Just 20 minutes away from Crosswoodhill and 10 miles to the south of Edinburgh City Centre and away from all the hustle and bustle, Midlothian offers tranquil woodlands, mediaeval castles, and the chance to tee off on beautiful country golf courses.
Anything else in Midlothian to excite the visitor? Plenty. First, there’s Rosslyn Chapel, with the finest mediaeval stone carving in Scotland, including the famous “Prentice” Pillar, and its links to the mediaeval order of the Knights Templar and freemasonry. Built in 1446 this Gothic chapel suddenly became the focus of huge media attention following its role in Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel, the Da Vinci Code, with its themes of coded messages and the Holy Grail.
By way of complete contrast, a few miles down the road, Midlothian’s coal-mining heritage can be explored at the fascinating Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange based at one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian colliery in Europe, the Lady Victoria Colliery. Take the Magic Helmet Tour, marvel at the engineering brilliance behind the machinery and retrace the “black diamond” struggles of an underground way of life now vanished.
Emerge into the fresh air and several other options in Midlothian compete for your choice. Wet? Retreat inside again to Butterfly and Insect World near Lasswade. Children love the close encounters of the crawly kind, that jungle feeling. It’s adjacent to Dobbie’s Garden Centre and just down the road from IKEA at Straiton. Yes, guests do migrate to this Swedish superstore quite often!
On the other side of the Pentlands from us, and in Midlothian, there are some splendid hill walks for all ages and you can tackle waymarked walking tracks and paths varying between 1.5 kms and 20 kms. long. Other wonderful trails for all ages, such as the glorious woodland walks in Roslin Glen and Vogrie Country Parks are well described in the free “Explore Midlothian” walking guide we keep in our cottages. And if you have any fishermen in your group, provided they have their rods with them and obtain a permit, they can enjoy some reservoir fishing.
So please don’t just think of Midlothian as a mere background for a movie, the Da Vinci Code. Only 20 – 40 minutes away from here, it’s definitely worth exploring.
Pack into the car a book, swimming gear, golf clubs perhaps, and excited people keen to capture any sunshine about. Head off to East Lothian, taking the Edinburgh by-pass through Midlothian, and within an hour you are at Musselburgh Racecourse, the start of the East Lothian Coastal Trail. Bracing salty sea air and miles of coastline and award-winning beaches soon await. The stretch of shore from Gullane to Yellowcraig is perfect for a walk, a dip into the sea, or a picnic. Gullane is also the home of Muirfield, one of the finest championship golf courses in the world.
Drive on for a sighting of the Bass Rock, plug of a long vanished volcano. It stands offshore from North Berwick and is home to about 14,000 gannet nest sites, and can be viewed on boat trips or, close-up, from the 5 STAR award-winning visitor attraction, the Scottish Seabird Centre. Here you can zoom in on amazing wild-life spectacles via remote video cameras beaming live pictures into the Centre, watch puffins spring-cleaning their burrows, peregrine falcons feasting on their prey, and find yourselves absorbed watching the antics of those magnificent gannets. You can even zoom in close enough to examine the identity ring on a bird’s foot! In winter you might glimpse those adorable fluffy white seal pups. If you are very lucky you might even see a dolphin.
North Berwick is a smart seaside resort with attractive sandy beaches and a picture postcard harbour. As you leave the town an impressive silhouette emerges, the old red-stone fortress of Tantallon Castle (pictured above) guards a craggy headland looking out to the Bass Rock offshore. Dating back to the 14th century it is rich in history and atmosphere. And just a few minutes away is equally impressive Dirleton Castle.
The East Lothian Coastal Trail continues, passing the enchanting coastline of the John Muir Country Park before bringing you to the seaside town of Dunbar. Here younger children will enjoy the variety offered at East Links Family Park
But a day spent in East Lothian doesn’t need to be beside the seaside. Since the arrival of Concorde, the Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield has become more than just a World War 11 airfield with lots of interesting aircraft. Visitors can now discover the story of Concorde from the race to break the sound barrier to the arrival of Scotland’s Concorde at its new home here. Let your imagination fly. Better still get a taste for the jet-set lifestyle by pre-booking a Concorde Boarding Pass.
Or call in at Pencaitland where whisky lovers will enjoy a guided tour (with sampling) at Glenkinchie, a working distillery.
Award-winning beaches, flights, whisky, golf, rolling farmland, rugged coastline, castles, harbour towns and sea-birds. Add up all this diversity and that’s East Lothian for you.