About Us

Gilsland Caravan Park has been run by the Macnair family since the 1930's and I thought it might be interesting to give a little potted history. Going back in time, Gilsland was bought by Dr Robert  Macnair, who was a General Practitioner in Leith, when out for a drive one weekend, he passed a For Sale sign at the Old Fever Hospital and farm land outside North Berwick.  At that time, Gilsland was in the countryside well outside North Berwick and he thought it would be a perfect place for his patients to convalese. 

After  purchasing the fever hospital he set about making it a place for people to visit and stay for their holidays or for a bit of relaxation time – believing, as many still do, in the  healing properties of the good, clean, fresh seaside air at North Berwick.   At that time, Gilsland did not have many caravans on site for accommodation- it was generally, just whatever people could get their hands on!   There was a train carriage which was lovingly converted into living accommodation and a single decker bus!  The facilities provided were a mere water tap in the middle of the field, everyone supplied their own privy and attended to the cleaning of their own bucket or potty themselves.  They were made of much tougher stuff in those days!  The grass was mown by a small flock of sheep.  People cooked on calor gas stoves and heated their vans with coal or gas stoves – or simply wrapped up warm with hot water bottles!  When Dr Macnair and Mrs Macnair (my great grandfather and great granny) died my Grandpa John and Granny Pat returned  to run and live at Gilsland.  Grandpa had given up a life that he loved in the borders as a shepherd but it was a hard and remote existence and money was tight.  He bought out his brother and came back to Gilsland with Granny and their very young family, Bill, Johnny and Wendy and set about running the caravan park and small farm at Gilsland.  They did alot of hard work in clearing a larger area that had been used for pigs and vegetable growing to allow more space for caravans which were now more readily available.  In the 1960’s, Grandpa built a toilet block with showers.  He was so proud of it!  And it was indeed a  brave investment taking all the money they had at that time.   The site grew more and more popular with more caravans arriving every summer and they also acquired a number of large caravans at the top of the site, which they rented out for holidays.  The same families, mainly from Edinburgh and Glasgow returned year after year for their holidays.  The grass was regularly cut now by mowers.  See saws and swings were provided for the kids to play on and a large colony of Guinea Pigs were kept in an area up by the house.  Many will remember Wendy’s goat, Toffee, simply because she caused mayhem wherever she went; terrorizing the kids by head butting them on their way to the toilets or nibbling on their wellies if they were left unattended outside the caravans.   Granny opened a shop in one of the old wards selling everything from meat, milk, bread and papers to sweeties and buckets and spades.   Granny ran the shop for a couple of years and after a couple of different people tried to run it Grandpa’s Auntie Bessie ran it for many years opening at 7.30 every morning for rolls milk and the daily papers.   It was a busy shop, many people didn’t have cars, so it really was really relied upon in those days.  Meanwhile Auntie Bessie's husband, Uncle Bill, cleaned the toilets, cut the grass and looked after Granny's garden - as well as forecasting the weather to all the happy campers. The second ward was also opened as a TV lounge – with one black and white TV turned on for a couple of hours in the evenings for entertainment.  After that, the TV room ran as a prize bingo hall for a few years run by Grandpa's Uncle Bill. Then after the Bingo Hall (as it was forever known) was closed, it was turned into a very successful fish and chip shop run by Aunty Bessie and Uncle Bill.  The best fish and chips in North Berwick. 

Not to be forgotten are ofcourse, the donkeys – a big part of Gilsland scenery for many, many years.  Johnny, my dad, had 4 donkeys, Chips, Cherry, Jenny and Sandy who he worked for many, many years giving donkey rides round the site and on the beach, saving the money he earned for University where he went to study medicine and follow in his grand fathers' footsteps in becoming a GP.  After Johnny stopped working the donkeys, Wendy took over as the donkey girl and much later when I was about 12 years old, Grandpa got me some donkeys to carry on the tradition of giving Donkey rides.  He managed to find Jenny again – who was now very old but remained the best working donkey we ever had, then there was Cindy– the pretty one, Pepe – the little old one and Neddy – the completely neaurotic one!  As a child I also remember - with fear- The Peacocks – parading about the park and garden and I’ll never forget the day that a lady from Marly Green came up to complain to Grandpa that a peacock was sitting on her chimney! 

Gilsland was a busy, busy place but such fun and much of the hard work and developments were done on a Sunday when friends and family were drafted in to do whatever was required with the promise of a huge slap up roast Sunday dinner put on by Granny – her gravy was legendary!

Granny and Grandpa saw huge changes in their time here and slowly it became evident that things like the shop where no longer required.  They retired to a house by the sea in 1990 and Bill Macnair, grandpa’s eldest son, and his wife Anna took over the management of the site and lived at Gilsland House.  Granny’s health was not the best and she was happy to retire, enjoying the views and trying to spend more time on her painting that she loved but simply had not had much time to do before.  But Grandpa loved his involvement in the site and would still visit Gilsland daily, walk round the site and tell everyone how things should be done!  During this time it became apparent that the old site needed upgrading, caravans had changed beyond recognition and now had central heating, double glazing as well as their own toilets and showers.  The upgrading was something that would have been very difficult to accomplish on the old site, full, as it was.  It also transpired that the area had been highlighted as a possible expansion to satisfy the ever increasing need for housing in North Berwick.  So Bill and Grandpa put plans afoot to expand and develop an area of the farmland into a new static caravan park with all the facilities expected of a new caravan park.  They both focussed on this and the new site was completed in 2002.  The old site however, managed to remain open for quite a few years after the new site opened and Bill and Anna ran both sites alongside each other.  After many years of the future of the old park hanging in the balance, it was finally closed in October 2012.  In addition to this, after running the site for 23 years, Bill and Anna decided it is time for them to retire. 

So 2013, sees a whole new era for Gilsland Park with myself, Carlene and my brother Adam being delighted to take over the management of Gilsland, now renamed Gilsland Park.  We are very excited about our new venture and have many ideas and developments for the future. Carlene & Adam & Law Carlene & Adam & Law