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  • Jackie Gleave

The Oak Walk

Updated: Apr 24



 

Location: Dalkeith Country Park

Date: 7 April 2024

Length: 3 miles

Level: Easy


 

To reach Dalkeith Country Park, my favourite entrance is through the grand Kings Gate. You can meander slowly through woodland barely seeing a soul and keeping eyes peeled for deer. If, however, you blink and miss this entrance don't despair, carry on straight through to the Main Street of Dalkeith turning left at the T-Junction and straight on to what was the original entrance to the park, the Town gate.

You have actually struck gold happening on this entrance as the architecturally beautiful St Mary’s episcopal church - 'the church in the park' - lies nestled on the right and is more than worth a look.


 

Have payment ready - £3.00 at time of writing - and head straight on to the lower Laundry carpark


 

The Old Laundry sits adjacent to the carpark. 



 

Take the little path at the back of the Old Laundry and follow the path uphill, and wonder at the Go Ape construction which goes straight over your head.







 

There is a little path on the left, a steep-ish climb, and can be very muddy…take this and you’ll see a post with a purple-ringed marker.  From here, hang a right - this is the start of the Oak walk and is a beautiful circular walk which will take you back to the courtyard. These gnarly old trees are so awesome and full of character, this part of the walk is a real treat.





 

About a mile in, you will come to an interesting intersection where the North Esk and South Esk rivers meet, at, would you believe… Waters Meet!  The North Esk river rises in the Pentland hills and the South Esk river in the Moorfoot hills.  Hang onto your hats here, and your dogs, as this can be a crazy part of water!  The rivers, from here, flow as one onto Musselburgh and into the Firth of Forth




 


The wild leeks and garlic are prolific during March and April...smells totally divine...just the best....such a sign of Spring.



Also during March and April time you'll see mounds of butterbur gracing the banks of the river. The large leaves of these unusual little plants were used to wrap butter during warm weather in the olden days!






And if you're lucky, you'll also spot some of these gorgeous little woodland anemone which light up the floor of the woodlands during March and April with their starry constellations.






 

Himalayan Silver Birch

 


 

Following the river there are a multitude of routes you can take...enjoy the journey and you'll eventually come to a small tunnel - walk through this and the tunnel opens out to a breathtaking view of Dalkeith Palace.


Firstly though, if you cast your eye back, the Montagu Bridge stands proud in all it's glory.


The Montagu Bridge is a spectacular single arch span over the River North Esk, and is one of the last works of the great architect Robert Adam! It was first designed in celebration of the marriage in 1767 of Lady Elizabeth Montagu and Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, the building of the bridge was nearly 25 years in the making. Fancy that!




Mr Harris having a well-deserved cultural rest


A catapult's throw from the Montagu Bridge is the stunning Dalkeith Palace which has been home to many over its long history. Most recently the Palace played host to students of the University of Wisconsin but the Covid Pandemic put an end to this with all the travel restrictions in place and the Palace was emptied of all its contents and taken back by the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust.

The Palace now has a calendar of art shows, exhibitions and events, and excitingly the return of the Inception Art Show, with a 10-day exhibition and programme of events during May.




 

The area in front of the Palace is the perfect spot to picnic, howwweeeeeevvver.... follow the path back to the Laundry car park, and you may just stumble across the most perfect little courtyard with THE most delicious coffee...tried and tested.



there was a scone inside the packet! would have been rude not to..



Restoration yard - a shopping experience to behold



The courtyard has been lovingly restored over a number of years and I remember, back in the day, when the cafe was a very simple affair, nothing of the stature it is today. The Adventure playground, Fort Douglas, is a very sanitised version of what it was when we enjoyed coming and hiding in the underground tunnels. It looks fun for the kids though, bring plenty pennies...


Fort Douglas


 

Through the courtyard, and leading back to the Laundry carpark, you'll come to a grassy area which leads down to the river, and where stands the Orangerie in all its splendour. The Orangerie, designed by William Burn and built around 1832, was Initially built to cultivate oranges for the Duke of Buccleuch. It featured an under-floor condenser heating system and the boiler was said to consume up to a ton of coal every day. Growing oranges wasn't a long-lasting experiment as together with the soot from the chimney darkening the glass of the Orangerie, and the polluted water, it wasn't the most conducive of spaces for happy oranges. When the experiment failed for good, it was decided that ferns would be grown instead.




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