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The Town Bridge
Location: 55°56’36"N, 3°2’58"W
Population: 22,212  (2008 est)
Post town: Musselburgh
Postcode: EH21
Dialling code: 0131
Local Government
Council: East Lothian
East Lothian

Musselburgh is a large coastal town in Midlothian, on the seaboard of the Firth of Forth, six miles east of Edinburgh city centre.

The name Musselburgh is from the Old English language: mussel as in modern English refers to the shellfish, and indeed Musselburgh is famous for the mussel beds which grow in the Firth of Forth. After many years in which fishermen suffred from claims that the mussels were unsafe for consumption, a movement has been started to re-establish the mussel beds as a commercial venture.


The Auld Brig

The Romans were here in the place that became Musselburgh, in the years following Agricola's northward advance in 80 AD. They built a fort a little inland from the mouth of the River Esk and bridged the river here. In doing so they established the line of the route which formed the main eastern approach to Edinburgh for most of the next two thousand years. This bore the Great North Road, a line from Edinburgh to London, which became the A1. From its Roman foundation, Musselburgh thus claims to be the oldest town in Scotland. It likewise claims the oldest golf course in the world, if not as old as the town itself.

The Roman bridge outlasted the Roman occupation by many centuries. A new bride was built on the original Roman foundations at some time before 1300, and in 1597 yet another was built here, this time with a third arch added on the eastern side of the river. The Old Bridge is also known as the Roman Bridge and remains in use today by pedestrians. To its north is the New Bridge, designed by John Rennie the Elder and built in 1806. This in turn was considerably widened in 1925.

Welcome to the Honest Toun

The town motto "Honesty" dates back to 1332, when the Regent of Scotland, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, died in the burgh after a long illness during which he was devotedly cared for by its citizens. His successor offered to reward the people for their loyalty but they declined, saying they were only doing their duty. The new regent, the Earl of Mar, was impressed and said they were a set of honest men, hence "Honest Toun".

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was fought south of Musselburgh in 1547: the last pitched battle ever fought between the Scottish and the English armies. It is also reckoned to be the first modern battle in the British Isles, in which the English achieved a crushing victory by combining infantry, artillery, cavalry and a naval bombardment of the Scots position from a fleet in the Firth.

The Musselburgh Silver Arrow is reputed to be the oldest sporting trophy in United Kingdom,[1] and is competed for annually by the Royal Company of Archers. It dates back to at least 1603 [1].

According to his autobiography, the parents of Sir Harry Lauder, the songster of many early twentieth century popular ballads, lived at Musselburgh after he was born, where Harry's brothers Matthew, John, and Alexander, and a sister, Isabella, were all born. They moved to Derbyshire sometime after April 1881.

The town and its population grew considerably throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, with major local authority and private housing developments on both the eastern and western outskirts.


Scottish Episcopal church on the High Street

Rail and road

Musselburgh is served by two railway stations Musselburgh railway station in the west of the town (opened only in 1988) is by Queen Margaret University, whence regular services run to Edinburgh and North Berwick. Wallyford station to the east of the town is in the village of Wallyford, and opened in 1994. The town's original station was close to the town centre at the end of a short branch line but closed to passengers in 1964 and to all traffic in the early 1970s.

The A1 that inherits the mantle of the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh goes round the town and joins up with the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass at the edge of the town before heading into Edinburgh city centre. The A199 goes through the High Street to Edinburgh in the west and to Dunbar to the east: this was originally the A1 road until the town's bypass was built in the mid-1980s.


Musselburgh's sportmen have Musselburgh Racecourse and Musselburgh Links golf course to enjoy. The links which are a former venue of golf's Open Championship have recently been acknowledged as the oldest continuously played golf course in the world.[2]

Musselburgh Cricket Club play at Lewisvale Park, Inveresk and a second ground available during the summer school holidays at Loretto's cricket ground.

Rugby is in the hands of Musselburgh RFC, who play at Stoneyhill. Junior football is played by Musselburgh Athletic FC, at Olivebank Park to the west of the town.

Picture gallery


  1. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816

Outside links