Gardens of East Lothian – part 3

Final 2 photos today from Sheila Sim’s ‘Gardens of East Lothian’ exhibition.
Greywalls lies adjacent to Muirfield golf course in Gullane; it was built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901 as a holiday home for its golf-loving owner, but is now a hotel. The formal gardens are laid out to the south of the house, giving framed vistas across to the Garleton Hills (just visible in this image) and Lammermuirs. The original garden design is attributed to Gertrude Jekyll, although definitive proof has never been found. The owners describe Greywalls as “a quintessential example of an Edwardian garden as a place to promenade, of secluded seating areas where assignations can take place and of tea, cucumber sandwiches and lemonade served on the lawn”.
Lauderdale Park in Dunbar is one of the many public spaces maintained by East Lothian Council, and this herbaceous border is something of a triumph; James, Jamie, Fraser and Kenny deserve some recognition for it. The park was originally the garden of the Earl of Lauderdale, whose head gardener George Brown was well known to John Muir’s grandfather. One of John Muir’s treasured memories of his childhood was of coming here with his grandfather, and feasting on apples and figs while the two older men chatted.

Gardens of East Lothian – Part 2

Some more photos from Sheila Sim Photography’s ‘Gardens of East Lothian’.

The garden at Humbie Dean is the work of one man, Frank Kirwan, who has almost single-handedly created an ornamental and woodland oasis out of dense thicket and challenging terrain. Pictured here is the daffodil meadow, sandwiched between steep slopes leading down to two burns. The garden is planted for interest throughout the year and is open to the public on various dates from April through to August.

The Backlands Garden in Dunbar, just behind the High Street, is part of social enterprise The Ridge. The Ridge have developed it as an employability training project, and the trainees have transformed this abandoned space into something beautiful. Last year it expanded to include a new Sanctuary Garden (pictured here), a project that has involved the Dunbar Dementia Carers Support Group and Dunbar Grammar School.

Home Activity – Keep a Journal

Over the coming weeks, our buildings may be closed, but we are working hard to put together activities for you to do at home. Please watch our website and social media channels, we will update them daily while we can.

Our first activity is for you to keep a journal of how you feel in these strange times. Are you happy you get to spend more time at home with your loved ones? Do you miss your schoolfriends or your grandparents? Are you confused about how long it will be before you can go back to your usual activities?

John Muir was also taken on a adventure away from everything familiar to him when he was nearly 11 years old. One evening in February 1849, his father came to him while he was studying, saying ‘Ye neednae dae yer homework the nicht boys, fur we’re gaen tae America the morn.’

John and his brother David found this really exciting and ran out into the street, shouting to their friends that they were going to America the next day. Their friends didn’t believe them, however John and Davie replied ‘Jist wait an’ see if wur at school the morn’.

They weren’t at school the next day, but instead got on a train from the newly built Dunbar Station to Glasgow, and from there they got on a boat called ‘The Warren’ and spent 5 and 1/2 weeks crossing the Atlantic Ocean to a new country then set out on a long journey to a new life.

We could think of our house as ‘The Warren’ and our parents/carers as the captains of our ship.  Let’s keep a diary of our voyage through these strange times. You can fill it in as often as you like and see how your feelings change over the course of the next few weeks.


You can make up your own diary or click on the link and print out ours, double sided on A4 paper, and decorate using coloured pencils. Home-school-Journal

The journal should be folded in half, from top to bottom, in the centre of the page when it is in Landscape position. This will form the front cover, page 1 and page 2.
Punch holes on the spine when it is in the left position then tie loosely with string/wool/ribbon.


All East Lothian Museums to close temporarily

Due to Covid-19/Coronavirus ALL East Lothian Council Museums will shut until further notice from 5pm today (18th March).


This is:

John Muir’s Birthplace

John Gray Centre Museum

Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery (currently closed for the winter season)

Prestongrange Museum (currently closed for the winter season)


Musselburgh Museum and the Coastal Communities Museum are also shut until further notice.


We hope to be regularly posting up activities for you to get involved with at home as well as new blogs and information on our social media channels and websites throughout the closure period.


Thank you for visiting us in the past. We look forward to welcoming you back in the future.


Stay well and stay safe.

Changes to service due to COVID-19

Due to ongoing concerns and advice about the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have made some changes based on current information.

Opening Times

John Muir’s Birthplace currently remains open as normal. Hand sanitiser is available at the welcome desk and we remind all visitors to wash their hands when entering or leaving the building.

