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Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway

Start location: B1361 at Meadowmill (NT 402 742)
End location: B6371 (NT 403 747)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Industrial Path, Railway Track
Path distance: 0.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes

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Route Description

At the south end of this right of way, there is a metal vehicle barrier gate, but unrestricted pedestrian/cyclist passage. A metal pole with a green-and-white "Public Path" plate points the way, it has symbols for walkers and bikes in addition to a butterfly. The route itself is a 2m wide whindust path running down a 3.5m avenue with bushes and undergrowth on either side in a very straight line. Beyond the flanking drystane dykes are fields of cereal crops. After approximately 400m a wooded area is met on the left hand side (west). At the north end there is a wooden vehicle gate, but again unrestricted pedestrian/cyclist passage, signed by a similar directional plate and pole as that at the south end.

To aid exploration of this section of the waggonway and beyond, you may wish to download the 1745 Battlefield & 1722 Waggonway mobile app.

OS Landranger 66 Edinburgh & Midlothian area

Heritage Information

This right of way follows a small part of the very first recorded railway (waggonway) in Scotland, dating from 1722. It took coal from the Tranent area to Cockenzie harbour and salt pans. When first built, the waggonway ran from the Tranent pits, but was later extended to reach other mines. Originally the waggonway had only wooden rails, but in 1815 it was upgraded to be an iron railway.

Between Tranent and Cockenzie, on old maps such as the OS 6" first edition surveyed in 1853, the land crossed by the railway is labelled Formerly Marshy Ground and Formerly Impassable Marshy Ground, hence the use of an embankment to carry the waggonway. Just over 20 years after it was built, the waggonway's embankment was used as a defensive line by government forces in the Battle of Prestonpans (1745). It is thought an old hawthorn bush here may be part of the original "Thorntree" mentioned in descriptions of the battle. A monument cairn to the battle lies on the opposite side of the B1361, slightly to the west. 

With the coming of the railways, the waggonway steadily fell out of use, superseded and supplanted, although other remnants of the waggonway's route do still survive. Its continuation northwards, is the line followed by Avenue Road, East Lorimer Place and West Harbour Road. Further south, its line is now a footpath skirting the eastern extent of Tranent.  

For more detail about the route's history and its full extent, Heritage Paths highly recommends visiting The Waggonway Project's website and museum.





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