Dalkeith Country Park

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Last Updated: by Craig Neil.

Dalkeith Country Park is located near Edinburgh in Midlothian. The historic estate features expansive grounds with extensive walking trails in addition to a shopping and restaurant complex. There is also a large mansion house within the grounds, but it’s not open to the public.

Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, historical architecture, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the countryside, Dalkeith Country Park offers a rich and varied experience for all visitors.

Dalkeith Country Park
Address:King's Gate,
Dalkeith,
EH22 1ST
Opening Hours:Dalkeith Country Park is open 07.00 – 19.00
The Store at Restoration Yard is open 10.00 – 17.00
The Kitchen at Restoration Yard is open from 09.30

Fort Douglas:
Morning session 10.00 – 13.00
Afternoon Session – 14.00 – 17.00
Admission Price:Free entry to the park.
For Fort Douglas prices, see the Dalkeith Country Park website.
Parking:£3 per vehicle parking on-site
Contact:0131 654 1666
info@dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk
Facilities:Shops, toilets, walking routes, restaurant, cafe
Photos:Virtual Tour
YouTube Video

Overview

Visiting Dalkeith Country Park is a delightful experience for all ages, as it offers a blend of natural beauty, historical architecture, and family-friendly activities. The park is part of the Buccleuch family estate which covers a vast 1,000 acres of forestry and farmland centred around a palatial house, as well as a shopping mall and restaurant complex, an adventure playground, and a high ropes course.

To get to the park, drive north through Dalkeith High Street on the A6094 and take the turn just before the sign for St. Mary’s Church. The spire of St. Mary’s Church, which is directly ahead behind a sizable gated entrance, makes it impossible to miss. From this point, you can drive through the grounds to the old laundry house which has parking for around 40 vehicles plus 4 disabled spaces.

If you park at the laundry house, you’ll find yourself in the centre of the main attractions, with the Restoration Yard shopping area to one side, the adventure play park dead ahead, and Dalkeith Palace behind, all of which are surrounded by farmland, woodland, and a maze of paths and single-track roads.

There’s a payment kiosk at the park entrance, but there’s a good chance you’ll find it’s unmanned, in which case there’s no charge for entry. In fact, it’s possible to enjoy a day at Dalkeith Country Park for no cost at all, though you’ll find your wallet quickly emptied if you take the family to the on-site restaurant and then let them burn off a few calories in the nearby Fort Douglas Play Park.

The playpark is very well-equipped, the café is first-class with a delicious assortment of locally sourced food, and the shops are excellent with an eclectic mix of locally sourced food and clothing, so you could quite easily spend your day in this one corner of the estate.

However, a visit to Dalkeith Country Park is mainly about enjoying the beautiful outdoor spaces, and with huge open lawn areas, riverside walks, cycle routes, and woodland trails, I can’t think of anywhere else nicer to visit in Midlothian on a warm summer’s day.

Dalkeith Country Park

The Highlights

1: The walking routes through Dalkeith Country Park are superb. They’re long enough for a decent walk but also paved, so they’re easy to access for all abilities. The paths are also suitable for cycling, and some, such as the Estate Trail, are flat and level which makes them suitable for elderly visitors.

2: Restoration Yard is a unique retail and wellness space housed in the beautifully renovated 18th-century stables and courtyard. Inside, you’ll find a store that offers a range of high-quality goods, from stylish clothing and unique homeware to artisanal food products. The Restoration Café, meanwhile, provides a perfect spot to relax and enjoy locally sourced, seasonal dishes.

3: Designed for adventure, Fort Douglas is an extraordinary playground that will thrill children and the young at heart. It features an array of exciting climbing structures including towers, zip wires, slides, and suspension bridges.

Visiting Tips

1: To make the most of a day out at Dalkeith Country Park, I recommend downloading the walking trails pdf which depicts the entire estate. The park is much bigger than you might initially think, so the map will come in very handy during a visit.

2: If you’re a frequent visitor to Fort Douglas you can join their loyalty programme and earn points to spend in the Dalkeith Country Park cafe.

3: When planning a visit, it’s advisable to check the Dalkeith Country Park website for any events, seasonal activities, or changes in opening hours to ensure you make the most of your experience.

Dalkeith Palace

Tourist Information

While your first instinct after arriving might be to make a beeline for Dalkeith Palace, I’m afraid you’ll have to content yourself with looking at it from the outside as it’s (unfortunately) off-limits to the public. It’s a real shame because the building is stunning and I can only imagine how grand it must be inside, but since an American university is currently using it, there isn’t much you can do there besides take a few photos of the exterior.

The expansive lawn in front of Dalkeith Palace is open for public use, though, and it’s a great spot for a picnic, but if you’d rather go for a walk, you’ll find tarmac roads that join the palace to Restoration Yard. These single-track roads are in good condition and they offer accessible routes through the park that anyone can enjoy, whether on two feet, pushing a pram, or in a wheelchair.

If you follow the road west, you can enjoy a large woodland that has several footpaths and two large open parks – Westgate and Howlands – or you can follow the road north, which will take you to the River Esk and onwards into the estate’s farmland. Alternatively, you can stop at Restoration Yard and herd the kids into the Fort Douglas Adventure Park while settling back in the cafe with a coffee in hand.

Dalkeith Country Park

The retail space features wee boutiques that sell a range of men’s and women’s clothing along with books, games, homewares, and furniture, so if you’re looking for a gift, you’re bound to find something inside. Across the courtyard, you’ll find a selection of workshops where you can enhance your well-being with yoga, pilates, and lifestyle coaching, while hungry bellies can be filled in the adjoining restaurant.

