East Lothian
East Lowden
Lodainn an Ear
Coat of arms of East Lothian East Lowden Lodainn an Ear
Official logo of East Lothian East Lowden Lodainn an Ear
Coordinates: 55°55′N 2°45′W / 55.917°N 2.750°W / 55.917; -2.750
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Lieutenancy areaEast Lothian
Admin HQHaddington
 • TypeUnitary authority
 • BodyEast Lothian Council
 • ControlLabour minority (council NOC)
 • Provost of East LothianJohn McMillan
 • MPs
 • MSPs
 • Total262.2 sq mi (679.2 km2)
 • RankRanked 18th
 • Total109,580
 • RankRanked 20th
 • Density420/sq mi (160/km2)
ONS codeS12000010
ISO 3166 codeGB-ELN
Largest cityMusselburgh

East Lothian (/ˈlðiən/; Scots: East Lowden; Scottish Gaelic: Lodainn an Ear) is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, as well as a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area. The county was called Haddingtonshire until 1921.

In 1975, the historic county was incorporated for local government purposes into Lothian Region as East Lothian District, with some slight alterations of its boundaries. The Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 later created East Lothian as one of 32 modern council areas. East Lothian lies south of the Firth of Forth in the eastern central Lowlands of Scotland. It borders Edinburgh to the west, Midlothian to the south-west and the Scottish Borders to the south. Its administrative centre and former county town is Haddington while the largest town is Musselburgh.

Haddingtonshire has ancient origins and is named in a charter of 1139 as Hadintunschira[1] and in another of 1141 as Hadintunshire.[2] Three of the county's towns were designated as royal burghs: Haddington, Dunbar, and North Berwick.

As with the rest of Lothian, it formed part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia and later the Kingdom of Northumbria. Popular legend suggests that it was at a battle between the Picts and Angles in the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in 823 that the flag of Scotland was conceived. From the 10th century, Lothian transferred from the Kingdom of England to the authority of the monarchs of Scotland. It was a cross-point in battles between England and Scotland and later the site of a significant Jacobite victory against Government forces in the Battle of Prestonpans. In the 19th century, the county is mentioned in the Gazetteer for Scotland as chiefly agricultural, with farming, fishing and coal-mining forming significant parts of the local economy.


Early history

Following the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, Lothian was populated by Brythonic-speaking Ancient Britons and formed part of the kingdom of the Gododdin, within the Hen Ogledd or Old North. In the 7th century, all of the Gododdin's territory fell to the Angles, with Lothian becoming part of the kingdom of Bernicia.

Bernicia united into the Kingdom of Northumbria which itself became part of the early Kingdom of England. Lothian came under the control of the Scottish monarchy in the 10th century.

The earliest reference to the shire of Haddington, or Haddingtonshire, occurred in the 12th century, in two charters issued by King David. The shire covered the eastern part of Lothian.

Medieval and early modern period

Dirleton Castle

Haddingtonshire was heavily involved in several medieval and early modern conflicts and several fortified castles and buildings such as Dunbar Castle, Tantallon Castle and Dirleton Castle date from this period.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Palace of Haddington was one of the seats of the Kings of Scotland. King William the Lion of Scotland used the palace from time to time and it was the birthplace of Alexander II in 1198.[3] The palace and town were burned and pillaged in 1216, by an English army under the command of King John of England. In 1296, the Battle of Dunbar was a decisive victory for the forces of Edward I of England against the forces of John Balliol, the Scottish king who was Edward's vassal.

Haddingtonshire was also the site of conflict during the war of the Rough Wooing, with many houses and villages burnt by the English in May 1544 after the sacking of Edinburgh, the Scottish defeat at the battle of Pinkie, Dunbar Castle burnt in 1548, and the siege of Haddington. Haddingtonshire lairds supported the English cause, including John Cockburn of Ormiston, Alexander Crichton of Brunstane, and Regent Arran demolished their houses.

During the War of the Three Kingdoms, another Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650 between Scottish Covenanter forces and the English Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. The Parliamentary forces were victorious and able to march on to take Edinburgh.

Following the Restoration of the monarchy, Glorious Revolution and Acts of Union, Jacobite forces conflicted with Government forces, with the main conflict taking place as part of the 1715 Rising and 1745 Rising. Under the command of Sir John Cope, the British Army met with the Jacobites under Charles Edward Stuart at the Battle of Prestonpans in the west of the county in September 1745, with the Jacobite side gaining a significant victory before being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

Modern history

County Buildings in Court Street, Haddington, the former headquarters of East Lothian County Council

Haddingtonshire County Council was created in 1890 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, which established elected county councils across Scotland, taking over most of the functions of the Commissioners of Supply, which had been the main administrative body of the shire since 1667. The county council was based at County Buildings in Court Street, Haddington, which had been built in 1833 and also served as the county's sheriff court.[4]

In April 1921 the county council voted to request a change of the county's name from Haddingtonshire to "East Lothian".[5] The government agreed and brought the change into effect as part of the East Lothian County Buildings Order Confirmation Act 1921, which received royal assent on 8 November 1921. The act also transferred ownership of the County Buildings to the county council.[6][7][8]

In 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, Scotland's county councils were dissolved and a new system of regional and district councils was created. East Lothian District was created within the wider Lothian region. The district comprised the historic county of East Lothian plus the burgh of Musselburgh and the parish of Inveresk (which included Wallyford and Whitecraig) from the county of Midlothian.

