THE Church of Scotland’s most senior figure has praised East Lothian for its warm welcome after an eight-day tour of the county.

The Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, completed a tour – by land and air – of East Lothian, and neighbouring Midlothian, with a thanksgiving service on Sunday.

Among the highlights of his trip, the first time in more than a decade the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has visited East Lothian, was a microlight flight from East Fortune.

Dr Barr, originally from Kilmarnock, was joined by his wife, Margaret, in individual flights above the Garden County.

He said: “Dr Robin Hill (Minister at Longniddry Parish Church) and John McCulloch were organising the programme and wanted just a fun thing to do as well as working hard.

“Margaret had a shot as well, having been born and brought up on farms in East Lothian and around Haddington. I have a background in golf and was able to see some of the golf courses.”

The following day, Margaret was able to meet David Chalmers, from Lochhill Farm, where Margaret’s parents had lived, at the CrossReach Thanksgiving Service at Haddington West Church.

Dr Barr described his visit as “an excellent time, a fascinating time”. He told the Courier: “We were able to see and visit quite a number of different events, different churches and different projects happening in and around East Lothian.

“We visited churches in North Berwick and Dunbar, a counselling service in Dunbar run by the Church of Scotland, Muirfield Riding Therapy, we had a visit to St Mary’s Parish Church in Whitekirk and a pilgrimage walk to North Berwick and a visit to its Coastal Communities Museum.”

The grandfather-of-three enjoyed his trip above East Lothian in the microlight and recommended others give it a try.

However, he singled out meeting David Arthur at Muirfield Riding Therapy, based at West Fenton, near Gullane, as the highlight of his trip.

He said: “David has been riding at the centre for 23 years and is an accomplished rider.

“Recently, David celebrated his 30th birthday but, rather than presents from family and friends, David asked for donations.

“David received £1,600, which he divided between the Williams Syndrome charity, the condition from which he suffers, and Muirfield Riding Therapy.

“It was an honour to meet David and his parents (the family are members at Musselburgh’s Northesk Church), an inspiring individual, and to have my photograph taken with him as he presented the centre’s chairperson, Susan Law, with a cheque for £800.”