Dunbar: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 56°00′10″N 2°31′01″W / 56.002725°N 2.516901°W / 56.002725; -2.516901

Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Barra
The Volunteer Arms, Dunbar.JPG
The Volunteer Arms public house
Dunbar is located in Scotland

 Dunbar shown within Scotland
Population 6,354 [1] (2001 census)
est. 7,700[2] (2006)
OS grid reference NT678789
Council area East Lothian
Lieutenancy area East Lothian
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district EH42
Dialling code 01368
Police Lothian and Borders
Fire Lothian and Borders
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament East Lothian
Scottish Parliament East Lothian
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Dunbar is a town in East Lothian on the southeast coast of Scotland, approximately 30 miles east of Edinburgh and 28 miles from the English Border at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Dunbar is a former Royal Burgh and gave its name to an ecclesiastical and civil parish. The parish extends around 7½ miles east to west and is 3½ miles deep at greatest extent (12 x 5.5 kilometres) or 11¼ square miles (c. 3000 hectares) and contains the villages of West Barns, Belhaven, East Barns (abandoned) and several hamlets and farms.

Its strategic position gave rise to a history full of incident and strife but Dunbar has become a quiet dormitory town popular with workers in nearby Edinburgh, who find it an affordable alternative to the capital itself. Until the 1960s the population of the town was little more than 3,500.

The town is served by Dunbar railway station. Dunbar is home to the Dunbar Lifeboat Station, the second oldest RNLI station in Scotland.




Early history

The name Dunbar has Brythonic roots and means approximately 'summit-fort', which gives an indication to its origins. To the north of the present High Street an area of open ground called Castle Park preserves almost exactly the hidden perimeter of an iron age promontory fort. The early settlement was a principal centre of the people known to the Romans as Votadini and it may have grown in importance when the great hillfort of Traprain Law was abandoned at the end of the 5th century AD. Dunbar was subsumed into Anglian Northumbria as that kingdom expanded in the 6th century and is believed to be synonymous with the Dynbaer of Eddius around 680AD, the first time that it appears in the written record. The influential Northumbrian monk and scholar St. Cuthbert, born around 630 AD, was probably from around Dunbar. While still a boy, and employed as a shepherd, one night he had a vision of the soul of Aidan being carried to heaven by angels and thereupon went to the monastery of Old Melrose and became a monk.

It was then a king's vill and prison to Bishop Wilfrid. As a royal holding of the kings of Northumbria, the economy centred on the collecting of food renders and the administration of the northern (now Scottish) portion of that kingdom. It was the base of a senior royal official, a reeve (later sheriff), and, perhaps, in the 7th century a dynasty of ealdormen or sub-kings who held northern Northumbria against Pictish encroachment.

Scottish conquest

Danish and Norse attacks on southern Northumbria caused its power to falter and the northern portion became equally open to annexation by Scotland. Dunbar was burnt by Cináed mac Ailpín in the 9th century. Scottish control was consolidated in the next century and when Lothian was ceded to Máel Coluim II after the battle of Carham in 1018, Dunbar was finally an acknowledged part of Scotland.

Throughout these turbulent centuries Dunbar’s status must have been preserved because it next features as part of a major land grant and settlement by Máel Coluim III in favour of the exiled earl Gospatric of Northumbria (to whom he may have been full cousin) during 1072. Malcolm needed to fill a power vacuum on his south-eastern flank; Gospatric required a base from which to plot the resumption of his Northumbrian holding. The grant included Dunbar and, it can be deduced, an extensive swath of East Lothian and Berwickshire or Merse (hence March). Gospatick founded the family of Dunbar, Earls of Dunbar and March until the 15th century.

Victoria Harbour and Castle ruins

Later history

The town became successively a baronial burgh and royal burgh (1370) and grew slowly under the shadow of the great Castle of the earls. Scotland and England contended often for possession of the castle and town. The former was 'impregnable' and withstood many sieges; the latter was burnt, frequently. The castle had been slighted (deliberately ruined) in 1568 but the town flourished as an agricultural centre and fishing port despite tempestuous times in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Major battles were fought nearby in 1296 and 1650. The second Battle of Dunbar (1650) was fought during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms between a Scottish Covenanter army and English Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell. The Scots were routed, leading to the overthrow of the monarchy and the occupation of Scotland.

