The Best Things to Do in Midlothian, Scotland

At Dalhousie Castle, you can handle falcons and stay the night
At Dalhousie Castle, you can handle falcons and stay the night | © Gabriela Antosova / Alamy Stock Photo
Tamarin Fountain

Found in the east-central Lowlands, Midlothian meets the suburbs of Edinburgh, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders on each side. This region of Scotland has awe-inspiring castles and countryside to discover, as well as an internationally renowned site of intrigue and mystery. Read on to uncover Midlothian’s top activities and hidden gems.

1. Handle the falcons at Dalhousie Castle

Historical Landmark

birds of prey centre in Dalkeith in Dalhousie castle
© Gabriela Antosova / Alamy Stock Photo

Dalhousie, on the outskirts of Bonnyrigg, is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. Along with fairytale towers, turrets and illustrious history, it has its own falconry. Those of all ages can book a hands-on encounter with hawks, owls and eagles, as well as falcons. Highly trained falconers will guide and supervise you, either as part of a group or by yourself. Dalhousie is also a great choice as a place to stay while visiting Midlothian, boasting a fancy spa and regal bed chambers.

2. Swim in Gladhouse Reservoir

Forest, Hill Station

The largest freshwater area in the Lothians, Gladhouse is a picturesque reservoir, created in 1879 by engineer James Leslie. Today, it’s a major draw for open-water swimmers and local recreational dippers. The best access point is from the road on its northern side. Here, you can hop the fence and wade in from the “beach”; when the water levels are at their lowest, you can even reach the island without losing the bottom. But if you’d rather stay dry, take the two-hour walk around the reservoir’s perimeter.

3. Go orienteering at Vogrie Country Park

Park

This extensive municipal parkland close to Gorebridge offers challenges to all levels of orienteers. Vogrie Country Park’s terrain is varied, comprising marshes, bridges, waterways, old railway lines, streams, forestry, knolls, boulders, crags, ditches and 19km (12mi) of pathways. The council provides a range of suggested routes for adults and kids of all abilities, or you can join the Saturday afternoon park run.

4. Uncover the secrets of Rosslyn Chapel

Church

Rosslyn Chapel, a 15th century chapel located in the village of Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland.
© Szymon Mucha / Alamy Stock Photo
Rosslyn Chapel achieved international fame following its inclusion in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code (1993) and the 2006 Hollywood movie. Legend has it that the treasure of the fabled Knights Templar is stowed here, in a deep vault sealed by a stone wall. Rosslyn Chapel features carvings, elaborate stained-glass windows, an atmospheric sacristy and an adjacent visitor centre telling the verified stories of this 15th-century building. The nearby Roslin Glen is beautiful and well worth a wander while you’re in the vicinity.

5. Join the quiz night at Laird and Dog Inn

Pub, Restaurant, British

Monday night (8pm to 10pm) is quiz night at this jovial riverside pub in the village of Lasswade. Order some food and drinks as you have a laugh answering the entertaining questions. Entry is £2 per person, with cash prizes up for grabs. For a head start with some pre-quiz clues, check out the pub’s Facebook page before the event.

6. Trek through woodland with Edinburgh and Lasswade Riding Centre

Hiking Trail

Enjoy the charming Midlothian countryside with a trot around the woods and across the rivers. Pony trekking is suitable for beginners, while those with some experience can go hacking for an exciting canter around disused railway lines and forestry. The friendly family-run riding school is home to around 50 horses and ponies as well as a clan of cute jack russells.

7. Visit Crichton Castle

Building, Hiking Trail, Ruins

Elevated view of Crichton Castle in Midlothian, Scotland, UK
© Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

This isolated castle in the village of Pathhead sits on a terrace overlooking the River Tyne. Crichton Castle, dating back to the 14th century, has been home to many dignitaries, including the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The continental-style diamond-faceted façade added in the 1500s is unlike anything else you’ll see in this country. Wildlife lovers should visit at dusk to spot some of the flying bats that roost in the stables.

8. Explore the rainforest at Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World

Botanical Garden

Always a hit with younger visitors, this exotic undercover hothouse is ideal for a rainy-day activity. It’s the world’s longest-running indoor butterfly house and lies just outside Edinburgh’s boundary at Lasswade’s Melville Nursery. Get up close to free-flying butterflies, as well as lizards, bugs, snakes and tarantulas. And take the opportunity to beat your phobias with daily handling and feeding sessions.

9. Ski at Midlothian Snowsports Centre

Ski Resort

Fly down a dry run on some skis or in an inflatable doughnut and get the blood pumping at Britain’s biggest artificial slope. Midlothian Snowsports Centre caters for all levels of expertise, with two main slopes, three nursery slopes, a jump slope and extra freestyle features. In the Pentland Hills, the centre has a scenic backdrop and, on occasion, some real snow.

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