With one thing and another, it had been a few weeks since our last family outing. We made plans to visit Dalkeith Country Park last weekend with our extended family.
Dalkeith Country Park is laid out over 1000 acres to the south of Edinburgh. It has a brilliant adventure park for the kids, a variety of trails and walks through some incredible woodland – they claim that some of the trees are 900 years old – and a lovely shopping/restaurant area in the old stables. www.dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk.
We arrived in the late morning and after the usual faffing about getting boots/wellies on and the dog sorted out we headed out on the Old Wood Walk route. There are several routes to choose from, varying from about 20 minutes in length to over 2 hours and 8km. We thought we would try the Old Woodland walk as it has the option to extend the walk part way through and we wanted to keep our options open.
We set off from the Restoration Yard, which is kind of the main hub for the shops, café and things and headed loosely north east towards the river. Knowing that this route was colour coded in purple, it was nice to see a purple way marker at the less than obvious start of the walk. We took the path into the treeline and contoured around the hill following the trail. It takes you under some of the high ropes course, which looks awesome. I think the cost for that comes in at around £20-£30 if that is your thing.
Watching out for anyone dropping anything on our heads, we turned left and climbed up the small bank, giving a view out over the campsite. To be honest it didn’t look like much, but I think campsites never do! Its all about what you make of it once you’re there. We moved on and the trees started getting older from here on, mainly oak trees (funny that, considering the name of the chosen route).
Through the gaps between the trunks, we could see open grass lands on both sides, however the eye catching features were the trees themselves. Many were split in incredible positions, hollowed out or had been struck by lightening. It was great to see. So much so in fact that I forgot to take pictures of some of the more impressive ones.
We followed the marked path through the trees, undulating with the terrain and taking it all in. I remember thinking it was much quieter than I had expected, only meeting two other groups with their dogs. Following the course of the river to our right, we eventually ended up at a corner where two rivers meet. This is where the River Esk forms from its two tributaries, the North Esk and South Esk, its known as “The Meeting of the Waters”.
It was really interesting to see the way that the two different streams of water interacted with each other. It was helped that the South Esk – the river that we have been following to this point – was a brown colour, whereas the North Esk was much bluer in colour, meaning you could see, for a short time, the two different streams of water running together.
Again, we moved on following the path to a bridge across the river. This was the point at which we could extend the walk by crossing the river or continuing back to the central part of the park.
We decided to head back towards the kids park and Restoration Yard as we needed to pick up the kids and rescue Gran who had stayed with them. We passed by the ruins of an old stone bridge crossing the river, which quite cool to see. The pillars that were left were massive, I can only imagine how impressive that bridge would have been back when it was built and functioning.
The path twists and turns its way southwards, keeping the river to your right through a variety of woodland terrains. There are quite a few grassy sections through tall ferns, and some steeper sections that are more gravelly. All of this leads you right back to the river side before gently climbing as you move forwards.
Towards the end of this section of the walk, you pass by Montagu’s bridge, which I guess is the replacement for the aforementioned ruined bridge, that was built in 1792. Its really quite the sight from through the trees. If you skirt to the right of the path here, you can actually walk through the bridge and come out on the lawns of the Palace. However, the true route calls for you to keep left, climb up a steep slope, turning to the left when you reach the road and follow this past Dalkeith Palace, then left back to the car park and amenities.
I quite enjoyed this short little walk, Max had a blast too. I would recommend for little legs as apart from one short (15m) section there are no steep inclines and there is a fair bit of interest in the flora and fauna to keep minds occupied. We will definitely be going back to tackle a few of the longer loops in future.