On the North Eastern edge of Dalkeith
A riverside walk through old oak woods in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace. Inside the park you will find the Restoration Yard, a small centre with designer shops, a cafe that has waiter service and serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea and a more informal Coffee Bar that sells coffee, cakes and light bites. You could also visit the Wellbeing Lab: a 'welcoming, spacious studio for everything from yoga and pilates to mindfulness and mother, baby workshops'. Fort Douglass, a children's adventure playground is just over the river.
How to get there
For Satnav, the postcode for the entrance gate is EH22 2NA
Heading south from Edinburgh, take the Dalkeith road at the Sheriffhall roundabout and follow this road up into Dalkeith town. Turn left at the road junction at the top of the hill, and follow this road straight to the entrance gate. You can also enter the park by car at the big gates on the left about 200 yards south of the Sheriffhall roundabout.
Various amounts have been charged over the years for access to the park and for car parking. In summer 2018, both are free, but there is a charge to use the adventure playground.
This walk as described is difficult in places as it involves climbing short steep hills and some muddy paths. You can see a map of the route here. However the park has a lot of other paths and roadways that are very wheelchair friendly.
The walk also assumes that you will park just outside the entrance gates. However you can drive in and park near to the Restoration Yard and jon the walk at that point.
So, once you park in the small car park just outside the gates, walk through the gates and past the church on your right you will see a made up pathway going into the trees. Follow this path down through the woods, then just past the original wrought iron entrance gates to the palace. the path splits 5 ways. Keep to the right and follow the path down by the South Esk river until it climbs the bank again and meets the roadway near the Restoration Yard. Walk through the yard, or stop for refreshments if you wish, and down past the orangery, where you will see a path between the orangery and the road way that goes right down to the river. Take this path, and go under the bridge and past the Laundry House.
Follow the path down by the river until you see it climb again up a steep bank. Go up the bank, then continue down the path which now winds it way down river, but on top of a steep bank. After some distance the path enters an ancient oak tree wood. This is an SSI area and the trees, some of which are 900 years old, are protected. Keep following this path, keeping to the right when the path branches and you will eventually reach the 'meeting of the waters' where the South Esk joins the North Esk. Now you leave the South Esk and follow the North Esk up river.
About 200 yards up river you will see a footbridge over the North Esk, You could cross over on that bridge, follow the path uphill and turn left at the top but I find the river path more interesting. So follow the river path up river and keep to the right where the path branches. At places the path goes near to steep cliffs, and it is muddy in places and some of the descents are steep so take care. Some distance up river you will see the Montagu Bridge, a beautiful single arch bridge over the river, that was designed and built by Robert Adam in 1792. Take the path up the side of this bridge and it will bring you to a roadway. Turn left, then if you parked at the entrance, follow the road to the right past the palace and back up to the gates. If you parked at the Restoration Yard, follow the road to the left and it will bring you back there.
The Romans were active in the Dalkeith area and had a camp opposite the meeting of the waters. Dere Stree crossed the two Esk rivers in Dalkeith, most likely crossing through the middle of the town, so the Roman camp was probably to defend the fords. The original Dalkeith Castle was around in the 12 century and passed into Douglas hands in the early 14th century. The castle saw various royal visitors, including James VI and Anne of Denmark. However it was never a palace in the sense of being a royal residence. Dalkeith was a regality, a territorial jurisdiction granted by the king to a powerful subject and Dalkeith Castle was the seat of royal authority, or 'palatium', where the courts of the Regality of Dalkeith were held. Dalkeith Country Park has been in the Buccleuch family for over 300 years. The current palace was completed in 1711 for Anna, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch. The stable block, now the Restoration Yard, was complete in the 1740's and the beautiful Montagu Bridge was designed by Robert Adam in 1792.