Last week after delivering a family tree to a client in East Lothian,I spent time exploring the village and parish of Aberlady.
Situated on the shore where the Peffer Burn enters Aberlady Bay,the village and surrounding area are full of history.The bay has always been a natural landing point for ships and Anglo Saxons soon settled here once the Romans had departed.Later it grew to become the port for the neighbouring town of Haddington,five miles inland.
Begin at the west end of the village and follow the main road that has now become part of the John Muir Way,named after the Scottish born American conservationist. A new building seen through the trees is the headquarters of The ScottishOrnithologist's Club,a popular pursuit in these parts.
On the left, the village war memorial is neatly tended and beside it, a recently erected (2011) reconstruction of an 8th century Anglo Saxon cross,based from fragments of a local cross,now in the National Museum of Scotland. Aberlady can also boast the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon silver found in Scotland.An information board beside the garden entrance sets out a route with numerous points of interest along the way.
Next door,set back from the main road is Aberlady Parish Church.Dating from the 15th century,it was re-built in 1887. In 1986, the parishes of Aberlady and Gullane were merged.
An interesting feature on the pavement in front of the church are a series of steps apparently going nowhere. These are known as 'loupin on stanes' and were used by ladies or elderly gentlemen to mount their horses after church service.
Continuing down the main street one sees an eclectic mix of vernacular and Gothic architecture : weavers cottages and merchants houses. The hub of activity was of course the mercat cross and this stands on the pavement outside a 'chocolate box' cottage.
Small alley ways lead of the main street with further examples of 17th and 18th century houses with their red pantile roofs.These were seemingly used as ballast by merchant vessels returning from trading with the Low Countries.
Finally the main street suddenly takes almost a ninety degrees turn towards the bay. Continue along the main road towards Gullane and soon a wooden bridge comes into view,referred to by author Nigel Tranter as the "bridge to enchantment".
Tranter lived and worked in Aberlady and everyday would set out with a note book over the bridge to write great historical novels: The Bruce Trilogy,The Wallace,Children of the Mist among them. I was an avid reader of his books and had the good fortune to meet him and receive a signed copy of The Wallace.The bridge crosses the Peffer Burn,the boundary between Aberlady and Dirleton parishes into Aberlady Nature Reserve,the first local reserve in the UK.
Adjacent to the car park a memorial was erected to Nigel Tranter. In my opinion it does not do him justice and resembles one of the numerous second world war concrete,anti-tank blocks scattered along this coastline,but then again perhaps that was the idea.
Following the coast road back,continue round the bay passing the scant remains of Kilspindie castle.Here a sign points to the old customs house or return by the delightfully named Coffin Lane,back to the church and the start of the walk.
Also worth visiting on certain open days is Gosford House built by Robert Adam and the home of the Earl of Wemyss.
Aberlady offers great charm and fascination for all lovers of nature,history and literature plus a bridge to enchantment.
Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Sheet 351 Dunbar & North Berwick
ABERLADY PARISH LITERATURE
Reid,JP Chiel o' the Clachan: An Aberlady Boyhood 1862-1875.
Reid,JP,Malcolm,I Aberlady,A Historical Guide. Aberlady Conservation Society.
Ellery,C (2010) Aberlady Kirkyard and Cemetery,East Lothian:Monumental Inscriptions. Scottish Genealogy Society.
ABERLADY PARISH LINKS
Aberlady Historic Houses
Aberlady Bay Wikipedia
Family Search Aberlady Parish
Gazetteer of Scotland Aberlady
The Scottish War Memorials Project Aberlady