Last updated on May 24th, 2020
Pressmennan Wood in East Lothian
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 restored the native broadleaf trees from Rhododendrons that were planted by the Victorians.
Category: Forest or woodland, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About Pressmennan Wood
Pressmennan Wood is a gorgeous 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 East Lothian 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.
Pressmennan 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 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 locations 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.
Things to do at Pressmennan Wood
This 212-acre site is nestled on a small hillside which gradually rises up to one side with three paths running through the woodland that you can explore.
There’s a map at the entrance 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 3-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 Lothians 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 even find the homes of Odon Poolittle, Bombi Noffnuff and Jenfrey Hoolups, so if you find an open 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.
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.
- I like the way the Woodland Trust has added a sculpture trail to keep children entertained.
- 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.
Photos and Video
Address and map
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
Pressmennan Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and is free to enter. The woods are open all year round.
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Uneven paths
On-site conveniences: Picnic area