Newhailes House & Wee Hailes Playpark
It’s been a tough few months walking-wise, for despite having the Pentlands, woodlands, rivers and beautiful beaches all within the city limits, I found the weekend lockdown traffic and the overflowing car parks intolerable.
However, it did keep me local:
Meaning numerous yomps on Porty Prom (off-peak hours only), and occasional ventures to find a new walking route within 5 miles of the eastern border - of Edinburgh, that is.
Admittedly, some walks were unsuccessful.
Boring walks, along muddy sections of the John Muir Way.
Noisy walks, with the sound of the bypass drowning out the birdsong.
Perilous walks, along the verges of busy B roads, without a busy bee to be found.
But I did find some gems, one of which was Newhailes Estate, reclining nobly, yet unassumingly, on the edge of the big city.
I parked on the main road through Joppa, at Seaview Terrace, but there is a car park at the Newhailes Road entrance in Musselburgh.
Alternatively, take the number 26 bus to the Rockville Hotel. From Seaview, walk down to the garage in the middle of the Y junction with the A199 (Milton Road) and cross directly to Brunstane Mill, a small road camouflaged by the bungalows on either side.
Head up the road to a signpost directing you to Brunstane Burn, Musselburgh Harbour, or straight ahead to Newhailles, where a small wooden gate marks the entrance to 34 acres of magical loveliness.
Landscaped in the mid eighteenth century, Newhailes Estate encompasses ancient mixed woodland, a tumbling river, a shell grotto, the buried remains of a curling rink and a beautiful beech plantation, full of golden ballerina saplings. How could I have missed this for all of 25 years?
In the centre of the Estate lies Newhailes’ House, originally the home of the Dalrymple family and now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
The house is an excellent example of a 17th century Palladian villa, with a rococo interior. Yes, I had to look those (and the following) words up. Apparently, the somewhat brutal exterior is in the style of 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio and betrays the ornate shell and leaf rococo designs of the ceilings, doorways and furniture inside.
Currently closed, the house will hopefully open again in May.
It sits majestically at the top of two huge, open plains, separated by the Ladies’ Walk, a raised path between the old cow and sheep fields, designed to provide the ladies with a stunning view over the Forth, whilst preserving their petticoats. Obviously, I did likewise, in order to protect my crinoline.
In contrast to the Palladian design, there is an excellent example of late 21st century architecture - Wee Hailes Playpark - a whole wooden village of castles, bridges, forts, slides and swings. Currently, also closed, but again hopefully open soon to welcome a host of excited little people, and yours truly will be sure to find one to accompany.
Opposite the play park is the stable block, which was undergoing a refurbishment when covid struck. However, it seems the long-term plan is for a new cafe, shop and patio seating. Oh, and THERE WILL BE cake!
I have explored the estate many times during lockdown, in sun, rain, wind and bitter cold, though nothing compared to the day the snow lay fresh and deep, throwing a thick comfort blanket over this oasis of country calm.
Will I see you there in the summer?
I do hope so…
Mine will be the Victoria sponge (if you’re buying)!
Info: WalkingsoloScot/Instagram, NTS.org/Newhailes, Visiteastlothian.org and Ramblers.org.uk/Lothian