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Living in Prestonpans: The Local Area Guide

Prestonpans is a small town located between Musselburgh and Port Seton, on the south coast of the Firth of Forth. It has a history dating back to the 11th century and it is thought that the name of the town is derived from the monks of Holyrude and Newbattle who erected pans in the river to manufacture salt. The town continued to be an industrial base and in the mid-1700s the world’s first factory to produce sulphuric acid was constructed, as well as several potteries. In 1745, Prestonpans was the site of a famous battle between Bonnie Price Charlie’s Jacobites and the Hanoverien troops of George II, and the Jacobite victory has entered popular Scottish legend.

Today there is little industry left in Prestonpans, but it remains an interesting town with a lively community spirit. The town has been considerably developed over the last few years and now has a lot of new houses that have been built on the surrounding greenbelt area. Prestonpans is located just off the A1 and is only a 30-minute drive from Edinburgh.


At the 2001 census, Prestonpans had a population of 7153, but more people have moved to the area since more houses have been built. 39% of the population are in full time employment, and 16% are retired. The largest employment sector in the area is wholesale and retail trade, followed by real estate, renting and business activities, and health and social work. 48% of people in the area have no qualifications and 7% are educated to degree level or higher.


Cockenzie Primary School was praised by the HMIE for providing pupils with ‘a positive learning experience’, whilst Prestonpans Primary School is an improving school with attainment in maths and English language getting better, though they are still below the average for East Lothian. Preston Lodge High School is the local secondary school, which serves the communities of Cockenzie, Port Seton, Longniddry and Prestonpans and has round 1050 pupils. The HMIE report said that ‘almost all young people are developing confidence in their learning and are well motivated’.


Prestonpans train station is located on the North Berwick Line, just under 10 miles east of Edinburgh Waverley. Monday to Saturday there is a service every half an hour running westbound to Edinburgh and eastbound to North Berwick, with an hourly service running on Sundays. There is a good bus service that runs to the surrounding towns and villages, as well as a regular service into Edinburgh, a journey of 39 minutes. Prestonpans is located on the A1, which goes to Edinburgh in the west and Newcastle in the south-east, and the nearest motorway junctions are for the M8 and M9 on the west side of Edinburgh. The nearest airport is Edinburgh, which has routes to many national and international destinations.

Amenities and shopping

Prestonpans sits at the edge of the striking Firth of Forth and boasts some handsome and historic architecture. Dating from 1617, Preston Cross is recognised as Scotland’s finest market cross and still stands in its original location, though it is now rather incongruously surrounded by 1970s bungalows. Preston Tower was once the seat of the Hamiltons of Preston, and the gardens of this 15th tower house have been beautifully restored with classic elements of 18th century Scottish gardens. The town is also home to Prestonpans Industrial Museum, which contains exhibitions on coal mining, which was once an important part of the town’s industry, as well as equipment from its working days.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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