A short walk around the South Esk river by Dalkeith
A walk up the South Esk river bank, with a short detour into Lord Ancrum's wood. Then over the river, through Newbattle Abbey grounds, then back along the north bank.
How to get there
For Satnav, the nearest postcode is EH22 2AQ. This is for The Old Millhouse at the entrance to the walk. However there is no real car parking near here. The best idea is to try the free public car park behind Morrisons supermarket, then walk through the town heading south on Newmills Road. Cross the bridge over the South Esk and the first road on the right leads to the Old Millhouse. Right next to it is the footpath entrance signposted Eskbank and Bonnyrigg.
This is an easy, short walk around a river. The start and end points are different, but both are inside Dalkeith town. You can see a map of the route here.
Enter the footpath from the road as described above, then follow the path alongside the playingfield and into the woods, where the path meets the river again. Follow the path along the river, past Maiden bridge, until you come to a path that leads off on your left past a rocky bank. At this point you can continue to walk alongside the river, but if you want to extend the walk a bit, take the left path up into the woods, then turn right at the top. Follow the path through the woods, until you see another path on the right leading back down go the river. If you don't take this turn off, then the main path will eventually reach a housing estate and you will have to turn round and come back again.
Once you are back to the riverbank, turn left and follow the river upstream with Newbattle Abbey on the other side of the river, until you come to a footbridge. Note the old icehouse at this point, used to keep food fresh before fridges and freezers were invented. Cross the river and head back towards the abbey, but go round it on the side away from the river as the river path is closed due to subsidence. The abbey is now an adult learning centre and walking round the grounds is not an issue. Pass up the side of the formal gardens and follow the track back to the river, then follow the track down the river, past the beech walk, to Maiden bridge.
Now, you have the option to cross back over the river at the bridge and get back to where you started from. The suggested walk is not to cross the bridge, but to take the pathway to the left up into Benbught wood, past Newbattle golf club and into a new housing estate. Walk up the estate to the road way, cross the road, then follow the footpath up the side of Dalkeith rugby club, then finally through the park to the main road. This brings you out just by Morrison's supermarket (still marked as a bus station on the OS map) in the centre of Dalkeith.
History Parts of this walk follow the Salter's Road, an ancient road running between Prestonpans and Newbattle Abbey. The Monks used it to transport coal from their mine workings at Newbattle down to the sea, and the waggons would return laden with with salt and seafood. The road crosses the South Esk at Maiden bridge, which may get it's name from Margaret the daughter of Henry VII, who was to be married to James IV of Scotland. She travelled up from England in 1503 and met her future husband at Newbattle Abbey, travelling there by the Salter's Road and the Maiden Bridge.
Newbattle Abbey itself was originally founded in 1140 by monks from Melrose Abbey, although the building today is more like 17th century. Newbattle was a rich and important abbey mainly dues to its coal mines. In fact, the Newbattle monks could have been the first Scottish coal miners. They owned extensive lands in Midlothian, around the Moorfoot hills and also Morrison's Haven, the harbour at Prestonpans. The Scottish Kings were frequent visitors, but unfortunately so were the English, who burned it on more than one occasion.