The Lothians is the collective name for the three counties of Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian in the Central Belt of Scotland. They're all lowland in nature, heavily populated around Edinburgh, and bounded to the north by the Firth of Forth, to the south by the Lammermuir hills. In ancient times Lothian was a province of Northumbria, becoming part of Scotland in 973 AD. There are half-a-dozen plausible sources for the name, which means no-one knows.
Cities, towns and villages
- 1 Edinburgh (Dùn Èideann) is the Lothians' centre of gravity and the capital of Scotland. It's a must-see destination for its combination of arts & entertainment (year-round, not just at the Festival), history and culture, and natural scenery, with the Castle crags and volcanic cliffs of Arthur's Seat looming over it.
East Lothian is the most scenic of the city hinterlands. The coast is muddy near the city but improves as you go east. Then comes a "Costa Golf" of sand hills, ruined castles and pine woods; finally cliffs and craggy islets.
- 2 Musselburgh is a small commuter town just east of Edinburgh.
- 3 Aberlady is an attractive seaside village. The salt marshes of the bay are a wildlife reserve.
- 4 Gullane ia a seaside village with a notable golf course.
- 5 North Berwick is a small harbour town, the usual base for trips to the 1 Bass Rock.
- 6 Dunbar was where the conservationist John Muir grew up, before moving to the US.
- 7 Haddington, inland, is a pleasant market and county town.
- 8 Tranent, a small town near Musselburgh, with a couple of castle keeps.
Midlothian was a coal-mining area in the 19th & 20th C.
- 9 Dalkeith is the main town. Just south in Newtongrange is the Scottish Mining Museum.
- 10 Roslin village has the renowned 15th C Rosslyn chapel - see South Edinburgh for details.
- 11 Penicuik is a commuter village and army base. The view improves as you go southwest into the 2 Pentland Hills.
West Lothian in the 19th C had the world's first oil industry, based on shale oil, and was long an ugly industrial then post-industrial mess; but it has some gems.
- 12 Livingston is a 1960s "new town" demonstrating that newer may not mean better for urban environment.
- 13 South Queensferry is a small harbour town beneath the Forth Rail and Road Bridges.
- 14 Linlithgow castle was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- 15 Bo'ness has a heritage railway and a clay-mine museum.
All transport routes converge on Edinburgh. The airport is 8 miles west of the city, with good UK and European flight connections.
There are frequent daytime trains to Edinburgh from London Kings Cross via Peterborough, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle; some stop at Dunbar. There's also a nightly sleeper from London Euston. Trains also run from Southwest England and the Midlands via Sheffield and York, from Manchester airport and city, and frequently from Glasgow (some stopping at Linlithgow).
Edinburgh and Dunbar are the main brewing centres in the Lothians. Edinburgh has a long tradition of brewing but now only the Caledonian Brewery remains, which brews Caledonian 80/- (eighty shilling), Deuchars IPA (India Pale Ale) and some McEwan's beers (most are now brewed in England). Stewart Brewing is a small brewery in Loanhead just south of Edinburgh. Dunbar is home to Belhaven Brewery and Thistly Cross Cider.
Grain whisky is distilled in Edinburgh for blending, and Glenkinchie Distillery in Pencaitland near Edinburgh distils malt whisky. Gin is distilled in Edinburgh and North Berwick.
See this map for places with Wikivoyage articles nearby.