To the Lowlands: Things to Do in Midlothian
Heading to Scotland? It’s a place full of hidden gems and Midlothian is one of the best
In case you weren’t aware, Scotland is one of the best places for a holiday. Every region is brimming with rich culture and a wealth of history. From the unique, historic cities with their many fine restaurants and whisky (plenty where that came from) to the rugged highlands and ancient castles, it really is a special place. Midlothian is no exception. Here at Plum Guide, we’re experts when it comes to this kind of thing. We know what to do and we know where to stay. In fact, we’ve got a brilliant selection of homes handpicked by our experts, if you’d like to start looking at Scottish accommodation. Without further ado, here are the very best things to do in Midlothian.
Marvel at Rosslyn Chapel
Just seven miles outside of Edinburgh is Rosslyn Chapel - one of the finest religious buildings in all of Scotland. This place is dripping in history, dating back to 1446. Even older than the first known deep-fried Mars Bar. The setting of the chapel and the intriguing, mysterious symbolism found within its ornate stonework have attracted visitors for many years. Tour guides can accompany you around, telling you more about the stonework and answering any other questions you may have (within reason). There’s also some new interactive guides and exhibitions that allow you to see the carvings up close. It’s the kind of place that will have you exhaling, saying ‘this looks like something from a film’. That’s because it is. Rosslyn Chapel played a starring role in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ so you’re walking in the footsteps of Tom Hanks here.
Visit the National Mining Museum
Moving on with things to do in Midlothian, is another, very different piece of Scottish history. The National Mining Museum is one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian colliery in Europe. Originally opened in 1894, Scottish miners heaved and toiled for nearly 100 years before closure in 1981. But closure did not mean the end of the mine. Everything has been preserved as it was and now, visitors can come and retrace the footsteps of the thousands of miners on guided tours, marvelling at the sheer size of it all and thanking their lucky stars they weren’t born back in Victorian times. It’s a must-do, listed category ‘A’ by Historic Scotland and twice winning the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions ‘Best Visitor Experience’ Award.
Head to Pentland Hills Regional Park
If you’re looking for outdoorsy things to do, then head to Pentland Hills Regional park. This place is what Scotland is all about. Large, open wilderness with reservoirs, lakes, rolling moorland and hills. The park is home to an unforgettable range of ‘medium-sized hills’ stretching from the City of Edinburgh down to Carlops. Of course, when the Scots say medium-sized hills, for the rest of us mortals that means fairly big. You’ll find nine peaks over 1500ft, all of them littered with archaeological remains of hill forts and ancient cairns, and offering some great views out across Edinburgh and the rest of Midlothian. It’s the perfect place for a hill walk, a dog walk, cycling, fishing, camping (if you’re feeling brave), horse riding, orienteering and perhaps even swimming (that’s really, really brave).
Take the family to Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
We say it’s brave because the Scottish weather can be notoriously brutal. It’s one of the last places you’d expect to find the longest running indoor tropical Butterfly House in the world, yet here we are. Indeed, this makes for a great way to kill a few hours whilst it’s raining outside. Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World allows you to get up close and personal with some truly special butterflies from all around the world.
You can also get up close and personal (run for your life) with many different insects and creepy crawlies. There’s all kinds of birds, geckos (those small lizards you’re used to seeing on the hotel wall in some far-flung, much-hotter destination), terrapins and tortoises. What we love most is how the staff are all incredibly warm, welcoming and full of knowledge that rivals Attenborough. It’s one of the more unique and unexpectedly fun Midlothian activities, and definitely one of the best things to do in Edinburgh with the family.
Spend some time at the Dalhousie Castle Falconry
Sticking with the natural world, head on over to Dalhousie Castle Falconry for a memorable day out with the world’s top birds of prey. We’ve found the staff here to be some of the most friendly and knowledgeable falconers in the UK, and they offer a number of different experiences, all of which allow you to get hands-on with the birds. Whether you’re a novice beginner or a little more seasoned, they’ll cater for you. Feathered, flying killing machines not quite your thing? The falconry is set in the beautiful grounds of Dalhousie Castle so you can simply take a stroll and enjoy some pristine Scottish countryside. And perhaps we should mention the Dalhousie Castle Spa with its three treatment rooms. Yes please.
Take a trip to Penicuik House & Cafe
Located just 10 miles south of Edinburgh, Penicuik House is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Midlothian. It’s been home to the same family since 1654, and boasts some of the finest designed landscaping in all of Scotland that make it perfect for those peaceful, relaxing walks through nature that we’re all craving right now. You’ll find all kinds of picturesque spots including the Knight’s Law Tower, the Chinese Gates, the Ramsay Monument, the Roman Bridge, and much more. It’s rather magical, and certainly gives those on the RHS show a run for their money. After your walk, take the time to experience a special meal at the Penicuik House Supper Club. You’ll enjoy a delicious, beautifully presented 5 course menu in a relaxed, intimate, and friendly atmosphere. Many of the ingredients are sourced from the estate itself, or at the very least locally sourced, so it’s a true taste of Scotland.
Of course, it takes one glance at a map to realise that Midlothian is on the doorstep of Edinburgh. Why not have a read of our essential three day itinerary for the Scottish capital? We’ve got a wide range of accommodation to choose from here, including homes in the heart of the Old Town (one of our favourite parts of Edinburgh).