When further reforms in 1996 moved Scotland to a system of 32 unitary local authorities, the modern council area of East Lothian was created.


East Lothian is predominantly rural. It has 40 miles (64 km) of coastline where the towns of Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton, Longniddry, Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar lie along the coast of the Firth of Forth. The coast has several headlands and bays, most notably Gosford Bay, Aberlady Bay, Gullane Point, Sandy Hirst, Tyne Mouth, Belhaven Bay, Barns Ness, Chapel Point and Torness Point. There are several small islands off the coast north of North Berwick, the largest of these being Fidra, Lamb, Craigleith and Bass Rock.

Only two towns are landlocked, Tranent and Haddington. To the south are the Lammermuir Hills along the boundary with Berwickshire; it is here that Meikle Says Law, the highest point in the county at 535 metres (1,755 ft), can be found. The River Tyne flows through Haddington and several of East Lothian's villages, reaching the Firth of Forth near Belhaven. The River Esk flows through Inveresk and Musselburgh where it empties at the north of the town into the Firth of Forth. Major bodies of water include Pressmennan Lake, the Whiteadder Reservoir, Hopes Reservoir, Stobshiel Reservoir and Lammerloch Reservoir.



The A1 road travels through East Lothian where it meets the Scottish Borders southbound and Edinburgh northbound. The A1 throughout East Lothian is dual carriageway and major junctions include Dunbar, Haddington, Tranent, Prestonpans and Musselburgh.[9]

Starting in Leith, the A199 road also travels through East Lothian beginning at Musselburgh and passing through Wallyford, Tranent, Macmerry and Haddington before joining the A1 in West Barns.[10]

Some non-primary routes in East Lothian are the A198, A1087, A6093 and A6137 roads.[11]

Public transport

Dunbar railway station, before a bridge was built over the tracks and a platform on the other side.

East Lothian is served by eight railway stations: East Linton (opened December 2023), Dunbar and Musselburgh on the East Coast Main Line; and North Berwick, Drem, Longniddry, Prestonpans and Wallyford on the North Berwick Line. Rail service operators which travel through and stop at stations in the area include: ScotRail on both lines; and CrossCountry and London North Eastern Railway on the East Coast Main Line.

Bus operators in East Lothian are: Lothian Buses and its subsidiary East Coast Buses, Eve Coaches of Dunbar, Prentice of Haddington and Borders Buses. East Coast Buses is the main bus service provider connecting the towns and villages of East Lothian to Edinburgh. The company has depots in North Berwick and Musselburgh.[12]


The population of East Lothian as of 2019 is 105,790. This is an increase of over 6,000 since 2011 and this is projected to reach over 120,000 by the 2030s. The fastest growing district in East Lothian is the Tranent, Wallyford and Macmerry ward which is expected to see its population of just over 20,000 increase to just under 30,000 by 2026.[13]


Population by major ethnic group in East Lothian according to the 2011 Scottish census is as follows:

Ethnicity in East Lothian (2011)[13]
Ethnic Group Number %
White: British 94,951 95.2%
White: Other 3,420 3.4%
Asian 955 1%
African 179 0.2%
Caribbean or Black 107 0.1%
Other Ethnic Groups 102 0.1%


In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, a majority of voters in the East Lothian council area opted for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom - with 61.72% casting their ballots for the Union and 38.28% voting for independence.[14]

Parliament of the United Kingdom

East Lothian is a constituency in the House of Commons, electing one Member of Parliament. It is one of only 4 UK Parliamentary Constituencies in Scotland which matches the boundaries of its Local Authority area. The other examples being Inverclyde, Moray, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, East Lothian is one of the few UK Parliamentary Constituencies which fully covers the boundaries of its Council area.

The current MP for East Lothian is Kenny MacAskill of the Alba Party, who has represented the constituency since the 2019 general election when he was elected for the SNP.

Former UK Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was born on 25 July 1848 at Whittingehame House in what is now the East Lothian constituency.

2019 general election: East Lothian[15][16]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
SNP Kenny MacAskill 21,156 36.2 +5.6
Labour Martin Whitfield 17,270 29.5 -6.6
Conservative Craig Hoy 15,523 26.5 -3.1
Liberal Democrats Robert O’Riordan 4,071 7.0 +3.9
UKIP David Sisson 493 0.8 +0.8
Majority 3,886 6.7 N/A
Turnout 58,513 71.7 +1.1
SNP gain from Labour Swing +6.1
Haddington, with the Town House

Scottish Parliament

Most of East Lothian is in the East Lothian Scottish Parliament constituency and South Scotland region with the exception of Musselburgh which is in Midlothian North and Musselburgh and the Lothians region.

