Open main menu

East Lothian (/ˈlðiən/; Scottish Gaelic: Lodainn an Ear) is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area. The county was also known as Haddingtonshire.

East Lothian

Lodainn an Ear

East Lothian in Scotland.svg
Official logo of East Lothian
Council logo
Coordinates: 55°55′N 2°45′W / 55.917°N 2.750°W / 55.917; -2.750Coordinates: 55°55′N 2°45′W / 55.917°N 2.750°W / 55.917; -2.750
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryScotland
Lieutenancy areaEast Lothian
Admin HQHaddington
 • TypeUnitary authority
 • BodyEast Lothian Council
 • ControlLabour minority (council NOC)
 • Provost of East LothianJohn McMillan
 • MPs
 • MSPs
 • Total262.2 sq mi (679.2 km2)
Area rankRanked 18th
 (mid-2018 est.)
 • Total104,800
 • RankRanked 21st
 • Density400/sq mi (154/km2)
ONS codeS12000010
ISO 3166 codeGB-ELN

East Lothian lies south of the Firth of Forth in the eastern central Lowlands of Scotland, east of the City of Edinburgh (historically within Midlothian) and also bordering Midlothian and Berwickshire within the modern Scottish Borders area. Its administrative centre and county town is Haddington and the largest town is Musselburgh which was historically in Midlothian. In 1975, the historic county was incorporated for local government purposes into the Lothian region as East Lothian District, with some slight alterations of its boundaries. The Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 later created East Lothian as one of 32 modern council areas.

Haddingtonshire has ancient origins and is named in a charter of 1139 as Hadintunschira[1] and in another of 1141 as Hadintunshire.[2] Three of the county's towns were designated as royal burghs: Haddington, Dunbar, and North Berwick.

As with the rest of Lothian, it formed part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia and later the Kingdom of Northumbria. Popular legend suggests that it was at a battle between the Picts and Angles in the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in 823 that the flag of Scotland was conceived. From the 10th century, Lothian transferred from the Kingdom of England to the authority of the monarchs of Scotland. It was a cross-point in battles between England and Scotland and later the site of a significant Jacobite victory against Government forces in the Battle of Prestonpans. In the 19th century, the county is mentioned in the Gazetteer for Scotland as chiefly agricultural, with farming, fishing and coal-mining forming significant parts of the local economy.



Dirleton Castle

Early historyEdit

Following the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, Lothian was populated by Brythonic-speaking ancient Britons and formed part of Gododdin, within the Hen Ogledd or Old North. In the 7th century, Gododdin fell to the Angles, with Lothian becoming part of the kingdom of Bernicia.

Bernicia united into the Kingdom of Northumbria which itself became part of the early Kingdom of England. Lothian came under the control of the Scottish monarchy in the 10th century.

The earliest reference to Haddingtonshire as a county of Scotland occurred in the 12th century, in two charters issued by King David.

Medieval and early modern periodEdit

Haddingtonshire was heavily involved in a number of medieval and early modern conflicts and a number of fortified castles and buildings such as Dunbar Castle, Tantallon Castle and Dirleton Castle date from this period.

In the 12th and 13th cenutry, the Palace of Haddington was one of the seats of the Kings of Scotland. King William the Lion of Scotland used the palace from time to time and it was the birthplace of Alexander II in 1198.[3] The palace and town were burned and pillaged in 1216, by an English army under the command of King John of England. In 1296, the Battle of Dunbar was a decisive victory for the forces of Edward I of England against the forces of John Balliol, the Scottish king who was Edward's vassal.

In the 16th century, East Lothian was also the site of conflict as part of the Rough Wooing, with Dunbar Castle burnt in 1548.

During the War of the Three Kingdoms, another Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650 between Scottish Covenanter forces and the Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. The Parliamentary forces were victorious and able to march on to take Edinburgh.

Following the Restoration of the monarchy, Glorious Revolution and Acts of Union, Jacobite forces were in conflict with Government forces, with the main conflict taking place as part of the 1715 Rising and 1745 Rising. Under the command of Sir John Cope, the British Army met with the Jacobites under Charles Edward Stuart at the Battle of Prestonpans in the west of the county in September 1745, with the Jacobite side gaining a significant victory before being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

Modern historyEdit

Local government saw major reforms in Scotland by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, which gave Haddingtonshire a county council, replacing earlier functions of the Commissioners of Supply and local Justices of the Peace.

