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Dunbar, Scotland is somewhat off the beaten path for most travelers, but an absolute gem for those who seek it out. Dunbar boasts ancient ruins, a stunning coastline, a busy fishing port and quaint town center.
An easy day trip from Edinburgh, Dunbar is an excellent destination for a day…or even longer. We spent one day exploring the area and discovered many of the best things to do in Dunbar.
Dunbar, Scotland FAQs
Before we jump to our list of things to see in Dunbar, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Where is Dunbar in Scotland?
Okay, first things first: Where is Dunbar, Scotland? Dunbar is located along the coast in East Lothian just about 30 miles southeast of Edinburgh. There are public transportation lines that connect the two cities. We talk in more detail about how to get to Dunbar at the end of the article.
Spending time in Edinburgh or Glasgow? Use our guides for How To Spend 3 Days in Edinburgh and 1 Day in Glasgow!
What is Dunbar weather like?
Clocking more hours of sunshine than any other place in Scotland, Dunbar has earned itself the nickname, ‘Sunny Dunny.’ That said, it’s still Scotland…so there is always a chance of rain!
We recommend checking the Dunbar, Scotland weather forecast before your trip (and bringing an umbrella, regardless).
What is the Population of Dunbar?
The town of Dunbar has a population of about 10,000. Most of the town is clustered around the Dunbar city center.
What is the Meaning of Dunbar?
The word Dunbar means Castle Headland or Fort on the Summit Point – which is an appropriate name for the village, as it has had a castle on the headland for more than 1,000 years. The castle in Dunbar, now only ruins, is still one of the top attractions to see.
History of Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Dunbar in Scotland has a fascinating and storied past that involves royalty and battles.
Dunbar, Scotland history dates to the 11th century, but archaeological excavations show evidence of civilizations residing in the area long before that time.
Much of the current Dunbar history revolves around the historic castle. The defensive stronghold provided protection from attacks and, therefore, a town grew around it.
In the year 1370, Dunbar was named a royal burgh and Mary, Queen of Scots even stayed at the castle (more than once). However, the castle was purposely destroyed in 1568, leaving it in ruins.
Although Dunbar was attacked many times throughout history, the city was defeated in the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. Oliver Cromwell led the English army to victory and claimed 10,000 prisoners. Under English occupation, the Castle Park Barracks were completed and the town became a seaside tourist destination.
Today, in addition to tourism, Dunbar has a thriving fishing industry and is home to one of the oldest breweries in Scotland.
Traveling to Scotland from abroad? Read our tips for Planning a European Vacation.
What To Do in Dunbar, Scotland in One Day
For anyone visiting Edinburgh in Scotland, Dunbar is an ideal day trip to the coast. The small town is easy to navigate on foot and most of the sights can be seen in a single day.
To help other travelers experience Dunbar like we did, we are sharing our list of the Best Things To Do in Dunbar, Scotland. In addition to our list of sights, we provide a helpful Dunbar Map of Attractions at the end of the blog post.
Furthermore, we provide information for getting to Dunbar, where to stay (for visitors who want to spend more than a day in Dunbar) and what you will need for your trip.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Dunbar travel blog post so that you can use it while planning your trip to Scotland!
11 Things To Do in Dunbar, Scotland
Our list of the top things to do in Dunbar includes everything you need to know to plan your visit to this beautiful Scottish coastal village.
#1 Belhaven Brewery
The Belhaven Brewery is the oldest working brewery in Scotland – and it’s located just 1 mile from the Dunbar Train Station. Visitors can pop into the shop to pick up fresh beers and souvenirs. However, one of the best Dunbar things to do is to take a Belhaven Brewery tour. We recommend booking in advance!
#2 Belhaven Bridge (aka The Bridge to Nowhere)
The Belhaven Bridge is one of the interesting things to see in Dunbar. The bridge stands near the shoreline at John Muir Country Park offering a (sometimes) dry route to cross over Biel Water Stream that empties into Belhaven Bay.
However, during high tide in Belhaven Bay Dunbar, it resembles its moniker, The Bridge to Nowhere. With water covering the path and lower steps, the bridge is left stranded in the middle of the sea and completely inaccessible.
#3 The Glebe Coastal Walk
A spectacular nature walk, the Glebe Coastal Route is one of the best reasons to visit Dunbar! Winding along the coast and on top of cliffs, the 1.5-mile path offers breathtaking scenery.
From the western trail head, the walkway begins along the edge of the Dunbar golf course, Winterfield Golf Club (watch for golf balls and give way to players). The route continues from the pebbly shoreline and climbs to the clifftop, providing an exceptional sea view.
