Kicking off 2020 – Year of Coasts and Waters

2020 is one of VisitScotland’s themed years – this time celebrating Scotland’s Coasts and Waters.

VisitScotland says:

‘Scotland’s diverse coastal scenery, ranging from dramatic cliffs and sea stacks to gleaming white beaches offers an unparalleled range of experiences, from water sports to whale watching and island hopping.

Our lochs, rivers and canals also play an important part in the visitor experience, offering boat trips, fishing opportunities and activity holidays, while the many nature reserves across the country are home to a tremendous variety of flora, fauna and wildlife.

Scotland’s Coasts and Waters have shaped our history: from fishing and textiles to whisky and wave power they have influenced our culture, our stories, our way of life. The year will celebrate four over-arching themes: our Natural Environment and Wildlife, Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage, Activities and Adventure and Food and Drink.’

This short video has been produced to show the highlights.

Watch out this year for our own series of events connected to this exciting theme.

Festive Opening Times

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our visitors, real and virtual!  Just a wee reminder of our seasonal opening times.  We will close on Sunday 22 Dec at 5pm and will reopen at 10am on Fri 3 January.

We are planning lots of exciting exhibitions for 2020, so we hope to see you all in the New Year!

New bear sculpture in Dunbar to celebrate John Muir

The legacy of one of East Lothian’s most famous sons, John Muir, has been immortalised through a five metre high steel bear sculpted by renowned Scottish artist, Andy Scott, the man behind the Kelpies and other well-loved sculptures.

This remarkable sculpture, fixed to a base erected on a mound planted with wild flowers, was unveiled today (19th November). It will be illuminated by lighting using renewable energy. The bear is located off the A1 in close proximity to the Spott Roundabout at Dunbar.

John Muir, born in Dunbar in 1838, played a key role in the development of America’s national parks. He emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and is famous for petitioning the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill, establishing Yosemite National Park. The bear is symbolic of John Muir’s travels through the far-off wilderness of America’s west, in the Rockies and his advocacy for National Parks.

The sculpture forms part of the mixed-use Hallhill development, which started on site in 1999. It has already delivered sports facilities, 56 acres of community woodland together with 1,200 including over 200 affordable family homes with approximately 320 currently under development, as well as school provision and commercial and retail outlets.

The event was marked by a reception comprising local dignitaries and school children from Dunbar Primary at the site, with Mrs Brenda McNeil from Hallhill Developments unveiling a plaque on the sculpture to mark the event.

A competition will now be undertaken with local schools to give the bear a name.

Situated at the eastern gateway to Dunbar, the location has been selected as it forms the primary gateway into the town and is visible from the east coast railway line and A1.

The sculpture is made of welded steel and is fabricated from steel plates of various thicknesses, heavy at the bottom and lighter towards the top, giving the structure an inherent strength. Visitors can access it via a walkway.

Andy Scott, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, has completed over 70 projects across the UK and internationally. His distinctive hand-crafted figurative sculptures combine traditional skill with contemporary fabrication techniques.

Commenting on the erection of the sculpture he said:

“It is fantastic to see this sculpture finally being erected as part of the Hallhill development, especially in memory of such an influential character as John Muir, which is particularly apt given today’s focus on the environment.

“This bear sculpture will provide an opportunity to enlighten people about the man and his work. It is a symbol of the wilderness John Muir was such a passionate advocate of and is testament to his incredible desire to protect the natural environment.”

Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of East Lothian Council, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that Andy Scott’s latest eye-catching sculpture has been unveiled here in East Lothian. It’s a highly appropriate way of paying tribute to John Muir, one of the county’s most famous sons, who played such an influential role in the development of America’s national parks.

“It complements fantastic attractions such as John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and the John Muir Way, which continues to be a popular trail with visitors and locals alike. At five metres high, we’re sure the sculpture will become a real talking point, helping to draw even more visitors to the area.”

Ken Ross from Hallhill Developments commented:

“The Hallhill development, which this bear sculpture forms an integral part of, has brought tremendous benefits to the area, including almost 600 jobs together with new much-needed homes, commercial and retail opportunities.

“The sculpture reflects the ethos of this sustainable development, which is part of the Dunbar community, where families can work, live and play. It is located next to good schools, public transport links, amenities and facilities, in the sunniest place in Scotland.

“Acting as a welcoming landmark to the town, it will not only contribute to the emerging identity of Dunbar’s new gateway but has the potential to draw people into the area to find out more about John Muir.”

Exciting visitors at John Muir’s Birthplace

Obviously we are extremely fond of all our visitors, actual and virtual, to John Muir’s Birthplace.  However over the last week or so we have had some very exciting visitors.  On 25th October we welcomed Ellen Wong, US Consulate General from Edinburgh.  After being shown around by JMBT Trustees Will Collin, Duncan Smeed, Daisy Clark and Liz McLean, Principal Officer Wong signed the visitor’s book:

‘Amazing Exhibition to highlight the important work, life and mission of iconic Scottish American John Muir. thanks for the work you do to ensure his goals continue on to the next generation.’

