IN EDWARDIAN times, Dunbar was a good deal more fashionable than it is today.

Tourists came from as far as London to enjoy the beaches, the walks and the nearby golf courses; the Dunbar hotels, which today operate under straitened circumstances, enjoyed a roaring trade during the summer months.

The celebrated North Berwick postcard artist Reginald Phillimore fully approved of Dunbar and often went there to paint the picturesque scenery

There has been a castle overlooking Dunbar Harbour since early Medieval times, several times besieged, repaired and extended.

Its finest hour came in 1338, when ‘Black Agnes’ the Countess of Dunbar and a small troop of soldiers successfully withstood a siege from superior English forces.

In 1566, after the murder of Rizzio, the Earls of Bothwell and Huntly rescued Mary and Darnley from Holyrood and took them to Dunbar Castle, where they recruited soldiers and gathered supplies before entering Edinburgh in triumph.

But later, Mary was dethroned and Bothwell exiled; at orders from the Scottish Parliament, Dunbar Castle was besieged and Bothwell’s remaining henchmen captured, before the castle was razed to the ground.

Dunbar Castle.

Dunbar Castle.

Phillimore’s postcard shows the very ruinous state of this once-proud castle, the remains of which are today home to a quantity of seabirds.

Dunbar Town Hall dates back to the late 16th century.

Inside the tower is a spiral staircase leading to the second-floor council chamber through an ancient door.

On the first floor is a prison cell, complete with the original window bars and door, and another room that was once a debtor’s prison cell.

Since Phillimore’s time, the ground-floor luckenbooths, one of them housing the police office, have been demolished, and the town hall has been extended to the side, in order to construct a modern museum and offices.

Dunbar’s Lover’s Walk, traditionally used by courting couples, began at the Bleachfield and proceeded to Lochend Wood via a railway tunnel.

A part of it is still in existence, leading south at the end of Kellie Road.

Cats Row.

Cat's Row.

Cat’s Row was an infamous row of houses situated near Dunbar Harbour, at the cross between Victoria Street and Castle Gate.

In Edwardian times, this fisherman’s slum was considered picturesque and more than once depicted in the picture postcards of the time.

Its name is said to have been derived from the multitude of cats infesting the neighbourhood, although Phillimore has instead included a dog and some recently caught codfish on his postcard.

Cat’s Row was demolished in 1935, and a row of more salubrious cottages constructed on the site, which is today Victoria Street.

Broxmouth Towers, today more commonly referred to as Broxmouth Park Observatory or the Sloe Bigging Outlook Tower, was constructed around 1850 for the Duke of Roxburgh, as a folly enjoying outstanding sea views.

It has a single octagonal room and a two-storey tower.

Broxmouth Towers.

Broxmouth Towers.

Phillimore depicts it as seen from the coastline, with some couples taking exercise on the coastal path, and a dog and some sheep in the foreground.

Today, the towers are a far from prepossessing sight, very much ruined and open to the elements, and situated in the middle of a caravan park.

Innerwick Castle was constructed in the 14th century and served as a local stronghold for many years, until destroyed by English forces under the Duke of Somerset in 1547.

A picturesque ruin already in Phillimore’s time, the old castle is much overgrown and neglected today.

It can be reached via an overgrown woodland walk, abounding with noxious vegetation, from the village of Crowhill.

The Barns Ness lighthouse was constructed between 1899 and 1901, first being illuminated in October 1901.

It was manned by two lighthouse-keepers until 1966 when it was electrified; in 1986, it was completely automated.

It was deactivated in 2005 since it was no longer needed.

The buildings adjacent to the lighthouse are today holiday cottages.

This is an edited extract from Jan Bondeson’s book R.P. Phillimore’s East Lothian (Stenlake Publishing 2020)