I have always been attached to my cars, they seem to symbolise different periods of my life.

My first car was an old banger, a Ford Fiesta that had done over 100,000 miles and which had a faulty starter motor. It made so many strange noises that I always drove with the radio turned up. She didn’t last long, but I gave her a name, and a gender, as I have done all my cars. She was called Jessie.

Many other cars have followed since then, each one with a name and memories attached. And so I was very sad when, in January this year, my faithful old Saab finally breathed its last and I was forced to accept the inevitable and have it scrapped.

It was old when I bought it, but drove like new. I had so many warning lights and computerised warning symbols that I felt like a pilot in a plane cockpit when I drove it. His red colour and solid frame meant I had to call him Rory.

He lasted nearly seven years. I used him as a campervan (yes, seriously) because he was an estate. He also hosted many car picnics, for when the weather was cold and wet outside we would all cram into the back, with rear seats down, and have a family picnic. It was cramped and crazy, but the stuff of memory. As my family has increased in size over the last two years, mutterings that we needed a bigger car were stifled by the thought this would mean getting rid of faithful old Rory.

Then one day, not long after New Year, Rory began to belch smoke. I was on my way to pick up a friend from the airport when I suddenly became aware of a cloud of dark smoke following me. Cars behind me started honking their horns as if I hadn’t noticed! It was very embarrassing.

It was terrible timing, as our son was due. So I took Rory to a trusted garage, hoping there would be some hope, but of course it was the end of the road for Rory. As I cleaned him out, ready for the scrappy, memories seeped from him. I couldn’t watch him be taken away. He symbolised so many family memories.

One of those memories was of a trip in Rory to Aberlady last autumn. The problem was there were by then six of us and Rory had only five seats. The solution was two trips, which was one reason why I chose somewhere not too far away from our home in Prestonpans.

I was dropped off with my five year old while my wife returned with our one-year-old to collect my two teenage daughters. It was a kind of military operation, and while I waited with Manja we explored some of this fascinating old village. Then we sat on the loupin on stane, waiting for the arrival of the rest of the family.

I asked my daughter what she thought the steps were for and she thought for a moment and said: “To help children get a collie buckie.” She wasn’t far off, of course, and it made me laugh.

I remember we saw Rory approach. The road is long and straight and the red dot slowly took familiar shape as our beloved car entered the village. We both stood on the loupin on stane, waving and jigging as my wife Kate glided Rory past us and parked just beyond the kirk.

“Do you have to be so embarrassing,” was the greeting from one of my teenage daughters. Maybe she had a point, but then again, maybe life is just too short to be seriously grown up all the time.

And so our adventure began. We were headed for what I had called a “secret magical place”. This is usually a description I use when I haven’t yet decided exactly where we are going. But on this day I knew where we were going.

We were headed for the ruins of the Carmalite friary of Luffness. I had been there once before a number of years ago and had always planned to return with my family, but this was the first time I’d got round to it. But as we reached the end of the village, my memory failed. We seemed to be wandering around a cul de sac, people peering out of their windows wondering what we were doing eyeing up their gardens.

Then a flash of recognition led me in the right direction and I found it: the entrance into the woods. An old stone framed gateway leads you onto what seems like a hidden and overgrown path. It really is the stuff of childhood fantasy, as you suddenly enter a long corridor of nature which leads towards a distant wood.

I was first to reach the wood and the atmosphere of the place suddenly swept over me. I stood looking down on an ancient fish pond. It was green with algae, and dead tree trunks lay around it, with one sticking out of the pond looking like a monster. Although we were only on the fringe of the wood and the fields beyond were still clearly visible, it felt like we had entered a different world. The air was so still on that day, and the trees stood in total silence. It was eerie, yes, but also strangely welcoming. If there are any ghosts here then they seemed to welcome us that day.

As we ventured further into the wood the ruins of the friary appeared in front of us through a gap in the trees. “There it is,” I said. We approached in silence, making our way over what seemed like the foundations of ancient outer walls. We all instinctively aimed for the ruined doorway. The stone frame of the doorway was just visible, with an arm of ancient masonry still raised defiantly against the ruin and decay all around.

I knew what was within, so I held back as my family wandered through the doorway. I waited for their response when they saw it: “Wow, look at that!” It’s an impressive medieval knight’s tomb. The carved lid still sits on top of the stone coffin that once held the remains of the knight. Time has weathered the features, yet look closely and you still see his form, as he lies on his stone bed.

“Who was that?” asked Kate.

It was a good question. Local tradition asserts that the tomb is that of a John Bickerton and that he was assassinated within yards of where we stood. The killing was revenge for his treachery at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388.

The story is that he was armour bearer of James 2nd Earl of Douglas. The Battle of Otterburn is a less well known chapter of the wars with England and Douglas was leading the Scots force. It was fought in the moonlight and Bickerton is said to have stabbed Douglas in the back, having previously deliberately left the Earl’s armour loose. The badly wounded Douglas later died in the battle, but as he was dying he told his men to hide his body under a bush so his men would not lose heart. When the English surrendered, they had to do so to the bush!

Understandably, Bickerton didn’t live long after this treacherous act and he met his end here, by the hand of a Douglas-hired assassin.

It’s a great story of treachery and revenge, but historians will point out that there is no mention of Bickerton at the battle in any document or ballad. There was indeed a John Bickerton who we know held the land at Luffness at the end of the 13th century, but that was 90 years before the battle of Otterburn! I cannot imagine that he had lived long enough to be at the battle, or what decrepid state he would have been in even if he had!

So, I think, it is actually unlikely that Bickerton’s Tomb was that of Bickerton.

But there is another tradition that says the tomb is that of Sir David de Lindsay, who died while on crusade in the 13th century.

According to this story, he had met a Carmalite monk to whom he promised land to establish the friary, if the monk returned his body if killed. Sir David died while on crusade and the monk duly returned the body to Luffness, where it was laid in the tomb.

But again we come across a problem. There is no written evidence that Lindsay’s body was brought back, and even the exact whereabouts and nature of his death is unclear.

It’s more likely than the Bickerton version, but in truth we don’t really know for sure who was laid here. What we do know is the carvings are of a knight from the 13th century, and whoever he was he probably founded the friary.

This makes the tomb over 700 years old. I stood for a while by it as my family began to wander back. I studied the carving of the knight, I loomed up to its weathered face and body, and as I did so the trees above me, just for a moment, moved their branches. I felt a sudden chill but no breeze. Perhaps we had outstayed our welcome. I took the hint and walked away, back out of the ghostly doorway, and rejoined my tribe. As we left, the youngest played and laughed in the fallen leaves, breaking the silence that hung on this ancient place that day.

I turned briefly as we left the wood and reflected on the fact that the mystery of this place is rooted in the fact we don’t know for sure whose tomb it is. And the search for his identity takes us into events and happenings we may never otherwise have heard about.

As I recall that visit now, I realise that that was one of the last family outings of discovery in Rory. Since then, a spring of a new year has sprung, Rory is no more, and our family has grown again. A new car sits in the drive. Well, I say new car, but it is a very old and battered one, I’m not sure how long it will last to be honest. We will see. But it has seven seats and I hope that it will take us all on more adventures to secret magical places in East Lothian and, of course, I will take you with us.