Hello and welcome to Dalkeith Country Park. This very special place has been enjoyed by guests for hundreds of years and we hope you enjoy your visit too. There’s over 2,000 acres to explore, Fort Douglas to play in, Restoration Yard to eat, shop and relax in and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy some fresh air in. But first, a little introduction to who we are.
A brief history of Dalkeith Country Park
Dalkeith Country Park has been in the Buccleuch family for over 300 years and the site itself can be traced back to Roman times. The woodlands are hundreds of years old and now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with some trees over 900 years of age. The architecture and designed landscape you see today are the result of changes by different generations of the Buccleuch family.
Dalkeith Palace was completed in 1711 for Anna, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch, who appointed leading architect at the time, James Smith, to design the new palace based on Het Loo in the Netherlands. It is built on the same site as the fortified medieval castle and palace of the Earls of Morton, acquired by Francis 2nd Earl of Buccleuch in 1642. It is regarded as one of the grandest early classical houses in Scotland.
Successive generations of the Buccleuch family have contributed architecturally to the Dalkeith estate’s landscape. The 1740’s stable block by William Adam, now home to Restoration Yard, was developed by Francis, 2nd Duke of Buccleuch; the remarkable Montagu Bridge by Robert Adam, was commissioned by Henry, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch in 1792. Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch instructed William Burn on a number of projects including the remarkable 12 sided Orangerie with doric columns and central chimney which remains adjacent to the stables. Fortunately however, Burn’s dramatic neo-Jacobean makeover for the Palace itself never progressed beyond an elaborate hand carved model.
Many eminent guests have been entertained at Dalkeith over the years. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here two nights during the Jacobite Rebellion year of 1745. King George IV slept here during his visit to Edinburgh in 1822, in preference to Holyroodhouse Palace, which was then in poor repair. Queen Victoria also visited in 1842.
Wartime and educational use
The Palace was last used as the Buccleuch family residence in the years before World War I. During World War II, Polish troops of the 3rd Flanders Rifle Brigade, part of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, were quartered on the third floor of Dalkeith Palace.
Since 1986, the Palace has been let to the University of Wisconsin for a study abroad programme. This means it is not open to the public, but you can still admire its architecture and beautiful setting.
Redevelopment: reopened in 2016
Several years ago Buccleuch wished to restore the park, its stableyard and courtyard to create a world-class visitor destination. After many years of planning, construction work began in 2015 and a £8.9million investment was made to create Fort Douglas and Restoration Yard and revamp the wider park including the waymarked walking and cycling routes. It created over 50 new jobs in the process, opening on 25th July 2016.
A partnership was created with Amanda Pratt, designer and previous owner of Ireland’s leading retail and food experience, Avoca, to bring her concept to Scotland. Restoration Yard is now a thriving Store, Cafe and Wellbeing Lab, which has not only restored the stableyard at the park, but enables visitors to help restore themselves, whether that’s through a walk, yoga class, shopping therapy or simply great food. The historical features of the stableyard have been painstakingly restored, so today you’ll still find the horse stalls and their feeding racks to view.
So there’s our story, not quite in a nutshell (not easy when you have a few hundred years of history to cover!). We hope you love it when you visit – we can’t wait to welcome you.