There are viewpoints and benches where trekkers can take in the seascape that is dotted with monoliths and reefs submerged just under water. East of the sea stacks is the remains of the Dunbar Castle. Continue walking east along the path and through the tunnel.
Nearing the town center, multiple staircases lead down to the beach and provide access to a Dunbar cave. The cave – called both the Eye Cave for the eye painted on the back wall and St. Bey’s Cave for the town’s patron saint who prayed there – offers a sublime viewpoint. Complete the Glebe Walk at the indoor Dunbar swimming pool.
#4 Dunbar Castle, Scotland
The crumbling remains of the castle is a must-see in Dunbar. In its day, the Dunbar Castle was one of the grandest fortifications in Scotland. Perched up on a rocky outcrop, only a few stone walls of the ancient castle still stand.
Unfortunately, the castle is in a dilapidated state and unsafe for visitors (some of it even collapsed into the sea in 1993). Take in the view from the harbor – and read the informational plaques that share a timeline and fun facts.
#5 Dunbar Harbour
The harbor in Dunbar is a hive of activity. Fishing boats come and go through the narrow channel, fishermen unload their catch and harbor seals swim in the clear blue water.
The Dunbar Harbour, which dates to the mid-1500s, is unique in that it is comprised of three harbors: The Old Harbor, Victoria Harbor (also called New Harbor) and Broad Haven.
#6 Dunbar Battery
The recently renovated Dunbar Battery is another sight that shouldn’t be missed! Built in 1781, the Battery was designed to protect the harbor and town from invaders. The site was also used as a hospital in the early 1900s.
The restoration reconfigured the Dunbar Battery to house a small stage, a coastal garden and public art. The Battery scenic viewpoint encompasses the gorgeous Scottish coastline from Bass Rock to the west and Barns Nest Lighthouse to the east.
#7 Volunteer Arms Pub
A great place to stop for a late lunch or an afternoon beer, Volunteer Arms is one of the fun Dunbar restaurants frequented by locals. The cozy pub is perfect on a cool day, but they have outdoor space with a view down to the harbor, as well, for when the sun is shining.
The menu features excellent Scottish pub fare (the macaroni and cheese with mushrooms hit the spot!) and a range of beers, including several real ales.
#8 High Street in the Dunbar Town Centre
The main thoroughfare in the Dunbar center, High Street, once connected the castle to the church. Common to that time, the street served as a marketplace – as it still does today. Independent stores, art galleries, gift shops and locally-owned restaurants line the wide street.
Additionally, the street hosts a few Dunbar attractions – including the next two on our list.
#9 John Muir Birthplace and Museum
John Muir, known as the ‘Father of the National Parks’ in the US, was born and raised in Dunbar, Scotland and is the city’s most famous resident. His childhood home has been converted to the John Muir Dunbar Museum.
The free museum features the story of John Muir’s life and the legacy he left for nature conservation. The engaging exhibits are spread throughout the three-story house and includes information, stories, photographs and video clips.
#10 Dunbar Town Hall Gallery
The Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery – also called the Dunbar Tolbooth – dates to the 16th century. The Renaissance building was used as a council chamber and courthouse (where witches stood trial). Today, it houses the local history museum and gallery.
A statue of young a John Muir stands in from the Town House and marks the east end of the John Muir Way coast-to-coast trail in Scotland.
#11 Station Yard Micropub
One of the cool pubs in Dunbar, Scotland, Station Yard Micropub has a cozy interior and a large beer garden, half of which is covered and ideal on warm or even rainy days.
Featuring Scottish craft beer from Winton Brewery and a solid selection of gin and whisky, the Station Yard is a fun and welcoming spot to wrap up a day of Dunbar sightseeing and (as the name suggests) wait for your train to Edinburgh.
Map of Dunbar, Scotland
Use this link to Google Maps for an online and interactive version of our Dunbar, Scotland map.
More Things To Do around Dunbar
We highlighted our top picks for the best things to do in Dunbar, Scotland on a day trip from Edinburgh. However, there are a few more sights and attractions in the area that we want to mention.
Dunbar Parish Church
The unmissable Dunbar Parish Church – also called the Dunbar Collegiate Church or the Dunbar Kirk – is a striking red church with a soaring tower. Built in 1821, it was completely renovated after a fire in 1987. Monuments and stained-glass decorate the interior.
For more than 100 years, Dunbar had a large outdoor pool that served as a major tourist attraction. Although that pool has been demolished, the Dunbar Leisure Pool is the town’s modern aquatic attraction. The indoor Dunbar swimming pool features a wave pool, water slides, a gym as well as a café with sea views.
Dunbar Surf School
Surfing in Scotland? Who knew! The Coast-to-Coast Surf School in Dunbar is an excellent place to learn how to surf and SUP. They offer both courses and lessons on Belhaven Beach. They also have camps, equipment rentals and SUP yoga.
