Montagu Bridge - A Grand Romantic Gesture

Looking for the most romantic spot for a proposal on Valentine’s Day? Montagu Bridge in Dalkeith Country Park could be the most spectacular place for that perfect down-on-one-knee moment. Here’s its story.

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Dalkeith Country Park
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A Grand Wedding Gift

Montagu Bridge, a spectacular single arch span over the River North Esk, is one of the last works of the great architect Robert Adam. In fact he died before its completion in 1792. The bridge was conceived as a magnificent eye-catcher of a structure. It was designed to be viewed from Dalkeith Palace. However, it also offers a beautiful frame for Dalkeith Palace when it’s viewed from its other side. This bridge was an extravagant gift for and named after Lady Elizabeth Montagu. It was built to celebrate her marriage to the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch and the union of their two families – Montagu and Scott.

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The Mystery of Montagu Bridge

You can see Robert Adam’s original design for Montagu Bridge in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

There is a mystery surrounding Montagu Bridge. Adam’s original plans for the bridge show it adorned with life size sculptures of stags. The story goes that it was built with these in place but they were removed because they frightened horses. However, the Robert Adam drawing Design for a Doric Bridge, which is on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, seems to suggest that bridge was actually built in a more simple form than his plans. The fact that any whereabouts of the alleged stag sculptures are unknown support the theory that Adam downscaled his designs:

“Adam’s design for a bridge connecting Dalkeith Palace with the main Edinburgh road shows how important the example of ancient Rome remained in eighteenth-century Scotland. Its monumental scale recalls the magnificence of Roman bridges and aqueducts, while its elaborate surface decoration derives from the great temples and bathhouses built by the emperors for the Roman people. Although built in simpler form than Adam originally intended, it remains an astonishing testimony to the architect’s ability to adapt ancient forms to the needs of eighteenth-century clients.” National Galleries Scotland

Montagu Bridge at Dalkeith Country Park

A Contemporary Admirer

Author Sarah Murray, a sister-in-law of the Earl of Dunmore, travelled throughout Scotland. In her 1799 book, “A companion and useful guide to the Beauties of Scotland”,  she says: “The bridge, viewed from the house must be a fine object: it is of one arch, a semicircle of 70 feet; thrown from rock to rock. The woods and banks of the river about the bridge, are very romantic; and, to me beautifully rough and broken”.

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Montagu Bridge Today

Montagu Bridge captured by photographer Kenny Lam for Visit Scotland

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