In 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, Scotland's county councils were dissolved and a new system of regional and district councils was created. East Lothian District was created within the wider Lothian region. The district's boundaries were altered to include the historic county of East Lothian plus the burgh of Musselburgh and the parish of Inveresk (which included Wallyford and Whitecraig) from the county of Midlothian.

When further reforms in 1996 moved Scotland to a system of 32 unitary local authorities, the modern council area of East Lothian was created.


East Lothian is a predominantly rural county. It has 40 miles (64 km) of coastline where the towns of Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton, Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar lie along the coast of the Firth of Forth. The coast forms a broad arc and contains several headlands and bays, most notably Gosford Bay, Aberlady Bay, Gullane Point, Sandy Hirst, Tyne Mouth, Belhaven Bay, Barns Ness, Chapel Point and Torness Point. There are several small islands off the coast north of North Berwick, the largest of these being Eyebroughy, Fidra, The Lamb, Craigleith and Bass Rock.

Only two towns are landlocked, Tranent and the old county town Haddington. To the south are the Lammermuir Hills along the boundary with Berwickshire; it is here that Meikle Says Law, the highest point in the county at 535 metres (1,755 ft), can be found. The River Tyne flows through Haddington and several of East Lothian's villages, reaching the Firth of Forth near Belhaven. Major bodies of water include Pressmennan Lake, the Whiteadder Reservoir, Hopes Reservoir, Stobshiel Reservoir and Lammerloch Reservoir.



The A1 road travels through East Lothian where it meets the Scottish Borders southbound and Edinburgh northbound. The A1 throughout East Lothian is dual carriageway and major junctions include Dunbar, Haddington, Tranent, Prestonpans and Musselburgh.[4]

Starting in Leith, the A199 road also travels through East Lothian beginning at Musselburgh and passing through Wallyford, Tranent, Macmerry and Haddington before joining the A1 in West Barns.[5]

Some non-primary routes in East Lothian are the A198, A1087, A6093 and A6137 roads.[6]

Public transportEdit

Dunbar railway station

East Lothian is served by seven railway stations: Dunbar, North Berwick, Drem, Longniddry, Prestonpans, Wallyford and Musselburgh (however, note that the latter two stations were historically in Midlothian). Railway lines which travel through and stop at stations in the county include: the Abeillo North Berwick Line, the CrossCountry line and the London North Eastern Railway London to Edinburgh line.

Bus operators in East Lothian are: Lothian Buses and its subsidiary East Coast Buses, Eve Coaches of Dunbar, Prentice of Haddington and Borders Buses. East Coast Buses is the main bus service provider connecting the towns and villages of East Lothian to Edinburgh. The company has depots in North Berwick and Musselburgh.[7]


Parliament of the United KingdomEdit

East Lothian is a constituency in the House of Commons, electing one Member of Parliament.

The current MP for East Lothian is Martin Whitfield.

General Election 2017: East Lothian[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Martin Whitfield 20,158 36.1 +5.1
SNP George Kerevan 17,075 30.6 -12.0
Conservative Sheila Low 16,540 29.6 +10.1
Liberal Democrat Elisabeth Wilson 1,738 3.1 +0.5
Independent Mike Allan 367 0.7 +0.4
Majority 3,083 5.5
Turnout 55,878 70.6 -3.6
Labour gain from SNP Swing +8.6

Scottish ParliamentEdit

Most of East Lothian is in the East Lothian Scottish Parliament constituency and South Scotland region with the exception of Musselburgh which is in Midlothian North and Musselburgh and the Lothians region.

Local governmentEdit

Haddington, with the Town House

East Lothian Council is based in the historic county town of Haddington, with the council meeting at the Haddington Town House and offices at nearby at John Muir House. The unitary local authority contains six wards, electing 22 councillors.

Following the 2017 election, the council is composed of the following parties in each of the six wards:[9]

East Lothian Council Election 2017 Results
Labour Conservative SNP
Musselburgh 1 1 2
Preston, Seton & Gosford 2 1 1
Tranent, Wallyford & Macmerry 2 1 1
North Berwick Coastal 1 2 -
Haddington & Lammermuir 2 1 1
Dunbar & East Linton 1 1 1
Total: 9 7 6

Places of interestEdit

Towns and villagesEdit

Civil parishesEdit

East Lothian or Haddingtonshire Civil Parish map.[10]

In 1894, John Martine published Reminiscences and Notices of Ten Parishes of the County of Haddington.[11]


Loretto School's Pinkie House

There are a range of schools in the county, including six state secondaries: Dunbar Grammar School, Knox Academy (formerly the Grammar School) in Haddington, Musselburgh Grammar School, North Berwick High School, Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans and Ross High School in Tranent.[12]

There are two independent schools in the county. Loretto School is a day and boarding school in Musselburgh founded in 1827 and Belhaven Hill School, established in 1923 is a smaller preparatory school in Dunbar also providing boarding.

