Welcome to the trail

Let's get started!

About the trail

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Put on a sturdy pair of shoes, grab a waterproof jacket (just in case), and head for Musselburgh in East Lothian. And don’t forget to bring a wax crayon and some paper.

Use the online map (or download a printable copy) to locate six illustrated plaques, hidden along the scenic 4km trail that follows the River Esk. When you find a plaque, make a rubbing with your crayon and paper.

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Use the online guide below to discover more about the wildlife and history of the area. And keep your eyes peeled for interesting plants, birds, animals and landmarks.
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Once you’ve discovered all six plaques, lay your rubbings side-by-side to reveal a secret 10-word phrase. Type the phrase below to unlock your special certificate. Good luck!

The map

View a printable PDF version of the trail map in a new browser window

View map

Finding the plaques

The Fishwife

Your journey starts at the mouth of the River Esk, where you will enjoy tremendous views towards Edinburgh and across the Firth of Forth to Fife. The plaque shows a Fisherrow Fishwife, the hardworking wives and daughters of local fishermen who cleaned the lines, attached bait, gutted and cleaned the catch, and carried baskets filled with fish to Edinburgh for sale.

From here, walk south along the eastern riverbank; past the ‘Electric Bridge’; the Store Bridge where you will hopefully see some swans and geese; under the New Bridge designed by John Rennie, originally built in 1806; and onwards to The Roman Bridge.

Look out for oystercatchers, sea trout, salmon, seals, eider ducks (with their duckling ‘crèche’ in May/June), swans and cygnets on ‘Swan Island’, and Canada geese. If you’re feeding the swans, ducks and geese, only brown bread or bird feed please!

The Centurion

Musselburgh was first settled by the Romans in the years following their invasion of Scotland in AD 80. They fortified Inveresk Hill and possibly used Musselburgh as an administrative centre. Although rebuilt twice, with an extra arch added on the east side, today’s bridge owes its existence to the Roman settlers who originally established this crossing as the main eastern approach to Edinburgh.
From here, follow the path beside the river southwards until you reach the road bridge (which actually used to be a railway bridge). Cross the busy road carefully and follow Station Road to Eskmills.
Look out for swans and cygnets, greylag geese, Canada geese, and the distinctive non-native pink Himalayan balsam plants by the river’s edge.

The Millworker

Eskmills was the site of one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fishing nets, exporting to North America, Europe and Australia. At its height, Stuart’s Mills employed over 800 people in cotton processing and rope manufacture, playing a vital role in the local economy.
From here, cross the road and follow the riverside path through the trees and past the sluice gate at the weir (which controlled the flow of water into the town’s mill lade). Carry on until you come to the Council noticeboard in The Grove.
Look out for the blue streak of a kingfisher (especially at the curve in the river just upstream from the weir), dippers, grey wagtails, otters, elderflowers and purple toothwort.

The Happy Couple

Up the steep path, you will find St Michael’s Kirk. The site has been used for Christian worship since the 6th century, and the church walls feature Roman ‘broached’ stones with deep lines cut into them. The hill was also used as a strategic fort by the Romans, the Duke of Somerset in 1547, and Oliver Cromwell in 1650 for his cannons.

One can see the Pentland Hills and even Ben Ledi in the Trossachs on a clear day from the Kirk cemetery. From here, follow the path until you come to a bench beside a signpost that points the way to Inveresk.

As you walk though The Grove, keep an eye out for rabbits, songbirds, buddleia, willow and oak trees (and acorns of course), and lots of colourful butterflies in the summer months. It’s rumoured that the last witch to be executed in Musselburgh is buried on the steep slopes leading up to the Kirk.

The Lady of the Lodge

On the hill to the east, you will see Inveresk Lodge in Inveresk Village. It was built between 1683 and 1700, and was latterly home to John Brunton whose wireworks supplied cable for the Forth Road Bridge. It has colourful herbaceous beds, shrubs, roses, a croquet lawn, a sundial, an aviary, and an Edwardian conservatory, where peaches are grown.

At nearby Inveresk House, the remains of a Roman bath house were uncovered in 1783. From here, follow the path through the trees and past the field until you come to the railway bridge. Keep an eye out for horses on the left.

On the path, look out for finches, moorhens, squirrels, red campion flowers, holly, ivy and Herb Robert (‘Stinky Bob’, once used as a remedy for toothache).

The Golfer

Musselburgh has a proud golfing heritage, with documentation that the sport was played on Musselburgh Links from 1672, earning it the Guinness World Record for being the oldest course in the world. Nearby Musselburgh Golf Club dates back to 1938.
Look out for buzzards, otters, foxes, goosander ducks (with their serrated bills for catching fish), pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bats (known as ‘water bats’), ash and sycamore trees (with their distinctive ‘helicopter’ seed pods in autumn).
Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the trail! Now place your crayon rubbings side by side, in the right order, to reveal the hidden message. Once you have the message, you can download your certificate below.

Got all the clues?

Unlock your certificate

Step 1: Use a computer or device that is connected to a printer.

Step 2: Click on the download button.

Step 3: Enter the 10-word phrase in the ‘Password’ box on the next screen. Check your spelling, don’t use any full stops or commas, and please use upper case text only.

Step 4: The certificate will be automatically downloaded onto your device as a PDF, usually into your ‘Downloads’ folder.

Step 5: Open the PDF file and print in the normal way.

Download the certificate

(You’ll need the password!)

 

Download

Making the most of your visit

How do I get there?

Musselburgh is just 10km east of Edinburgh. There’s a regular train service from Edinburgh Waverley to Musselburgh (usually under 10 minutes’ journey time). By car, Musselburgh is easily accessed from the A720 City Bypass and A1. You can cycle from Edinburgh via the Innocent Railway path accessed near Holyrood Park.

Can anyone complete the trail?

The main trail is suitable for people of all ages, on foot or bicycle, and is wheelchair and buggy accessible. However, please note that the paths to St Michael’s Kirk and Inveresk are quite rough and steep.

How long will it take?

To enjoy the trail on foot at a leisurely pace, it’s worth setting aside at least two hours.

What should I bring?

A good pair of shoes, a waterproof jacket, a map of the trail, a crayon and some paper to make your plaque rubbings.

How do I obtain my certificate?

Once you have collected all six plaque rubbings, this will reveal a secret 10-word phrase. Type this phrase above to unlock your certificate.

Where can I get more info?

Musselburgh Museum (65 High Street) has a wealth of information on the history of the area. You can find information on events and activities in the area at visiteastlothian.org and in the foyer of The Brunton building (Ladywell Way).


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