Bordering Edinburgh, the historic Scottish county of Midlothian is a fantastic place to experience the multifaceted past of the region. Late Medieval landmarks like Crichton Castle and Rosslyn Chapel provide a glimpse into a turbulent past, with political intrigue and wars with England. The remains of Penicuik House offer an alternative way to explore aristocratic life while the National Mining Museum Scotland provides a unique way to experience the industrial heritage of Midlothian.
Here’s our pick of 6 of the best historic sites in Midlothian.
1. Penicuik House
The marvellous Georgian ruin stands in the town of Penicuik. The building was originally constructed in 1760 and extended in the Victorian era. It was one of the finest examples of neo-Palladian houses in Scotland, before being heavily damaged in a fire in 1899. Sir George, 8th Baronet of Penicuik could not afford to repair the whole building, instead transforming the stable building into a new family home.
The ruined estate building is open to visitors, who can explore this symbol of Scottish heritage.
2. Newbattle Abbey
Newbattle Abbey got its name from the fact that it started life as a Cistercian Monastery in 1140. The religious site was burned down twice by the English, in 1385 and in 1544. One of the main sources of income for the monastery was coal mining, making them potentially the first coal miners in Scotland. The Kerr family would take possession of the building following the arrival of Protestantism in the 16th century.
The site was extensively remodelled in 1650, 1836 and in 1858. King George IV visited the stately home during his Scottish tour of 1822.
These days the building serves as an events venue for conferences, weddings and corporate events.
3. Dalkeith Palace
The stunning estate, which sits on the site of an earlier medieval castle, was designed by one of the foremost Scottish architects James Smith. The palace, which was based on William of Orange’s residence in the Netherlands, was completed in 1711. The former seat of the Duke’s of Buccleuch hosted multiple British monarchs, including King James VI & I and Charles I.
Explorers can enjoy the grounds of Dalkeith Palace, which house an exciting children’s adventure park and treetop adventures for older visitors. One can also spend some time at the Restoration Yard, which is a complex consisting of a shop, restaurant and wellness studio.
Rosslyn Chapel is the beautiful 15th century creation of the third Prince of Orkney, William St Clair. Begun in 1446 and with its foundations completed in 1450, Rosslyn Chapel was actually named the “Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew”.
Over the next two centuries, Rosslyn Chapel would suffer first under the Reformation, when its altar was destroyed, and again in 1650 when Oliver Cromwell’s men used it as stables whilst they raided Rosslyn Castle. Nevertheless, Rosslyn Chapel has survived in good condition, with renovations having restored this stunning church – revered by artists and poets alike – to its former glory.
5. Crichton Castle
The ruined fortification lays hidden close to the River Tyn, near the village of Crichton. Constructed in the 14th century, the castle was given to Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell by King James IV in 1488. The most distinctive feature of the structure is its Italian-influenced courtyard. The fortification fell into disrepair following witchcraft accusations made against Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell.
6. National Mining Museum Scotland
Just 8 miles south of Edinburgh one can find the National Mining Museum Scotland, located in the remains of Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange. The site was a fully functional industrial site until 1981. The guided tours introduce visitors to the rich mining history of the region. The museum houses an impressive collection of items ranging from large scale mining machines and locomotives to the equipment of the ground staff.