I met an engaging old lady the other day while I was sweeping away the debris of vomit, fag ends and takeaway detritus brought up by the predictable Friday or Saturday night tide, which day I cannot remember exactly.
She asserted, with great gravitas, and perhaps some authority as she is a genuine local, that the decline had its roots in the 70s. With the beginnings of mass tourism and the responses by local hoteliers, who converted almost all their accommodation into single room occupancy farms for workers for the new industrial Dunbar. I think she exaggerated a little, but she might well have been right that once families had discovered the far flung shores of Benidorm and a more congenial climate, the allure of our local attractions including the “Fancy French Cement Factory Plume”, “Super-Sized Bass at Torness”, and the “Biggest Hole in the Ground in Scotland (Sponsored by Viridor)” just paled.
But it is different now, with micro breaks (who wants to be stuck in a remote rural town for a whole week?) and 24 hour shopping (albeit a few miles away).
So it’s regrettable that Visit East Lothian promotes Dunbar as a pee and a tea stop on its website still, as if this was the backbone of some clever local tourism strategy to attract people to the old town and extract a fiver from each. Just think, the local drainage facilities simply wouldn’t cope.
On the other, East Lothian Council has capitulated on any policy promises it might have had on sustaining remote rural towns by allowing out of town retail, while letting convenience stores and takeaways emasculate the old town and their lax policies and enforcement diminish the heritage value of the Conservation Area.
Todays’ more discerning travellers are looking for experiences. They are probably drawn to outdoor pursuits, fine food and unspoilt countryside. They are less likely to be looking for a single attraction, but a multitude of compelling reasons to visit. They are probably well-travelled and benchmarking their experience with visits to medieval hill top towns in Tuscany. They are probably more fearful too, safety conscious, stranger danger and all that, has infected the public consciousness and they’re unlikely to let the kids out on a rural bike ride.
But here’s a thought. I’ve discovered that many of my foreign guests like nothing more than to visit a spit and sawdust pub and sense the excitement of feeling ever so slightly threatened (and drink up their half pint and escape). I too enjoy doing that in foreign climes, but was a little hesitant about sticking it in among our promotional materials, but then found this sinister 70s promotional video for Dunbar.
Great sound track and some devastating cuts by Bonnie Prince Bob.