Pressmennan Wood is a woodland in East Lothian that features a large lake (one of only 2 officially-designated ‘lakes’ in Scotland) with quiet walks along several trails. The 212-acre site is managed by the Woodland Trust who have saved the native broadleaf trees from invasive Rhododendrons that were planted by the Victorians.
Review of Pressmennan Wood
Pressmennan Wood is a scenic woodland area in rural East Lothian that runs alongside a ribbon-shaped lake that offers quiet walks along several paths with views towards the Firth of Forth and across the rolling countryside.
Comprised of 210 acres of ancient woodland, the woods are home to some of Scotland’s most ancient oak trees as well as huge conifers that provide shelter to a wide range of birds, squirrels, and insects.
These woodlands are a bit of a hidden gem in East Lothian and they’re well worth visiting if you’ve got bored kids itching to get outside and play. The paths are well maintained and the woodland is a great place to walk – so if you’ve got a dog don’t forget to bring him/her along for the ride as well.
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, with East Links Family Park and The John Muir Country Park only a 15-minute drive away.
The wood is a mix of broadleaf and conifer trees that really come alive in summer when the woodland floor blooms with bluebells, primrose and violets, but to be honest it’s worth visiting at any time of the year if you’re after a breath of fresh air in 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 the few in Scotland), and if you keep hidden there’s a good chance you’ll see otters, bats, and deer during your visit. Fantastic stuff.
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Things to do at Pressmennan Wood
The majority of the woodland is nestled on a small hillside which gradually rises up to one side with three paths running through it that converge at the entrance.
There’s a map at the gate so you’d be well advised to take a look and get your bearings before you head off but I always like to have either an OS paper map in my backpack or a map of the area downloaded onto my mobile phone.
It’ll save you getting lost and these maps are a great way to find other walks in the nearby area. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
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 added bonus that you can take a 1 1/2-mile riverside path to Hailes Castle if you fancy a bit of history after exploring East Lothian’s woodlands.
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 please remember to take your rubbish home with you.
Be advised that although the paths are well maintained they can get very muddy in places, especially near the lake, so the route might not be accessible to wheelchair users.
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 all the routes through the wood you can take.
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 dead 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.
All in all, Pressmennan Wood is a lovely place to take a walk and if you’re in this part of East Lothian I highly recommend you visit it.
Find more attractions in East Lothian with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
The history of Pressmennan Wood
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 Rhododendron free.
- The wood is very well-managed and the paths are excellent which makes a visit to Pressmennan Wood suitable for all ages.
- 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.
- Top marks 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Grid ref: NT630729OS
Map Sheets: Explorer 351
OS Landranger: 67
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Pressmennan Wood
- Hailes Castle. Haddington EH41 4PY. 14-minute drive. 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.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.