DESPITE Covid and Brexit, tourist-oriented businesses around the county have mostly had a good season. The presence of many English staycationers has compensated for a notable absence of foreign visitors.

This includes the Dutch, with whom we have had a long-standing relationship going back centuries.

After our Wars of Independence, the English became embroiled in the Hundred Years War in France, leaving the Scots to trade their surplus of wool, hides, timber, etc. As well as the East Neuk and Berwick, ports in East Lothian were well placed to engage in this lucrative trade.

Cargo in the opposite direction would be cloth, leather, brassware, weapons, wines and Dutch gin. As these were much lighter than the raw materials brought in and stones were nowhere to be found in the Low Countries, returning ships were ballasted with tiles, which were sold at a profit and explain the many red roofs (often recycled) still seen on older buildings across East Lothian.

In the 14th century, an overseas base was first established in Bruges, along with a Conservator of Scottish Privileges to oversee the trade. When that port silted up, he and the trade moved to Veere on Walcheren and all Scottish trade with the Low Countries was funnelled through here.

By the 16th century, more than 50 ships a day would enter the port, which had grown to 3,000 people, 300 of whom were Scots. The early ships would be versions of the seagoing Viking knarr.

This was much broader than the classic long ship but also had a single sail. These developed into something similar to a Thames barge – sturdier, but with a single sail.

These were then superseded by variants on the larger Portuguese multi-sail caravel. These could carry more cargo, sail faster and manoeuvre better against the wind. These larger ships and growing trade meant that, by the late 17th century most business had shifted to the deeper waters at Rotterdam.

But the Scots presence in Veere continues. At Kaal 25 on the waterfront, you will find De Schotse Huizen (The Scottish House). It is now the local museum, celebrating our historic link.

The town itself is now a picturesque sailing resort, cut off from the sea by modern Dutch sea defences. But four centuries ago, you would have found it echoing to the Scots dialect of seamen and traders, some from Dunbar, North Berwick, Port Seton or the now-vanished Morrison’s Haven.