Pressmennan Wood is a woodland in East Lothian that features a large lake (one of only four designated lakes in Scotland) and mixed forestry that offers peaceful walks along several trails. The 212-acre site is managed by the Woodland Trust which has saved the native broadleaf trees from invasive Rhododendrons planted by the Victorians. The trust also maintains the paths that thread their way through Pressmennan Wood, allowing visitors to have good access no matter the time of year.
Grid ref: NT630729OS
|Opening Hours:||Open 24/7|
|Parking:||Free parking on-site|
Comprising 210 acres of woodland, Pressmennan Wood is home to some of Scotland’s oldest oak trees as well as huge conifers that provide shelter to a wide range of birds, woodland animals, and insects.
Pressmennan wood can be found on the slopes of Deuchrie Dod (a country park in the Lammermuir Hills) so it’s easy to combine a walk there with one of the many other nearby attractions in this part of East Lothian. As an example, East Links Family Park and The John Muir Country Park are only a 15-minute drive away.
The wood is a mix of broadleaf and conifer trees that come alive in summer when the woodland blooms with bluebells, primroses and violets, but to be honest it’s worth visiting at any time of the year as it’s one of the most picturesque places in East Lothian.
One of the highlights of a visit to these woods is seeing the number of animals that call the area surrounding Pressmennan Lake their home (it’s actually called a lake, not a loch – one of only four in Scotland), and if you keep hidden there’s a good chance you’ll see otters, bats, and deer during your visit.
1: The walks are very peaceful thanks in no small part to the fact that the woodland is quite difficult to find. This part of East Lothian is lovely though, so the lack of tourists is a bonus.
2: Top marks go to the Woodland Trust for their management of the paths and the wee car park. The paths are decent but not so perfect that they detract from the natural feel of the woodland.
1: Send your kids off on a hunt to find the little houses on the sculpture trail where the tree folk live. Give them a few pennies to leave at the doors when they find them (an old Scottish tradition to invoke good luck).
2: You can combine a visit to Pressmennan Wood with Hailes Castle which is only a 15-minute drive away or pop over to the John Muir Country Park near Dunbar. Dunbar is also worth visiting for its historic harbour.
The majority of the woodland is nestled on a small hillside which gradually rises on one side with three paths running through it that converge at the entrance. There’s a map at the gate so it’s a good idea to take a look and get your bearings before you head off, but I recommend keeping an Ordnance Survey paper map to hand as these maps are a great way to find other walks in the area.
There aren’t any visitor conveniences at Pressmennan Wood but you’ll find public toilets at Dunbar which is around a 15-minute drive or you can head to the picturesque village of East Linton which is also around 15 minutes by car. East Linton has the bonus that you can follow a 1 1/2-mile riverside path to Hailes Castle.
Pressmennan Wood has been managed by the Woodland Trust since 1988 and they’ve built a small car park and also installed a couple of picnic benches, although there’s a lack of bins so you’ll have to take your rubbish home with you.
The car park has space for around 8 cars (less if East Lothian’s 4×4 crowd are out in force…) along with an information board that’ll tell you about the routes through the wood. While you’re there I recommend you take note of how to get to the top of Deuchrie Dod where you’ll find a lovely viewpoint, and make sure the kids take a mental note of the sculpture trail.
The sculpture trail is a winding circular route that’ll lead them through the woods in search of Glingbobs and Tooflits – small woodland fantasy creatures that live in wee houses built inside some of the trees. If you look closely you might find the homes of Odon Poolittle, Bombi Noffnuff and Jenfrey Hoolups, so if you find a door please be kind and leave a few pennies for them.
Be aware that although the paths are well maintained they can get very muddy in places, especially near the lake, so some of the paths might not be accessible to wheelchair users after a rainfall.
