Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Rambles: North Berwick and Dunbar
Two destinations today (Saturday 14 September, 2019) – North Berwick and Dunbar. I’m getting gallus. I’d never been to either. There was a good bus service to both from Edinburgh, a bus every half hour. I decided to go to North Berwick first, then on to Dunbar, before returning to Edinburgh.
North Berwick is the headquarters of the Scottish Seabird Centre, yet another hidden gem. Like the St Andrew’s aquarium, it’s a ‘tardis’, and much bigger on the inside than you’d guess from looking at the outside. Maybe ‘iceberg’ would be a better analogy, as the hidden bit is underneath.
There must be many visitors who think that the ground floor cafe and gift shop is all there is to it. But, the real action is down below. There’s an admission charge of about a tenner, but it’s well worth it. There are remotely controlled cameras on the neighbouring islands where the seabirds breed, including Bass Rock. You can control the cameras and zoom in, and see the results on a big screen. The kids loved it.
But, that wasn’t the best of it. There’s a theatre, which I didn’t know about. I was passing by, and a very welcoming young lady with a beautiful smile asked if I’d like to come in. I didn’t want to, but even a pensioner like me can’t resist that charm. So, I did, and was given a pair of 3-D plastic glasses to put on. I was a bit sceptical about this, but did as suggested. Now, I’ve seen every episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet, and loved them all. You’d think documentaries about marine life couldn’t get any better than that. You need to see this. It’s made by Jacques Cousteau’s son and narrated by Daryl Hannah. It’s all about whales and dolphins (and Florida manatees). But, it’s the 3-D thing that blew me away. Maybe I’m just an old fogey who’s unacquainted with this stuff, and today’s youngsters know all about it. But, this was like something from the ‘Twilight Zone’. The close ups were far closer and detailed than anything in Blue Planet, but at certain points in the film, the whales and dolphins appeared to be swimming around in the theatre. I had no idea that such technology existed. Of all the hidden gems I’ve found on my travels, this was far and away the ‘hidden gemmiest’.
Outside the Seabird Centre, I could see the Bass Rock to the east. It looked as if it had been whitewashed, but that was obviously due to all the gannet guano. ‘Guano’ is a technical term for ‘droppings’. ‘Droppings’ is a polite term for shite.
On to Dunbar. I got the biggest fish and chip portion I’ve ever had for £7.60. It was so big, I couldn’t finish the fish. That was a first. I often don’t finish the chips but never leave any fish, but this fish portion was huge, and the seagulls got about a quarter of it. And, the chips were actually a bit ‘crunchy’, in contrast to the usual soggy pale chip shop chips. I don’t remember the name, but if you’re ever in town, it’s just off the western edge of the High Street, and has a board outside saying it was established in 1916.
There’s a museum in town that is dedicated to John Muir, who was born in Dunbar, and emigrated with his family to the US in the 19th century, aged 11. It’s the house he was born in. He returned to Dunbar to revisit relatives as an adult. He is revered in the US as being one of the pioneers of environmental activism, and was the driving force in the establishment of the US national parks. He is particularly associated with Yosemite, in California, which is near to where he lived.
In the past, Dunbar castle was one of the most important castles in Scotland. Today, it’s a decrepit ruin, and bits keep falling off it, so visitors aren’t allowed. But, you can still get lots of good photos.
Wullie Davidson, 14 September, 2019