In 2007, Queen Margaret University began its move to a new, purpose-built campus in Musselburgh within East Lothian, providing it with its first university.

Culture and communityEdit


In November 2017, a county flag competition was launched in East Lothian to register an official flag of East Lothian. Anyone willing to enter this competition was allowed to enter, which resulted in 623 entries to the competition. The end of entry submission time was the 28th of February 2018. Four final flag designs will be placed in a vote to the residents of East Lothian. In December 2018 the winning design was announced, designed by Archie Martin, a local man from Musselburgh and residing in Gifford who had worked for the council for 23 years. Martin died in July 2018. The flag features a saltire representing East Lothian as the birthplace of Scotland's flag. A gold cross signifies the wealth of East Lothian’s farmlands and reputation as the granary of Scotland with a lion in the centre representing the Haddington lion along with blue stripes to represent the rivers Esk and Tyne.

Local mediaEdit

East Lothian is served by two local paid-for weekly newspapers, the East Lothian Courier and the East Lothian News.

The East Lothian Courier (often locally "The Courier") began as the Haddingtonshire Courier in 1859, before changing its name in 1971.[13] It was owned by D&J Croal, based in Haddington, until its purchase by the Dunfermline Press Group in 2004.

The East Lothian News was first published in 1971, as part of Scottish County Press Group, with editorial offices in Dalkeith and printing at Bonnyrigg (both in Midlothian). The Scottish County Press Group was acquired by Regional Independent Media in 2000, which was in turn bought by Johnston Press in 2002.

There are two local community radio stations in East Lothian, broadcasting on FM and online. East Coast FM, based in Haddington, has been broadcasting since 2009. Radio Saltire, formerly East Lothian FM, is now based in Tranent.

Notable people (by date of death)Edit

A number of sports personalities also have links with East Lothian:



  • The Lamp of Lothian ; or, The History of Haddington. James Miller (new edition, 1900).
  • Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington. John Martine (1883).
  • Reminiscences of the County of Haddington. John Martine (1890).
  • Reminiscences of the County of Haddington. Second Series, ed. E. J. Wilson (1895).
  • The History of Morham. David Louden (1889).
  • North Berwick and its Vicinity. George Ferrier (1875).
  • The Bass Rock, its Civil and Ecclesiastical History. Thomas M'Crie, D.D. (1847).
  • Emeralds chased in Gold. Rev. John Dickson (1899).
  • Prestonpans and Vicinity. P. M'Neill (1902).
  • Tranent and its Surroundings. P. M'Neill (1884).
  • East Lothian Studies. Louden and Whitfield (1891).
  • East Lothian. Charles E. Green (1907).
  • Sketches of East Lothian. D. Croal (1873).


  • Coldingham : Parish and Priory [notices of Cockburnspath, etc.]. A. Thomson (1908).
  • The History of Dunbar. James Miller (1859).
  • An Old Kirk Chronicle. Peter Hately Waddell, D.D. (1893).
  • The Churches of St Baldred. Rev. A. I. Ritchie (1880).
  • Saint Mary's, Whitekirk. Rev. E. B. Rankin (1914).
  • History of Berwickshire Naturalists' Club [for Cockburnspath, Oldhamstocks, etc.]


  1. ^ Charter by King David to the church of St. Andrews of the church of St. Mary at Haddington
  2. ^ Charter by King David granting Clerchetune to the church of St. Mary of Haddington
  3. ^ Palace of Haddington, CANMORE, retrieved 12 February 2017
  4. ^ "A1 Road".
  5. ^ "A199 Road".
  6. ^ "Road Map East Lothian".
  7. ^ "East Coast Buses".
  8. ^ "Latest candidate announced for General Election". East Lothian Courier.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Martine, John; Wilson, E. J . (1894). Reminiscences and Notices of Ten Parishes of the County of Haddington. Haddington: W. Sinclair. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Martine, John (1883). Reminiscences of the royal burgh of Haddington and old East Lothian agriculturists. Edinburgh; Glasgow: J. Menzies. Retrieved 30 September 2018.

External linksEdit