Dunbar gained a reputation as a seaside holiday and golfing resort in the 19th century, the 'bright and breezy burgh' famous for its 'bracing air'.

Since 1983, the town has played host to the first outdoor Pipe Band competition of the season in Scotland. The competition, now held at Winterfield on the second Saturday in May, attracts in the region of 70–80 entries from bands across Scotland and over 2000 visitors for the day. The local band - Dunbar Royal British Legion Pipe Band - has competed with mixed success over the years.

On Saturday 3 January 1987, a devastating fire destroyed much of the town's historic parish church. The church, as it was before the fire, was opened in 1821 and contained a monument to the Earl of Dunbar which was said to be unequalled throughout Scotland for its Italian craftsmanship in marble. Though the fire practically destroyed the monument and left only the outer walls remaining, the church has since been rebuilt with a modern interior.


During 2003, archaeological excavations at Oxwell Mains (Lafarge Cement Works) near Dunbar revealed the site of a Mesolithic house believed to be circa 9th century BC. The site suggests a domed building. Although considered extremely rare and a site of national importance this site is in the middle of an area planned for quarrying.

An archaeological excavation undertaken by Headland Archaeology [3] on a site previously occupied by the Captain's Cabin (a local landmark) within the area of Castle Park identified a sequence of archaeolgoical features reflecting around 2000 years of human activity.

Excavation of a burial, Castle Park, Dunbar

The earliest feature was a large ditch which may have formed part of the defences around a promontory fort previously identified during earlier excavations near the coast at Castle Park [4]. The scale of the ditches indicated an impressive monument. A radiocarbon date of between 50 BC and AD 70 was obtained from charcoal recovered from its infill.

Much later a rectangular building was built over the top of the infilled ditch. Large quantities of burnt grain were recovered indicating that the building was a grain store that had been destroyed by fire. It was established that this was part of the Anglian settlement that had also been identified during earlier excavations.

Between the 9th and 11th centuries AD the area was used as a cemetery [5]. 76 articulated skeletons and the disarticulated remains of a further 51 individuals were recovered. The articulated skeletons were all buried in the standard Christian fashion. A small number of the skeletons were in long cists but the majority were simple shroud burials.

A dump of midden above the cemetery contained many elephant ivory off-cuts dating to the 18th or 19th centuries.

Dunbar also the birthplace of Scottish-American conservationist, John Muir.


Due to its geographical location, Dunbar receives less rain and more hours of direct sunshine per year than anywhere else in Scotland (according to the Met Office). The town has begun to be referred to by locals as 'Sunny Dunny', after a local radio host popularised the term.

View towards Belhaven Bay (John Muir Country Park) with North Berwick Law and Bass Rock in the distance.


Agriculture remains important, but fishing has declined. Its main manufactures are cement at Lafarge Cement Oxwell Mains (the only integrated cement plant in Scotland) and the Scottish Ales of Belhaven Brewery. Another large local employer is Torness Nuclear Power Station. A large portion of the workforce now commute to Edinburgh or further afield.

Dunbar is noted as the birthplace of the explorer, naturalist and conservationist John Muir. The house in which Muir was born is located on the High Street, and has been converted into a museum. There is also a commemorative statue beside the town clock, and John Muir Country Park is located to the northwest of the town. The eastern section of the John Muir Way coastal path starts from the harbour.

Each year on the last full weekend in September, Dunbar holds a traditional music festival sponsored by various local companies.

Planning Permission and construction for over two years on the outskirts at the Spott Roundabout site (A1) has given the town an Asda supermarket and petrol station (the first in East Lothian). The development is due to be accompanied by a still unconfirmed fast food drive-thru restaurant, a tourist office and a hotel at a later date.[3] [4] ASDA are proposing to help local businesses and charities in the town as part of their commitment. [5]. Although this will be guaranteed to boost the retail facilities and catchment area of Dunbar, attracting people from Berwick and Haddington to come, there is a fear it might bring congestion to the site and will lead to the decline of the present town centre shops especially the Co-op.[6] [7]

Twin towns

Dunbar is twinned with the following places:



Dunbar is home to the junior football club Dunbar United.