Dunbar Art Trail
Dunbar, Scotland hosts numerous public works of art. One of the fun Things To Do Dunbar is to embark on the Art Trail. An Art Map highlights more than 20 art works – from sculptures to carvings to murals – and information about each piece is available online. There is even a fun art challenge for kids!
Travel Tips for Dunbar, Scotland
We are sharing a few more travel tips for your Dunbar, Scotland trip – like how to get there, where to stay and what you will want to pack for your trip.
How To Get To Dunbar from Edinburgh
Dunbar and Edinburgh sit just 30 miles (48 km) apart and the two cities are well connected with both train and bus routes. In fact, it is possible to get from Edinburgh to Dunbar in just about 20 minutes.
Edinburgh to Dunbar Train
The Transpennine Express train is the fastest way to get from Edinburgh to Dunbar. Off-peak tickets cost less than £10 one way and can be purchased at the Waverley Train Station in Edinburgh. Trains run throughout the day. You can find the most accurate Edinburgh to Dunbar train times at the Waverley Station.
Pro Tip: You can buy return Dunbar to Edinburgh train tickets at Waverley Station. However, we waited until we were in Dunbar, reconfirmed the train times at the Dunbar Train Station and purchased tickets when we were ready to depart. This gave us additional flexibility in the plans for our Dunbar day trip.
Bus Edinburgh to Dunbar
Travelers can also use the Edinburgh – Dunbar Bus to get between the two cities. Buses to Dunbar from Edinburgh depart from the Edinburgh Bus Station and are fairly frequent. The Edinburgh to Dunbar bus takes a little more than an hour.
We recommend checking the Dunbar bus schedule at the bus station.
Where To Stay in Dunbar: Hotels and Airbnb
Travelers have a choice of accommodation in Dunbar, Scotland – as there are hotels, hostels and vacation rental apartments. Use our tips for finding the Best Hotels for Cheap before you start your search!
Dunbar, Scotland Hotels
There are just a couple hotels in Dunbar, Scotland.
The Bayswell Park Hotel in Dunbar has a fantastic location on the clifftop near the end of High Street. The hotel offers cozy rooms with ocean views. Check availability!
Dunmuir Hotel is another one of the hotels in Dunbar East Lothian that gets fabulous reviews. The historic hotel offers rooms with modern conveniences and is just steps from Dunbar Beach. Check rates!
Budget travelers seeking an affordable place to stay should check out The Dolphin Inn Hostel, where they offer a range of options – plus a shared lounge space, a communal kitchen and free bikes. See options here!
Airbnb Dunbar, Scotland
Holiday apartments are available for rent in Dunbar, as well. We like staying in apartments for longer trips, but find that the fees add up too quickly for quick weekend trips.
That said, visitors can search for vacation rentals on Airbnb or Booking.com.
What To Pack for your Trip to Dunbar, Scotland
Now that you are ready to take a trip to Dunbar, we have a few tips about what you will want to bring on your Dunbar trip! Find all of our packing advice on our dedicated Travel Packing Tips blog page. You can also get your Free Packing Checklist here!
One of the best Dunbar things to do is walk – so you want to make sure you bring the right shoes for your trip! Lightweight and versatile everyday sneakers are sufficient for walking around Dunbar. Find out our top picks for the Best Travel Shoes here.
Dunbar is stunningly beautiful! Upgrade to a real camera (rather than using your mobile phone) for your trip to Dunbar to ensure you capture the beauty of the town. We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens.
We think the Rebel is one of the best cameras for budget travelers as it is affordable, comes with heaps of accessories and takes excellent photos.
Although called Sunny Dunny, Dunbar is still in Scotland, which means that the weather can change on a dime. On the day we traveled to Dunbar, it was sunny, windy,
rainy stormed like mad, then sunny again.
Make sure you are prepared for typical Scottish weather conditions (regardless of what the forecast may say) with a raincoat and travel umbrella.
A good day pack is essential for your Dunbar day trip! We use small backpacks where we can stow our wallets, keys, camera, phones, raincoats and umbrella. Read our reviews for some of the Best Day Bags for Travel.
European Travel Insurance
No doubt about it, trip insurance is a necessity these days. If you plan on staying in Dunbar – or are traveling to Scotland from abroad – make the small investment in trip insurance, as it can save you heaps if something goes awry. Check the affordable plans at World Nomads.
Don’t let trip details slip through the cracks. Stay on top of your travel plans for Scotland with our printable Travel Planner!
We Want To Know: What are your top tips for Things To Do in Dunbar, Scotland? Tell us in the comments!
Start planning your trip to Scotland! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing! Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!
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