The Water Tower

The Water Tower
The Water Tower at Dusk

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dalkeith to Penicuik Walk

The first walk has been published in the Midlothian Advertiser today. A full page and largely un-cut from the text provided. Wow. I did this walk with Dr Ian Brown, pictured below, and I suppose I have to expose the big secret, we cycled the route! Well I have walked it often enough!

Ian at the start of the "walk". What a cyclist - up and down steps like a teenager, whizzing down the long straight, not out of breath on the incline. Chatted all the way........"what a guy, what an incredible guy" - straight out of Gregory's Girl the movie.

The Un Cut Version of the article

Midlothian Monthly Walks
Penicuik-Dalkeith Walkway

Key Points

·         The walk is patrolled and managed by Midlothian Ranger Service; an enthusiastic team of 3 based at Vogrie House with a “can-do” attitude and doing a great job of managing Midlothian’s countryside sites. Vogrie Country Park, Gorebridge, Midlothian EH23 4NU Tel : 01875 821990

·      The walk is fully described in their leaflet called Penicuik to Dalkeith Walkway. It can be found on the Midlothian Council web site

·      The area is covered in Ordnance Survey Map 66 for Edinburgh

·      The route is 9.5 miles over good terrain with gentle gradients

·      The route was created from the former Edinburgh to Peebles railway line

·      The walk should take around 4 - 4.5 hours hours to complete.

·      The route is part of National Cycle Network Route 1, Look for the Blue signs. Also regional cycle route 73 covered by SUSTRANS, a UK charity set up to enable people to travel by foot, bike or public transport.

·      The route is well signed with White arrows on a Green background.

·      Bus Services at Eskbank Road, Dalkeith are Lothian Transport 3, 3A and 49; First Bus Group 95 and X95.

·      Bus Services at Penicuik High Street are Lothian Transport 37, 47 and X47. First Bus 141, 142 and 241.

·      Be aware of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code for walking responsibly wherever you walk outdoors.

Flora and Fauna Along The Way

Spring has sprung along the walkway and after a long winter, Midlothian’s countryside is starting to green-up.  Along the North Esk, Birch and Willow trees are coming into leaf, early spring flowers such as Lesser Celandine and Wood Anemones are abundant on verges and they carpet the woodland floors.

The river North Esk was once polluted by Midlothian’s industrial past but it is now home to species such as Kingfisher and the shy Otter.

Skylarks can be heard singing above a mosaic of fields and grasslands and within the hedgerows Bumblebees can be seen feeding on the white flowers of Blackthorn which forms part of this valuable wildlife habitat.

The Walk and Susie’s Tips

A walk is an adventure, a great way to keep fit and every time you take a walk you will see something different. I liken reading path routes to reading knitting patterns; if you read it ahead there’s too much detail to take in. Cast off and just go, referring to the pattern along the way if you need to.

I did this walk a few years ago with some American visitors and we had an entertaining time, not least because Lynn wandered into the shrubbery at the side of the path and was stung by a nettle. Why would someone from Chicago know what a nettle is? It’s distressing but once we worked out what had happened we called on the docken leaf cure. They say nettles and docken leaves grow side by side so you should find them. Extract as much liquid as you can from a docken leaf and rub it onto the stinging area. It works but no-one is sure why.

Now I’m a contrarian so I’m starting this walk from the opposite end to the way it is described in the Midlothian leaflet. Starting from Cemetery Road opposite the Dalkeith Water Tower, it’s around 10 miles long and there’s a treat at the end.

It’s an easy walk, quite busy at times with some areas being a commuter’s route and all of it a popular cyclist’s route. Take the tarmac path from Cemetery Road heading towards Glenesk Viaduct, its sign posted. If you haven’t picked up a Midlothian Walk Leaflet then read the Sign Board which highlights all the key information. At a path junction you need to take the path signposted to Hardengreen/Bonnyrigg but if you feel inclined, stray a short way onto the viaduct because once the Borders rail line rolls into Midlothian this view point might be lost. Back on the principal path take a moment to imagine what it must have been like when the trains used to run, or even farther back in time when the surrounding ancient semi-natural woodland covered most of Midlothian. Your walk has just started but now is your chance to buy any forgotten items. If you take the ramp up to Costcutters/Eskbank Trading and support our smaller shops; use them or lose them. At Hardengreen there’s a signposted pedestrian diversion due to preparatory works for the rail line, take it through the housing estate and pick up the path again at Kirkness & Innes. From there it’s well signposted to Bonnyrigg, Rosewell and Penicuik at the bridge over the A7.