Dunbar RFC over 30s

Dunbar is also home to Dunbar RFC. They play their home games at Hallhill Healthy Living Centre and operate a 1st XV, 2nd XV and various school teams. The 1st XV play in the Scottish Hydro Electric National League East 1

Dunbar Grammar School

Dunbar Grammar School is a state secondary school that serves as the main secondary school for Dunbar and the surrounding areas. The school has approx 730-750 pupils. As of 2004, Paul Raffaeli is the school's current headmaster, following Don Ledingham.

Youth facilities

Many youth groups use the facilities of The Countess Youth and Community Centre. The Youth Club runs Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (term time) between 18:30 to 20:00 for primary 4 to 7 children and 20:00 to 22:00 for young people at Secondary School. The Youth Cafe is held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The centre is also used by a Playgroup, an after school Club and a line dancing club.

See also


  1. ^ "Comparative Population Profile: Dunbar Locality". Scotland's Census Results Online. 2001-04-29. http://www.scrol.gov.uk/scrol/browser/profile.jsp?profile=Population&mainArea=dunbar&mainLevel=Locality. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  2. ^ http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/publications-and-data
  3. ^ Moloney, C. (2001) New evidence for the origins and evolution of Dunbar; excavations at the Captain's Cabin, Castle Park, Dunbar, East Lothian, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland 131, pp. 283-318
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Dunbar Harbour
Dunbar Harbour

Dunbar [1] is a town in East Lothian, on the south-east coast of Scotland. It is known as Sunny Dunny because it enjoys the most hours of sunshine of any town in the UK. Dunbar was the birthplace of the conservationist John Muir, who was instrumental in the setting up of the National Parks in the USA.

Get in

By Road

Dunbar is located on the main A1 London to Edinburgh road, about 30 miles south-east of Edinburgh and 28 miles north of the English border at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

By Rail

The East Coast Mainline from London to Edinburgh passes through the town, so there are plenty of direct services from all major stations on the east coast of the UK.

  • Dunbar Town House Museum, High Street, Dunbar. Opeen 1030-1630 every day from Apr-Sep and 1400-1630 at weekends from Oct-Mar. Photographic displays showing the history of the burgh. Local historic documents can be researched here - there is usually a member of the local history society on hand to offer assistance. Free Entry.  edit
  • John Muir Birthplace Trust, 126 High Street, Dunbar, (), [2]. Apr to Oct: 10-5 Mon - Sat, 1-5 Sun; Nov to Mar: 10-5 Wed - Sat, 1-5 Sun. Sited in the house where John Muir was born, this museum highlights the life, work, and achievements of the renowned environmentalist. Free Entry.  edit
This sign list most of the attractions of Dunbar.
This sign list most of the attractions of Dunbar.
  • Dunbar Leisure Pool, (Just off the High Street, overlooking the harbour). Council run swimming pool with flumes and wave pool. Also has a sauna, steam room and gym.  edit
Golfing at Winterfield, with the Bass Rock in the background
Golfing at Winterfield, with the Bass Rock in the background
  • Dunbar Golf Club, East Links, Dunbar, 01368 862 317 (clubhouse) (, fax: 01368 865 202), [3]. Offers year round play due to the area's renowned temperate climate. Dunbar Golf Club celebrated it's 150th anniversary in 2006, though the current course was designed by the famous golfer Old Tom Morris in 1894. The course is used as a qualifying venue every time the Open Championship is held at nearby Muirfield and all of the major Scottish Championships have been played here.  edit
  • Winterfield Golf Club, St Margarets, North Road, Dunbar (West side of town off A1087 road), Clubhouse: 01368 862280 (fax: 01368 863562). Offers stunning sea views across the Firth of Forth and Bass Rock  edit
  • Walk the John Muir Way [4]. This long-distance path is being developed by East Lothian Council to follow the coast from Edinburgh to the Borders. The sections of the path either side of the town offer straightforward walking with stunning coastal views. An enjoyable short walk starts at the harbour, heads west past the ruined castle, and then along the top of the cliffs past Winterfield Park and golf course to Belhaven Bay and the John Muir Country Park
  • In late September there is a Folk Music Festival held in Dunbar.
Best espresso in Scotland.
Best espresso in Scotland.
  • Saddlers @ William Main, 19 West. A very comfortable place to get coffee and a scone. The wifi is free, and you can pick up a golf trophy while you sip your espresso.  edit
  • The Volunteer Arms, 17 Victoria Street, Dunbar, 01368 862278, [5]. food served 12-9. Lovely traditional bar overlooking the harbour, with an upstairs restaurant and an outside seating area for the sunny days Dunbar is known for.  edit


There are 2 campgrounds near Dunbar. One is just west of the town a Belhaven Bay and the other, a Camping a Caravan Club site, is just south of town.


