Get away from the festival frenzy

Charles Jencks' Life Mounds at Jupiter Artland. Picture: Jane Barlow
Charles Jencks' Life Mounds at Jupiter Artland. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE Royal Mile is a no-go zone, poncho-wearing tourists carry out emergency stops in the middle of the street as they gaze upon historic building after historic building, and every night at 10.30pm fireworks can be heard no matter where you live in the city.

It can only mean one thing – the Festival is in full swing.

And while undoubtedly it is the highlight of the year for many people living in the Capital – and with the thousands of tourists who flock from across the world to be a part of it – for some Edinburgh residents, this time of year can become a bit weary. Especially when you’re trying to go about your daily business while everyone else is having fun and soaking up the atmosphere.

There’s no nipping to your favourite sandwich shop at lunch time if that sandwich shop happens to be anywhere near a Fringe venue.

And don’t even attempt to take the car into the city centre because even if you reach your destination in time, after getting stuck in numerous traffic jams en route, you will never, ever find somewhere to park.

So if the stresses of the Festival are getting a little too much for you, and you want to escape the crowds for a day, then there are plenty of safe havens around the Lothians that will offer some respite from flyers, street performers and map-wielding tourists.

Seacliff Beach and Harbour, East Lothian

n Just four miles east of North Berwick lies a hidden gem which goes by the name of Seacliff Beach. It is the perfect spot for escaping to when you want to get away from everything, and if you’re lucky and go at the right time, you might not even bump into anyone else there during your visit. On the north side of the beach is a sheltered spot containing Seacliff Harbour, said to be the smallest in the UK. It’s only 12 metres at its widest point, and two metres across at the entrance, and there’s only room for one boat, making it the smallest harbour in the UK. Seacliff Beach is private. The area is largely unspoiled and attracts surfers, dog-walkers and summer picnickers. As well as the harbour, there are lots of sights to see. The beach itself boasts perfect sand, so it’s great for little ones wanting to build sandcastles. Out to sea, a stone marker marks a crop of rocks known as St Baldred’s Boat. You also get some good views of Bass Rock, the world’s largest rock gannet colony, and Tantallon Castle.

How to get there

Seacliff Beach is entered through a private road off the A198 at Auldhame. It has a coin operated barrier (£2 to get in) and plenty of parking – unlike Edinburgh city centre during Festival time.

Jupiter Artland, Wilkieston, West Lothian

n For a bit of culture, combined with the great outdoors, then Jupiter Artland is the perfect place. It’s almost like stepping into a different world, yet it’s just ten miles outside Edinburgh. Set within the beautiful 80 acre estate of Bonnington House, Jupiter Artland is an outdoor sculpture park featuring major, specially commissioned works by leading sculptors. All the works are site specific and personal to Jupiter. The artists include Turner prize nominees Nathan Coley and Jim Lambie, as well as Anish Kapoor, Anthony Gormley and Andy Goldsworthy. The sculpture park offers you a journey, narrated by the various artists, and is full of surprises, from the initial confrontation of Charles Jencks’ Life Mounds, which visitors drive through on entering the park, to the jovial creation by Jim Lambie. With no set routes through the park and an emphasis on exploration and discovery, you are left to engage with the artworks and the land as a whole. It has various workshops and special events throughout the year, but is a magical day out for all the family regardless.

How to get there

From the city centre, take the Dalry/Gorgie Rd to Sighthill. Follow the A71 signposted Kilmarnock until you get to Wilkieston. After 500 yards turn right onto the B7015 signposted East 
Calder and Camps. The Jupiter Artland gates are 20 yards on the right (directly 
after Ashbank House).

Dalkeith Country Park, Dalkeith, Midlothian

n Situated just five miles outside of Edinburgh, Dalkeith Country Park is a great spot for a fun family day out. As soon as you enter the park, you will forget about all the stresses and hustle and bustle you left back in the Capital. The quiet of the picturesque 500 acre woodland makes you feel like you’re a million miles away from anything else, with bluebell walks, riverside trails, cycle tracks and picnic areas offering everything you need to recharge your batteries.

Highland cows, lambs, piglets and horses are just some of the animals that you could meet at the estate, while the woods are full of numerous species of birds.

How to get there

Dalkeith Estate is easily accessible from Edinburgh city bypass Sheriffhall roundabout, follow A68 (Jedburgh) route to the centre of Dalkeith. Where the park is signposted.

Dirleton Castle, Dirleton, East Lothian

n If you fancy a bit of history at one of Scotland’s oldest surviving castles but can’t face the crowds around Edinburgh Castle, then take a trip out to East Lothian and the romantic fortress that is Dirleton Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. For 400 years it stood as a magnificent fortified residence for three successive noble families: the de Vauxs, the Haliburtons and the Ruthvens. 
Following damage sustained in Cromwell’s 1650 siege, a new mansion was built close to the picturesque ruins.

Today Dirleton is most famous for its beautiful gardens. Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these rival the ancient castle for attention. The renowned gardens include an arts and crafts herbaceous border and Victorian garden. The herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest.

How to get there

The castle is located 5km west of North Berwick on the A198.