Belhaven Beach & the Bridge to Nowhere
We are blessed to live with easy reach of the beach here in Edinburgh, with beach after beach stretching along the East Lothian and Fife coasts to either side of us. Although we don’t have a car, there are quite a few beaches you can get to via public transport, and we’ve set ourselves a bit of a challenge to see how many different beaches we can visit.
Last week, during our holiday in Dunbar, we visited Belhaven Beach so I’ll start with that one. Dunbar town centre itself also has a couple beaches to choose from, but if you’re going for a grand day out to spend at the beach, it’s Belhaven Beach you’ll be wanting. It’s just west of the town centre, and within walking distance of Dunbar train station.
How to Get There
If you’re starting at the train station, you can either walk the direct route along the main roads, which takes about 35 minutes, or you can go the scenic route via the Cliff Top Trail and promenade. It’s about 20 minutes from the train station to the start of the trail, and the trail itself took us about an hour. If you just want to get to the beach as quickly as possible, or have kids that can’t/ won’t walk that far, then I’d recommend the direct route. But if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, then the trail itself is a good adventure for kids and worth it for the views though please note that the beginning and end of the trail include uneven paths and steps or short climbs, and are not accessible to wheelchairs or prams. The Cliff Top Trail starts next to Dunbar Leisure Pool.
Whether you are arriving via the Cliff Top Trail or the main road, Belhaven Beach is accessible at low tide via Belhaven Bridge. It’s also known as the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ because during high tide it’s completely surrounded by water and looks like it leads nowhere. But at low tide it allows you to cross over the large stream that runs in to the sea at that point, giving direct access to the beach and saving you quite a bit of time and walking. The bridge gets cut off 2 hours either side of high tide, and then you’ll have to take an alternative longer route around Belhaven Bay to get on to the beach. There’s a map near the bridge that shows you where to go. We arrived at low tide (though I did go back the next morning on my own, to see the bridge under water).
Belhaven Beach is set within the John Muir Country Park, and stretches approximately one mile in length. It’s a beautiful beach, with vast stretches of sand at low tide and lovely views out onto the Forth Estuary. The water does go very far out at low tide, so if you want to sit on the dry sand above the high tide mark you’ll have a lot of walking back and forth to the water’s edge if the kids want to paddle. But on the other hand, you’ll save a lot of extra walking being able to access the beach via the bridge at low tide, so it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other really. In terms of amenities, there is a surfing school, car park and public toilets at the east end of the beach, near the bridge. On the day we visited, there was also an ice cream truck.
We loved Belhaven Beach. It was really beautiful, clean, and surprisingly uncrowded. As we were staying in Dunbar for the week, we decided to take the scenic route to the beach and then the direct walk back at the end of the day when everyone was a little tired. But it totally can be done as a day trip as well, whether you have a car or are depending on public transport. Just be make sure to check the tide times before you go.