The is a very nice Tourist information shop in the town.

  • North Berwick, 10 miles to the north, is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre and Tantallon Castle.
  • The historic border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed is the next stop to the south on the railway line.
  • Edinburgh, Scotland's famous capital city, is only 30 miles to the north-west.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DUNBAR (Gaelic, "the fort on the point"), a royal, municipal and police burgh, and seaport of Haddingtonshire, Scotland. Pop. (1901) 3581. It is situated on the southern shore of the entrance to the Firth of Forth, 294 m. E. by N. of Edinburgh by the North British railway. Dunbar is said to have the smallest rainfall in Scotland and is a favourite summer resort. The ruins, of the castle, and the remains of the Grey Friars' monastery, founded in 1218, at the west end of the town, and Dunbar House in High Street, formerly a mansion of the Lauderdales, but now used as barracks, are of historic interest. The parish church, a fine structure in red sandstone, the massive tower of which, 107 ft. high, is a landmark for sailors, dates only from 1819, but occupies the site of what was probably the first collegiate church in Scotland, and contains the large marble monument to Sir George Home, created earl of Dunbar and March by James VI. in 1605. Among other public buildings are the town hall, assembly rooms, St Catherine's hall, the Mechanics' institute and library.

There are two harbours,difficult of access owing to the number of reefs and sunken rocks. Towards the cost of building the eastern or older harbour Cromwell contributed boo. The western or Victoria harbour is a refuge for vessels between Leith Roads and the Tyne. On the advent of steam the shipping declined, and even the herring fishery, which fostered a large curing trade, has lost much of its prosperity. The industries are chiefly those of agricultural-implement making, rope-making, brewing and distilling, but a considerable business is done in the export of potatoes. Dunbar used to form one of the Haddington district group of parliamentary burghs, but its constituency was merged in that of the county in 1885.

About 4 m. S.W. is the village of Biel, where, according to some authorities, William Dunbar the poet was born. One mile to the S.E. of the town is Broxmouth Park (or Brocksmouth House), the first position of the English left wing in the battle of 1650, now belonging to the duke of Roxburghe.

The site of Dunbar is so commanding that a castle was built on the cliffs at least as early as 856. In 1070 Malcolm Canmore gave it to Cospatric, earl of Northumberland, ancestor of the earls of Dunbar and March. The fortress was an important bulwark against English invasion, and the town - which was created a royal burgh by David II. - grew up under its protection. The castle was taken by Edward I., who defeated Baliol in the neighbourhood in 1296, and it afforded shelter to Edward II. after Bannockburn. In 1336 it was besieged by the English under William, Lord Montacute, afterwards 1st earl of Salisbury, but was successfully defended by Black Agnes of Dunbar, countess of March, a member of the Murray family. Joanna. Beaufort, widow of James I., chose it for her residence, and in. 1 479, after his daring escape from Edinburgh Castle, the duke of Albany concealed himself within its walls, until he contrived to sail for France. In 1567 Mary made Bothwell keeper of the castle, and sought its shelter herself after the murder 'of Rizzio and again after her flight from Borthwick Castle. When she surrendered at Carberry Hill the stronghold fell into the hands of the regent Moray, by whom it was dismantled in 1568, but its ruins are still a picturesque object on the hill above the harbour.

The Battle Of Dunbar was fought on the 3rd (13th) of September 1650 between the English army under Oliver Cromwell and the Scots under David Leslie, afterwards Lord Newark. It took place about 3 m. S.E. of the centre of the town, where between the hills and the sea coast there is a plain about 1 m. wide, through the middle of which the main road from Dunbar to Berwick runs. The plain and the, road are crossed at right angles by the course of the Brocksburn, or Spott Burn, which at first separated the hostile armies. Rising from the right bank. of the Brock is Doon Hill (650 ft.), which overlooks the lower course of the stream and indeed the whole field. For the events preceding the battle, see Great Rebellion.

