Between Bonnyrigg and Loanhead, just South of Edinburgh
A riverside walk through woods and by the North Esk river. Not disabled friendly. Despite the name, there is no Castle on this walk, Maiden Castle is just the site of an ancient settlement.
How to get there
For Satnav, the nearest postcode is EH18 1JZ
Find the Sherriffhall roundabout on the Edinburgh bypass, then turn south, away from Edinburgh on the A7. Turn right at the second roundabout, on the A768, signposted Lasswade and Loanhead. Follow this road for about a mile, up a hill then down into Lasswade village, then take the second left, signposted Polton. Follow this road up the hill for about a mile and you will see the Polton Inn on the right hand side. Take the next right after the Inn which is Polton Bank. Follow this road up a short hill, then down a steep winding hill. At the bottom you will see a small car park on the left hand side. If the car park is full, it is possible to park on the side of the road before the bridge.
This walk is difficult in places as it involves climbing short steep hills and some muddy paths. You can see a map of the route here.
Walk down the road and cross the bridge over the river. Then walk up the road past the war memorial for about 100 yards and you will see a small gate on your left. Enter the woods at this gate and follow the path up the hill, turning left at the top. The path now follows a narrow ridge between the North Esk river and Bilston Burn, built up in places with wooden supports. Continue along the ridge path until it joins a larger trackway. Follow the trackway up the hill until you see a wooden fence on the left near the top. Go through the gap in this fence and follow the pathway which runs along the top of a steep bank. Somewhere along here you might see the remains of Hewan Cottage which once stood at the top of Hewan Bank, but slid away in a landslide in the 1970s. The views from this bank are spectactular.
Keep following this path along, then go down the stone steps. Halfway down the hill the path levels out, and forks. Keep to the left then follow another ridgeway with steep drops on either side, then go down again to an open, grassy spot.
Here, continue straight on, until the path plunges down again through some gorse bushes and right down to the river. The North Esk here has cut steep cliffs on the South side of the river, with pebble beds on the North side, perfect if your dog likes chasing stones in the water. Follow the path down stream along river bank past some shapely beech trees. Here, the path is about 10 feet above the river. After a while, the path climbs up very steeply, with a scary drop down to the river on your right.
At the top of the climb, the path splits several ways. Take any of the left hand turns and they will take you into Maiden Castle, which is a set of small ditches and ridges on top of the hill. (The right-most path takes you back down to the river, but it's a dead end). All the other paths eventually join up, including one which runs up a deep ditch, and eventually bring you out by a notice board which explains the site.
Now, follow the path through the woods, and it brings you out at the grassy area that you crossed earlier. This time, instead of turning right to retrace your steps up the hill, cross straight over and find a path down the hill which brings you back to the river, but further up. Here, if you feel energetic, you can follow the river right up to Roslyn Chapel, but the path is blocked in places by fallen trees, which can be crossed with difficulty (A new path was made in 2019 which bypasses the fallen trees). Otherwise, turn right and follow the path by the field, and eventually it winds it way back up the hill and joins the main path half way up.
Now, follow the path back up the steps. At the top you can keep left and take a slight detour back to the trackway, alongside Hewan Field. This was one of the sites of the Battle of Roslyn, and apparently the locals used to dig bones out of this field for years afterward.
Maiden Castle, or Maiden's Castle seems to be a popular names for places like this. It's not a castle, but a fortified homestead and probably held two or more roundhouses. The defensive ditches and mounds are at the northern end of the site. The archeaologists are uncharacterestically honest about the deep ditch at the top of the site. They say, 'the origin of which is open to conjecture' or in other words, they have no idea what it is.
Hewan Wood and Hewan field are supposely the site of the third encounter of the Battle of Roslin in 1302. The casualities were so horrendous that the location became known as 'The Hewing' or 'The Hewan'.