During the previous week, we also received a surprise visit from Allison Theubet and 2 of her daughters. Allison very quietly informed us that John Muir was her great, great grandfather. John’s eldest daughter, Wanda, was her great grandmother. Although she was born in California, Allison now lives in Germany and was in Scotland for a short visit.

A Winter of Photography

As we move on to our winter opening times on 1 October, we thought it would be a good time to have a look at our upcoming exhibition programme for the next few months, which will be dominated by different types of photography.  You have about 1 week left to see our summer blockbuster John Muir:Writer, which finishes on Wednesday 9 October.  This will be replaced by some beautiful photographs by local photographer,  Fraser Stewart. Fraser says of his work:

This exhibition is a range of my photographic work of the many facets of Dunbar. It is a study of the diverse communities within a small coastal town. Dunbar is surrounded by beautiful nature and is a joy to explore and live in. Yet it is the people who provide the dynamic of the town, creating employment, starting up organisations and social groups. This exhibition captures all aspects of this unique community.

This will be followed by the John Muir Trust category winners from the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.  This will be the 3rd year we have exhibited winners from this category, and the images are always breath-taking. this year the John Muir Trust prize was given the theme of ‘Living Landscape’, one of the prizewinners being Ian Biggs with ‘Autumn Frost’.


Finally from 18 December we will be exhibiting the 12 winners from the Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery ‘My Dunbar’ Calendar competition.  Anyone was able to submit a photograph of Dunbar, and the winners were chosen by who had the most ‘likes’ on the Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery Facebook page. The result has been a beautiful calendar of Dunbar through the eyes of the people who live, work and play here. Calendars will be available for sale from the first weekend in October – reserve yours for only £6.00.

The winning photo on the front of the calendar is Jamie McAlpine’s ‘Sky Over Belhaven’



New John Muir Way Passports

The perfect way to mark your progress from coast to coast, the John Muir Way official passport is also your ticket to exclusive offers along the route. John Muir’s Birthplace is delighted to sell and stamp passports.  Holders will also receive a 10% discount in our shop!

Stamping Stations logo

Show it off, frame it, or keep it under your pillow! However you choose to celebrate, the John Muir Way passport records your achievement in completing the 10 sections between Helensburgh and Dunbar.

Whether you’re doing the route in one go or tackling one section at a time, be sure to have your passport stamped to mark your progress. When you’ve collected all ten stamps, you can claim your free completer certificate

There are ‘stamping stations’ dotted along the route in all sorts of places, from paddle steamers to pubs and castles to cafes. Look out for the STAMPING STATION logo at venues in each section.

> Check the map for stamping locations


Buying the passport

Passport foldout

The passport costs just £5 and you’ll find it for sale at both ends of the route and in other hubs along the way.

When you buy a passport, you’ll not only have a great souvenir and access to offers; you’ll also have that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing you’re helping to sustain the John Muir Way for others to enjoy!

> Check the map for passport retailers


Need a little help to get you over the finish line?

Business welcomes

John Muir Way have teamed up with businesses along the route to offer passport holders a little extra something to help you on your journey.

Your passport will unlock exclusive offers and discounts at participating businesses and attractions. From complimentary coffee to preferential prices, it all helps when you’re crossing an entire country under your own steam.

Look out for the PASSPORTS WELCOME logo and be sure to show off your passport in-store to find out what’s on offer.

Summer Holiday Activities

Now that the summer holiday are upon us, take the opportunity for some free family time exploring the life of John Muir.  Our exhibition for the summer is John Muir, Writer. We look at his books, journals and letters, many of which were gathered together following John’s death in 1914 and published in several different volumes.  There are also drop in crafts for children – create your own journal to keep to record your summer holiday adventures! Combine this with a walk long the cliff top trail in Dunbar, the first part of the John Muir Way for a fantastic, free day out.

If you fancy being child-free for a morning, book them into our summer activity on 25 July, 10am -1pm. Only £12.15 for 3 hours of fun finding out about John’s writing and thinking about how John might have campaigned differently today! Call us on 01368 865899, email or pop in to book.

Come and make music!

We thought you’d like to see a taster of Junkman who will be coming to Dunbar for the end of Civic Week, 21  – 23 June!  Call us on 01368 865899 to book your space – prices start from just £3!

We’re in the Hall of Fame!

We are delighted to have been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the 5th Year in a row, and as a result we have been entered into their Hall of Fame! Why not make us part of your next visit to east Lothian and find out why our visitors rate us so highly!