Cromwell, after a war of manoeuvre near Edinburgh, had been compelled by want of supplies to withdraw to Dunbar; Leslie pursued and took up a position on Doon Hill, commanding the English line of retreat on Berwick. The situation was more than. difficult for Cromwell. Some officers were for withdrawing by sea, but the general chose to hold his ground, though his army was enfeebled by sickness and would have to fight on unfavourable terrain against odds of two to one. Leslie, however, who, was himself in difficulties on his post among the bare hills, and was perhaps subjected to pressure from civil authorities, descended from the heights on the 2nd of September and began to edge towards his right, in order first to confront, and afterwards to surround, his opponent. The cavalry of his left wing stood fast, west of Doon Hill, as a pivot of manoeuvre, the northern face of Doon (where the ground rises from the burn at an average slope of fifteen degrees and is even steeper near the summit) he left unoccupied. The centre of infantry stood on the forward slope of the long spur which runs east from Doon, and beyond them, practically on the plain, was the bulk of the Scottish cavalry. In the evening Cromwell drew up his army, under 1 1,000 effective men, along the ravine, and issued orders to attack the Scots at dawn of the 3rd (13th). The left of the Scots was ineffective, as was a part of their centre of foot on the upper part of the hillside, and the English commander proposed to deal with the remainder. Before dawn the English advanced troops crossed the ravine, attacked Doon, and pinned Leslie's left; under cover of this the whole army began its manoeuvre. The artillery was posted on the Dunbar side of the burn, directly opposite and north of Doon, the infantry and cavalry crossed where they could, and formed up gradually in a line south of and roughly parallel to the Berwick road, the extreme left of horse and foot, acting as a reserve, crossed at Brocksmouth House on the outer flank. The Scots were surprised in their bivouacs, but quickly formed up, and at first repulsed both the horse and the foot. But ere long Cromwell himself arrived with his reserve, and the whole English line advanced again. The fresh impulse enabled it to break the Scottish cavalry and repulse the foot, and Leslie's line of battle was gradually rolled up from right to left. In the words of an English officer, "The sun appearing upon the sea, I heard Nol say, ` Now let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered,' and following us as we slowly marched I heard him say, `I profess they run.'" Driven into the broken ground, and penned between Doon Hill and the ravine, the Scots were indeed helpless. "They routed one another after we had done their work on their right wing," says the same officer. Ten thousand men, including almost the whole of the Scottish foot, surrendered, and their killed numbered three thousand. Few of the English were killed. "I do not believe," wrote Cromwell, "that we have lost twenty men." The account of the battle of Dunbar here followed is that of C. H. Firth, for which see his Cromwell, pp. 281 ff. and references there given. For other accounts see Carlyle, Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, letter cxl.; Hoenig, Cromwell; Baldock, Cromwell as a Soldier; and Gardiner, Hist. of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, vol. i.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also dun-bar



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Alternative spellings


Scottish Gaelic dun (fortress, fort, castle, tower) + Irish bar (hill, height, top, extremity, point) or possibly from the name Bar or Barr, a follower of Kenneth, a captain of the Scots.


  • (Scotland) enPR: dŭnbä(r)', IPA: /dʌnˈbɑː(r)/, SAMPA: /dVn"bA:(r)/
  • (Scotland) Rhymes: -ɑː(r)
  • (Australia) enPR: dŭn'bä(r), IPA: /ˈdʌnbɑː(r)/, SAMPA: /"dVnbA:(r)/
  • (Australia) Rhymes: -ʌnbɑː(r)
  • Homophones: dun-bar

Proper noun




  1. A town in East Lothian, Scotland.
    1965 — In reply he sent Wilfrid to his town of Dunbar under the supervision of a sheriff called Tydlin whom he knew to be more cruel. — Eddius Stephanus, Life of Wilfrid, Page 107, 12th century. Translated from Latin by J. F. Webb.
  2. A Scottish surname.



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