Tucked away only five miles from Edinburgh, Dalkeith is a perfect retreat from the city and was previously home to the Duke of Buccleuch. When he was executed for treason in 1685 his widow took over and it’s thanks to her, the Duchess Anne Scott, that this Baroque palace stands today.
Built on the remains of Dalkeith Castle, James Smith one of Scotland’s best classical architects of the time managed the construction from 1702 to 1711. The unique use of so much stunning marble adds grandeur to his work and reflects the Duchess’ admiration of William of Orange’s Het Loo Palace in the Netherlands. In fact, renowned English marble cutter Richard Neal spent 64 weeks with nine assistants carving marble chimneypieces and the main staircase alone, showing the incredible attention to detail.
Dalkeith has also had many famous guests: the Archbishop of St Andrews, Margaret Tudor, King George IV in 1822 and even Queen Victoria in 1842. A visit to the palace takes you on a stroll through history, ending with the graffiti sketches on the walls, left by Polish troops of the 3rd Rifle Brigade during World War Two. The Castle's tranquil grounds are equally steeped in history with trees of over 900 years old and Robert Adam’s original 1792 Montague Bridge, which pops up on the peaceful walk alongside the North Esk River.
Following a multi-million pound revamp in 2016, you can now hike, bike or try your hand at archery in the 1,000-acre grounds or opt for a more relaxing afternoon in the shops or Wellness Centre, before grabbing some lunch in the café that serves high-quality local produce.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty to do for kids in the Fort Douglas Adventure Centre, especially on special activity days held over weekends and school holidays. Finally, spooky rumours claim that Dalkeith House is haunted by the ghost of an eight-year-old girl who died there. You might not believe it’s true, but we’ll certainly be watching our backs…