popular with surfers and kite surfers.

A man stands in the foreground, his back to the camera. He's wearing a bright orange jersey and a black helmet. In the background is a bridge crossing a river

4 John Muir Country Park

The park is a popular with all ages and is a great place to enjoy the East Lothian coast, as well as the many trails that span the forest. Barbecue places, benches, a playground and public toilets make this a convenient stop for families.

A straight gravel path runs between a corridor of pine trees in a wooded area

5 East Links Family Park

Providing more than just beautiful scenery, this is another popular place for families, with animal enclosures, train rides, go-karts, bouncy castles and trampolines. If you are just stopping by, a nice restaurant/café will keep you well-fed.

6 The Dunbear

The latest artwork from Kelpies creator Andy Scott is a giant fivemetre- high steel sculpture of a brown bear standing on its hind legs. It celebrates John Muir’s biggest achievement: the establishment of National Parks in the US, including Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

There are lots more family-friendly routes in East Lothian on the Go East Lothian Komoot profile