East Lothian


Principal Town: Haddington
Population (1991):
Area (hectares): 66558
Entry Updated: 15-JUL-2019
Local Authority Contact Information

Address: East Lothian Council
Council Buildings
EH41 3HA

East Lothian is bounded to the west by the City of Edinburgh, to the north by the estuary of the River Forth, to the east by the North Sea and to the south by the Lammermuir Hills which rise to 535m (1755 feet) at Meikle Says Law on the boundary with the Scottish Borders Council area.

Two parallel geological fault lines 1¼ miles (2 km) apart traverse East Lothian from southwest to northeast, the Dunbar-Gifford fault and the Lammermuir fault. To the north of the former, the landscape is characterised by rolling farmland, sandy beaches and the distinctive pyramid of Berwick Law (187m / 613 feet) and the whale-backed Traprain Law (224m / 734 feet) which are of volcanic origin. To the south of the latter, sandstones, limestone and conglomerate predominate, giving rise to notable coastal cliff formations that are home to colonies of sea birds.

East Lothian is bisected by one main river, the Tyne, which flows SW-NE to meet the North Sea west of Dunbar. It is joined by numerous tributaries which flow down from the Lammermuirs where there are three reservoirs, the largest being Whiteadder Reservoir. To the west the River Esk makes a brief appearance en route to join the Firth of Forth at Musselburgh and in the east near Stenton is Pressmennan Loch, created in 1819.

East Lothian benefits from a mild climate with some of the lowest rainfall in Scotland. Over 57% of the area is given over to arable farming, the remainder largely comprising woodland (8%), grassland (12%) and moorland (9%). There are 21 designated Sites of Scientific Interest, including locations such as the Bass Rock and Danskine Loch, in addition to Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve and John Muir Country Park.

Between 1951 and 2011, the population of East Lothian increased from 52,000 to almost 100,000, one of the largest percentage changes in Scotland.

The history of East Lothian has been influenced by its proximity to the mouth of the Forth estuary and its position on the main routeways to Edinburgh skirting either side of the Lammermuirs, the ruins of sizeable castles such as Tantallon, Dirleton and Dunbar occupying strategic locations. Evidence of early occupation is to be found in the Iron Age settlements in the northern foothills of the Lammermuirs at sites such as White Castle and The Chesters, while the famous Traprain Law hoard of silver is associated with the brief presence of the Romans in the Lothians.

Religious foundations such as Nunraw Abbey and the Collegiate Church of Haddington indicate the growth of church landholdings during the Middle Ages and country houses such as Lennoxlove and Yester represent important country estates of a later period. East Lothian was in the forefront of the Agricultural Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries when landowners reclaimed land, enclosed fields, introduced crop rotations and created planned estate villages such as Ormiston.

Formerly known as Haddingtonshire, East Lothian was one of the four districts of Lothian Region between 1975 and 1996.

East Lothian's economy is focused on agriculture and farm land occupies 88% of the council's territory. Crops include wheat, barley, oil-seed rape, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede, leeks, brussels sprouts and cabbage. The Council itself is the largest employer with around 4,500 employees. Other sectors including tourism, mining, quarrying, power generation, electronics, scientific research and printing are also important to the economy.

Tourism continues to grow, with historic buildings and the coastal towns maintaining their popularity, while new attractions, such as the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, are generating significant interest. Aberlady Bay and the John Muir Country Park provide coastal walking and birdwatching. The links also provide some of the best golf courses in Scotland, with Muirfield regularly hosting the Open Championship and at least twenty other courses across East Lothian. Throughout the summer there are festivals and agricultural shows in many of the region's towns and villages.

Although previously a major employer in the west of the region, there is no longer any mining for coal. Deep mining ended with the closure of Prestonlinks Colliery (Prestonpans) in 1964, while open cast mining continued at Blindwells (Tranent) until 2000. Quarrying includes sizeable limestone workings at East Barns which is processed on-site into cement.

Fishing, previously a key industry in Musselburgh, Cockenzie, North Berwick and Dunbar, is no longer a significant economic activity.

Unemployment is well below the national average.

References and Further Reading
Baldwin, John (1997) Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders. Second Edition, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and The Stationery Office, Edinburgh
Collard, Mark (1998) Lothian: A Historical Guide. Birlinn, Edinburgh
Craig, G.Y. and P.McL.D. Duff (1975) The Geology of the Lothians and South East Scotland. Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh
Green, C.R. (1908) Haddington, or East Lothian.
Groome, Francis H. (ed.) (1882) Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. Vol 1-6. Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh
Haddington History Society (ed.) (1997) Haddington: Royal Burgh - A History and a Guide. Tuckwell Press, Phantassie, East Lothian
Knight, John and John Gifford (1992) East Lothian Villages. East Lothian District Library
M'Neill, P. (1883) Tranent and its Surroundings. John Menzies and Co, Edinburgh and Glasgow
McWilliam, Colin (1978) The Buildings of Scotland: Lothian except Edinburgh. Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex
Miller, J. (1844) The Lamp of Lothian. Re-published in 1900
Statham, Craig (2011) Lost East Lothian. Birlinn, Edinburgh
Tranter, Nigel (1979) Portrait of the Lothians. Robert Hale, London
Whyte, Ian and Kathleen Whyte (1988) Discovering East Lothian. John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh

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