Local government

East Lothian Council is based in the historic county town of Haddington, with the council meeting at the Haddington Town House and offices at nearby at John Muir House.[17] The unitary local authority contains six wards, electing 22 councillors.

Places of interest


Largest settlements by population:

Settlement Population (mid-2020 est.)[18]










North Berwick










Civil parishes

East Lothian or Haddingtonshire Civil Parish map.[19]

In 1894, John Martine published Reminiscences and Notices of Ten Parishes of the County of Haddington.[20]


Loretto School's Pinkie House

There are a range of schools in the county, including six state secondaries: Dunbar Grammar School, Knox Academy (formerly the Grammar School) in Haddington, Musselburgh Grammar School, North Berwick High School, Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans and Ross High School in Tranent.[21]

There are two independent schools in the county. Loretto School is a day and boarding school in Musselburgh founded in 1827 and Belhaven Hill School, established in 1923 is a smaller preparatory school in Dunbar also providing boarding.

In 2007, Queen Margaret University began its move to a new, purpose-built campus in Musselburgh within East Lothian, providing it with its first university.

Culture and community


The County Flag of East Lothian

In November 2017, a county flag competition was launched in East Lothian to register an official flag of East Lothian. Anyone willing to enter this competition was allowed to enter, which resulted in 623 entries to the competition. The end of the entry submission time was the 28th of February 2018. Four final flag designs will be placed in a vote to the residents of East Lothian. In December 2018 the winning design was announced, designed by Archie Martin, a local man from Musselburgh and residing in Gifford who had worked for the council for 23 years. Martin died in July 2018. The flag features a saltire representing East Lothian as the birthplace of Scotland's flag. A gold cross signifies the wealth of East Lothian's farmlands and reputation as the granary of Scotland with a lion in the centre representing the Haddington lion along with blue stripes to represent the rivers Esk and Tyne.

Local media

East Lothian is served by a local paid-for weekly newspapers, the East Lothian Courier.

The East Lothian Courier (often locally "The Courier") began as the Haddingtonshire Courier in 1859, before changing its name in 1971.[22] It was owned by D&J Croal, based in Haddington, until its purchase by the Dunfermline Press Group in 2004. It is now owned by Newsquest

The East Lothian News was first published in 1971, as part of Scottish County Press Group, with editorial offices in Dalkeith and printing at Bonnyrigg (both in Midlothian). The Scottish County Press Group was acquired by Regional Independent Media in 2000, which was in turn bought by Johnston Press in 2002. The East Lothian News closed in 2015.[23]

There are two local community radio stations in East Lothian, broadcasting on FM and online. East Coast FM, based in Haddington, has been broadcasting since 2009. Radio Saltire, formerly East Lothian FM, is now based in Tranent.

Notable people (by date of death)

A number of sports personalities also have links with East Lothian:

Freedom of the County

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the County of East Lothian.

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (April 2020)


Military Units



  1. ^ Charter by King David to the church of St. Andrews of the church of St. Mary at Haddington
  2. ^ Charter by King David granting Clerchetune to the church of St. Mary of Haddington
  3. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Palace of Haddington (56510)". Canmore. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  4. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Haddington County Buildings including rear wings and former villa at 27 Court Street and excluding flat roofed block to southeast and pitched quadrangle to south (John Muir House), Court Street, Haddington (LB34260)". Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  5. ^ "Border news in brief". Southern Reporter. Selkirk. 7 April 1921. p. 6. Retrieved 21 December 2022. It was agreed at a special meeting of Haddington County Council on Friday [1 April 1921], on the motion of Lord Polwarth, to apply for a Provisional Order to vest Haddington County Buildings in the Council, and to change the designation of the county from "Haddington" to "East Lothian".
  6. ^ "East Lothian Order". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 25 April 1921. p. 10. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  7. ^ "No. 13760". The Edinburgh Gazette. 15 November 1921. p. 1950.
  8. ^ "East Lothian County Buildings Order Confirmation Act 1921" (PDF). The National Archives. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  9. ^ "A1 Road".
  10. ^ "A199 Road".
  11. ^ "Road Map East Lothian".
  12. ^ "East Coast Buses".
  13. ^ a b "East Lothian Council - EL by numbers" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Scottish independence referendum - Results". BBC News.
  15. ^ "Notice of Poll". East Lothian Council. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  16. ^ "East Lothian parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". BBC News. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  17. ^ "John Muir House". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  19. ^ "The Imperial gazetteer of Scotland; or, Dictionary of Scottish topography".
  20. ^ Martine, John; Wilson, E. J . (1894). Reminiscences and Notices of Ten Parishes of the County of Haddington. Haddington: W. Sinclair. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Secondary schools | East Lothian Council".
  22. ^ Martine, John (1883). Reminiscences of the royal burgh of Haddington and old East Lothian agriculturists. Edinburgh; Glasgow: J. Menzies. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Johnston Press confirms plans to close two Scottish newspapers".
  24. ^ "Freedom of East Lothian for Army squadron with historic links to county". 27 May 2019.


Church and parish histories: Presbytery of Haddington

Presbytery of Dunbar