Fort Douglas, meanwhile, is situated behind Restoration Yard on the other side of the River Esk. A bridge allows access to a collection of treehouses, tunnels, climbing walls and suspension bridges that are divided into two play zones – one for toddlers and the other for ages five and up.

As it’s quite a new attraction, the equipment is in tip-top condition, and from what I’ve seen, it’s very sturdy and well maintained, so there shouldn’t be any problem letting children go wild in there. If you’d rather not leave them unattended, you’re allowed to join in the fun, but I’m afraid your four-legged friends will have to wait outside while you’re clambering around in the treehouse.

Elsewhere, you’ll find the Montagu Bridge, which the renowned Scottish architect Robert Adam built in 1792, along with the historic 12-sided Orangerie which has undergone a massive renovation to become a wedding venue.

The last big draw for Dalkeith Country Park is the walking routes, and you’ll find several waymarked paths on the estate, ranging from an easy 20-minute ramble to a decent two-hour hike through farmland and woodland. The longer walk is highly recommended as it offers 5 miles of unspoilt countryside where there’s a good chance you’ll see roe deer, otters, squirrels, foxes, and buzzards.

Dalkeith Country Park

History

The park’s woodlands have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest as some of the trees are over 900 years old, although the park itself dates back much further, tracing its roots as far back as Roman times.

The modern estate is relatively modern in comparison, as it became the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch in the 1700s. The Buccleuch family remains one of the largest private landowners in Europe, and their influence can be seen in most of the buildings on the site, especially Dalkeith Palace.

While it’s not officially a palace, i.e., a royal residence, it’s still a stunning building and is widely regarded as being one of the finest early classical houses in Scotland, thanks to renowned architect James Smith who designed it to replicate the Dutch palace Het Loo.

The palace was completed in 1711 and was built to replace a much earlier mediaeval fort, with additional buildings like the Orangerie, the bridges, and the laundry house added over the course of the following 100 years.

Dalkeith Country Park

Things to Do

Fort Douglas Adventure Park: Let your children run wild in the Fort Douglas Adventure Park. With sky-high treehouses, thrilling zip wires, and challenging balance routes, it’s a perfect space to let them burn off energy in a safe, child-friendly environment.

Nature Walks: Engage with nature on an informative audio tour courtesy of GeoTourist. Learn about the diverse local fauna, flora, and fascinating history of Dalkeith Country Park. It’s a great way to appreciate the park’s wildlife and learn about its ancient woodlands.

Cycling and Walking Trails: Grab your bike or lace up your walking shoes and venture along the many paths weaving through the 1,000-acre park. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging cycle, the beautiful landscapes of woodlands, riversides, and open fields provide a picturesque backdrop for a countryside adventure.

Restoration Yard: This beautifully restored 18th-century stables complex is a haven for shopping, dining, and wellness. Browse the shops for homewares, fashion, and gifts, enjoy a delicious meal in The Kitchen restaurant, or join a yoga class in The Studio.

Fishing on the River Esk: For those who enjoy a quiet day by the river, fishing on the River Esk is a good option. Note that only fly fishing is permitted and a permit must be pre-purchased from the Dalkeith Country Park website.

Dalkeith Country Park

Book Tours

Things to Do Nearby

Gilmerton Cove, 16 Drum St., Gilmerton, Edinburgh, EH17 8QH. 10-minute drive.
A subterranean labyrinth of caves and passageways that are believed to be hundreds of years old but have an unknown purpose. Visitors are taken underground on a guided tour that explores the history of Edinburgh and the secrets of the caves.

Dalkeith. 1-minute drive.
A Historic former mining town with a high street that features a number of shops bars, and restaurants. There’s also a supermarket and a public park.

Vogrie Country Park. Gorebridge EH23 4NU. 13-minute drive.
This is an expansive country park deep in the heart of the Midlothian countryside. Vogrie features a maze of paths for woodland walks as well as a playground, café and miniature railway.

Carberry Tower Mansion House. Carberry Tower Estate, Musselburgh EH21 8PY. 9-minute drive.
A grand 18th-century country house set in 35 acres of countryside. The house is open both as a hotel and as a restaurant. The grounds are free to visit and paths run to Queen Mary’s Mount where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have rested after her defeat in Edinburgh.

National Mining Museum. Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Dalkeith, EH22 4QN. 10-minute drive.
A colliery museum is located in a converted coal mine. During a visit, guests can take a guided tour of a mock coal mine with former miners who once worked there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you pay for parking at Dalkeith Country Park?

Dalkeith Country Park has paid parking inside the park. Payment is via contactless machines.

Is Dalkeith Country Park free?

There is no fee to visit Dalkeith Country Park other than fir car parking and the Fort Douglas play park. Visit the tickets page for the latest entry prices.

Who owns Dalkeith Country Park and who owns Dalkeith House?

The Duke of Buccleuch owns Dalkeith Country Park. Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust is the owner of Dalkeith Palace.

Do you need to book Dalkeith Country Park?

Dalkeith Country Park has online booking for the Fort Douglas play park. Visitors do not have to book to visit the rest of the park.

Can you walk around Dalkeith Country Park?

Yes, you can walk around Dalkeith Country Park. There are over 1,000 acres to explore and the majority of the estate has well-managed paths that are tarmacked. See the website for details.

Are there toilets at Dalkeith Country Park?

There are free-to-use public toilets at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park.

Does Dalkeith Country Park have a swimming pool?

Dalkeith Country Park does not have a swimming pool.

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Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.