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Dere Street near Crailinghall.  Taken by Richard Warren. Heritage Paths Project
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Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society
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Path of the Month
Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway
Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway

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© Heritage Paths

 

 

Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway

Start location: B1361 at Meadowmill (NT 402 741)
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

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, alongside brown signs indicating 1745 Battlefield & Waggonway and Battle Memorial Tables. 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 arable fields. After approximately 400m a wooded area is passed through. At the north end there is a wooden vehicle gate, but again unrestricted pedestrian/cyclist passage. It is signed by a similar green & white sign as that at the south end, and a nearby blue 1722 Waggonway and brown Battle Memorial Tables signs.

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 as 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 on its steady decline towards Cockenzie. The effectiveness of the gradient can easily be tested (if the way is clear) using a bike - push off at the south end and it is possible to free-wheel all the way to the gate at the north end.

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). In 2018, on the line of the waggonway as it crosses the battlefield, two Memorial Tables were installed to commemorate those who died. There are several other monuments to the battle in the area, including a stone cairn 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. 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. The sharp-eyed can spot sleeper-blocks in the walls of Cockenzie. Where the East Coast Mainline cuts across the route, the remains of the abutments of the bridge built to prevent the waggonway's interruption are visible. In 2020, this former waggonway's significance as a site of national importance was recognised by the installation of a Transport Trust commemorative plaque on the wall of the waggonway museum near Cockenzie harbour.

For more detail about the route's history and its full extent, Heritage Paths highly recommends visiting the Waggonway Project's website and museum. A book 1722 Waggonway - A Brief History is also available.

 

 



Copyright: Eleisha Fahy | Credits: NT402741: Path signs by the B3161 (2020).

Copyright: Eleisha Fahy | Credits: The waggonway right of way crosses the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans (2020).

 

 

 

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