The woods were used for hundreds of years as a source of oak for building ships at Leith docks in Edinburgh, and in fact, records show that this was the case from the 15th century right through to the 18th century. But it wasn’t just Presmennan’s wood that was important to Scotland’s economy as the bark was also used in the leather tanning industries of the time.
The Victorian era saw much of the woodland planted with invasive Rhododendrons but thankfully the Forestry Commission began replanting the woods with native trees when they took ownership in 1955. The Woodland Trust continued this process of replanting and managing the trees after taking ownership in 1988 and today the woodland is almost completely free of Rhododendrons.
Things to Do
Enchanted Forest Walk: Let your kids immerse themselves in the magical atmosphere of Pressmennan Wood by searching for the fairy folk. As they marvel at the towering trees they’ll discover hidden fairy houses on an adventure that combines nature, fantasy, and fun.
Photography: Pressmennan Wood is a haven for photographers. Capture the beauty of the lake framed by swathes of wildflowers, or, if you have a macro lens, the fascinating world of insects. Each season brings a fresh palette of colours and scenes, ensuring you never run out of subjects.
Bird Watching: The woodland is home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for bird watchers. Bring your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and you might spot species like woodpeckers, owls, and buzzards.
Nature Trails: Explore the diverse flora and fauna of Pressmennan Wood on one of its nature trails. These routes are well-maintained and marked, allowing you to concentrate on the flora and fauna around you.
Picnicking: Enjoy a leisurely picnic amidst the serenity of the woods. There are several spots where you can spread out your blanket and enjoy a light lunch while listening to the sound of rustling leaves and chirping birds. Just remember to follow the countryside rules and leave no trace behind.
Things to Do Nearby
Hailes Castle. Haddington EH41 4PY. 14-minute drive.
A 13th-century castle situated on the banks of the River Tyne. The majority of the castle is roofless but most of the walls are still intact and there are notable features like the brewery, kitchen and great hall to explore. Parking is limited to roadside spaces but entry is free.
Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot. Preston Road, East Linton EH40 3DS. 13-minute drive.
An attractive historic mill and a 16th-century dovecot that was used to house over 500 pigeons. The mill is open for viewing but the main attraction for many visitors is the nearby River Tyne which is a haven for otters, kingfishers and herons. There are footpaths that follow the river for several miles.
Dunbar Harbour. Dunbar EH42 1HW. 14-minute drive.
A historic fishing harbour that is still in use by Dunbar fishermen. The harbour is famous for the Dunbar Battery which is a historic landmark that has been converted into an outdoor amphitheatre. The ruins of Dunbar Castle overlook the harbour though access to it is not possible.
John Muir Country Park. Dunbar 1XG. 10-minute walk.
An expansive local nature reserve dedicated to naturalist John Muir. The park borders Dunbar and has a variety of wildlife habitats including Dunbar beach, the River Tyne, a woodland, mudflats, sand dunes and grassland. There are paths running throughout the park and a car park can be found near the East Links Park entrance.
Woodhall Dean Wildlife Reserve. Dunbar EH42 1SJ. 17-minute drive.
Nature reserve on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills. This reserve is home to sessile oak trees (a once-abundant tree that is now dwindling in numbers) and it is highly regarded for the carpets of woodland wildflowers that bloom in spring.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get to Pressmennan Wood?
From Edinburgh head east on the A1 and continue over two roundabouts, through East Linton. At the third roundabout take the fourth exit onto the B6370. Continue onto Stenton Loan.
Pressmennan Wood lies roughly 1 mile south of the village of Stenton. There is a Brown Tourist Sign for the wood on the unclassified road ‘Stenton Loan’ just south of Ruchlaw West Mains farm.
How big is Pressmennan Wood?
Pressmennan Wood is 86-hectare (212 acres) in size.
What are Pressmennan Wood opening times?
Pressmennan Wood is open all day, 365 days a year.
What visitor facilities are there at Pressmennan Wood?
There are no facilities at Pressmennan Wood other than a free car park at the entrance.