We ask visitors who have a fever or new persistent cough not to enter our building, but instead to follow advice to self-isolate for 14 days.

Touchable displays

Touchscreen displays within the museum are sanitised regularly, between visitors. Please ask staff if you would like to see them wiped down before you use them.

Children’s drop in crafts have been temporarily removed to avoid shared activities.

Under 5’s ‘cosy corner’ on top floor has been removed to avoid contamination possibilities.

Reference book collection has been removed from public area.


As everyone is aware this is a constantly changing situation. If you are planning to visit, please watch our website and social media channels for the latest information. Our priority is the wellbeing of both our staff and visitors.

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John Muir’s Birthplace reaches 200,000 Visitors!

Cherry Trees Nursery helped John Muir’s Birthplace celebrate our 200,000th visitor today (Wed 4th March 2020), along with Chair of trustees Duncan Smeed and East Lothian Council museums staff Tracy Robertson and David Anderson.

To mark the occasion children displayed the 200,000 banner they have made for the occasion. They were also presented with an individual memento and a John Muir book for the nursery.

The past sixteen and a half years have seen John Muir’s Birthplace maintain a Visit Scotland five star visitor attraction and Gold status Green Tourism Business Scheme grading attracting regular local visitors, tourists from across the UK and overseas. Visitors from the USA are particularly keen to visit the birthplace of conservation and the National Park movement.

Special guests have included John Muir descendants; Ellen Wong, Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Scotland; Prince Edward, Prince Charles and television presenters Michael Portillo from Great British Railway Journeys and David Harper from Antiques Road Trip.

John Muir’s life and work has inspired people all over the world. He emigrated to America when he was 10 years old leaving Dunbar on the North British Railway which had arrived in Dunbar just three years earlier in 1846. The family settled in Wisconsin. John left home in his twenties to study at Wisconsin University before setting out on his 1,000 mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico. John settled in California and devoted his life to campaigning to protect wild places.

The Dunbar birthplace of the pioneering conservationist is a stunning interpretative centre highlighting the work and achievements of this remarkable man. The Birthplace team run regular family drop-in activities during weekends and school holidays as well as delivering activities for visiting school groups.

Kerry Lugton, Manager for Cherrytrees Nursey said “children from the nursery love the chance to walk along the High Street to visit John Muir’s Birthplace. The friendly staff always have something new to show them and they really enjoy the drop in craft activities”.

Duncan Smeed, Chair of John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust said “2020 is an exciting year as we focus our exhibitions and activities on the climate emergency. Birthplace staff and the Trust are working together with the Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace and with other groups in Dunbar to focus on John Muir’s role as an environmental activist and successful campaigner and his relevance for our situation today. From April onwards the Friends’ exhibition and the programme of events organised with the help of these other groups will set the scene for a journey of community-led change away from high resource use and high C02 emissions, towards a more resilient community with a diverse and local economy and a vibrant culture with an equitable, sustainable future for all.”

New Exhibition – Gardens of East Lothian

Don’t miss our new exhibition, until 27 March.

“Gardens of East Lothian” is the new exhibition by local photographer Sheila Sim. East Lothian has a long and proud heritage of gardening, and has produced several horticultural pioneers. With its good climate and fertile soil, the county has often been called ‘the garden of Scotland’. Featuring private and public gardens, parks and designed landscapes from across the county, this exhibition showcases East Lothian in all its horticultural glory. There is something here for everyone – from the historical to the highly contemporary, from grand and stately to modest and cosy. Come and gain inspiration for your next garden visit!

Special Offer on our ‘Wee Books’!

Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace are offering a ‘buy two get one free’ deal on their series of ‘Wee Books’ about John Muir. Titles included are: Close to Nature’s Beating Heart a short but comprehensive biography of John Muir; Still Walking the World, a collection of favourite quotes from his writings; John Muir’s Dunbar, a guided walk around the parts of Dunbar that would be familiar to John; A Scotchman Comes Home, an account of John’s return Journey to Dunbar in 1893; Walking the East Lothian John Muir Way, a guide to the eastern end of the cross country path, and Clifftop Trail, a guide to a walk along the lovely clifftop path in Dunbar where you can catch stunning sea views.

Also included in the offer is John Muir: A Very Colourful Life detailing a beautiful tapestry made by the children of Dunbar Primary School to celebrate the centenary of his death in 2014.

Buy any 2 of these books and receive a 3rd free!  You’ll be a Muir expert in no time!

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