You will pass a lot of new construction along the route now, including the hospital which has been beautifully landscaped. Coming past Bonnyrigg don’t worry about lots of barking dogs, they just want to let you know this is their home.

You will find the path is tarmac covered until just past Rosewell. Take care when you reach a crossing at the Rosewell bypass since traffic at the junction is unexpected given the terrain.

Your are now coming into a beautiful area with paths off to Auchendinny and Roslin. Make a note to explore these areas and bring a picnic.

Photo Opportunity

Just before one of the long tunnels near Auchendinny you will see a beautiful valley stretching out, I think it is Auchendinny Lea Farm. It has the appearance of a “Sound of Music” affected Austrian valley with lush green gentle slopes, a few cute houses and wooded areas. It’s my top photo opportunity and challenge your friends to say where it is when you show the photo.

Marching on from Roslin but before Penicuik itself you will reach Valleyfield and a development of new houses sitting close to the rivers edge; note the number of gabions used to shore up the banking, I counted 8 at one section. There are 2 forks in the path near here but they both go to the same end point so take your pick. Make sure you visit Valleyfield Pond, there’s signage and another information board. How can this be in the middle of a village? It’s a little haven and I understand there has been a great deal of community involvement in it’s management. There’s a very cute duck pond and no ministers have claimed for its upkeep that I’m aware of.

Coming through the housing development built on the site of the former Cowan Paper Mill, climb up a fairly steep hill out of the valley and into the High Street. This will get your heart rate up, making it easier to justify a wee treat in one of the cafes in Penicuik.

The Treat

I like Le Tout P'ti, a fairly small place with a great range of cakes made by the owner. Decent tea and coffee, reasonable prices and, particularly appreciated, a cheerful, entertaining Parisian owner who is happy to recommend what to have. Try the lemon sorbet but if you deserve the calories, go for the pastries.

If you decide instead to get a bus back to the starting point, travel on into Dalkeith – there’s a nice cafe at the recently renovated County Hotel.


What to Wear

 I would suggest stout walking shoes or better. Whatever you choose, don’t be wearing them for the first time, break new shoes in with a shorter distance. If you get blisters, the new gel pad blister plasters are wonderful, or buy moleskin plasters if you can find them.

Lightweight layers of clothing are ideal and a back-pack or friend to carry your cast off layers when it gets too hot. I often take fingerless gloves, I just like them but they do help if your circulation is poor.

 Features Along The Way Not To Miss

Railway Lines and Stations

This path utilises old railway lines in Midlothian which were built in the river valleys to keep the mills supplied with coal and to transport the paper. There are a couple of lovely long tunnels along the way, shout whoo-whoo in the middle. You will see the remains of the industrial era in the form of dams on the river and mill lades, man-made water courses that carried water to the mills.

Rosslyn Castle Station was originally on the passenger service line from Edinburgh to Penicuik.  The station name can still be seen spelt out in stones on the old platform. I’m not sure why it is spelled Rosslyn in the village of Roslin. I invite you to write in with any information.

Roslin Glen Country Park

If you have a mind to take a detour this has to the part to explore. There are a few paths off the main track and this can be your own path to discover. Especially if you want to take a visit to Rosslyn Chapel; too famous for words. Instead I would suggest taking in the beautiful peaceful park which has been carved out as a gorge by the River North Esk. At one time it was the site of a former gun powder factory and you can still see some of the remnants of the gun powder buildings which make useful wind break shelters if you take a picnic. This park achieved Green Flag status recently – similar to Blue Flags for beaches; well done to the Friends of Roslin Glen and the Ranger service.

Monument at Valleyfield Mills

A monument erected to mark the captured French soldiers and sailors who were confined at Valleyfield Mills during the Peninsular War. Although now virtually surrounded by modern housing, the monument still commands a position of dignity, situated on a wooded cliff overlooking the former site of the Valleyfield Mills. The Latin inscription translated reads 'Dear is the restfulness of Fatherland, but that and every land becomes our grave'.

 Lea Farm Picnic Spot

A great place to stop off for home made sannies and Jo’s cake!

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