In Balerno stands Malleny House, built in the early 17th century and famous for its rose shrubberies and fine old ‘doocot’ a pigeon house with 915 nesting boxes, originally designed to provide a supply of fresh meat during the Winter.
Preston Mill, with its attractive pantiled roof, is the oldest working water-driven meal mill in Scotland, and dates from the 16th century. Also of interest is Phantassie Doo’cot which once housed 500 birds. Originally, it stood in the grounds of Phantassie mansion where the engineer John Rennie was born. Ruined Hailes Castle, where Bothwell fled with Mary Queen of Scots, lies a mile away, and south of it rises Traprain Law, where a famous hoard of Roman silver was found.
This delightful village on Gifford Water dates from the 18th century. It replaced an earlier village demolished by the 2nd Marquis of Tweeddale to make way for the parkland surrounding Yester House. To the south of the village are the sheep-grazed Lammermuir Hills, ideal for walking and ponytrekking.
The ancient Royal Palace of Linlithgow overlooks the town loch. The palace is probably Scotland’s finest and dates from 1424 when James I built it on the site of another, destroyed by fire. James V and his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, were born here. Their palace, too, was destroyed by a fire in 1746 started, probably inadvertently, by the Duke of Cumberland’s troops. In the town is the church of St Michael, also rebuilt in 1424; it is one of the finest in Scotland. The original crown steeple of the tower was renewed for safety in the 1820’s a symbolic 20th-century crown of thorns replaces it. The oldest bell dates from 1490 and was tolled in 1513 after the Scots“ defeat at Flodden. There are several late 16th century houses in the High Street. The ruins of Blackness Castle are four miles north east; to the east is the House of Binns, a magnificent 17th century house, with beautifully moulded plaster ceilings inside.
North Berwick, an ancient royal burgh 23 miles from Edinburgh, is a popular seaside resort and a residential area for commuters to the city. Among its attractions are two particularly good golf courses. One mile south, a volcanic hill named North Berwick Law (613ft) has the ruins of a watchtower on its summit (used during the Napoleonic Wars) and an archway constructed from the jawbone of a whale. Bass Rock, three miles out to sea, has a famous lighthouse. For a while after 1671, the rock was used as a place of imprisonment for Covenanters. Bass Rock and the other Firth of Forth islands, Fidra and Eyebroughty, are now a nature reserve. Tantallon Castle, ruined by General Monk in 1651, commands a wild headland three miles east of the town.
South at East Fortune a monument marks the first Atlantic double crossing by air in 1919 by the Airship R34. The Museum of Flight is situated at East Fortune Airfield, part of the Royal Scottish Museum. Exhibits, some of which can be operated by visitors, include a Spitfire, a de Haviland Sea Venom and Hawker Sea Hawk.
The old ferry that used to ply across the Firth of Forth departed from Hawes Pier, where there is an old inn featured both by Sir Walter Scott, in The Antiquary and by Robert Louis Stevenson in Kidnapped. The ferry stopped in 1964 when the Forth Road Bridge was opened. This 2000 yd-long bridge is as impressive a piece of engineering as the 2765yd-long railway bridge that was built at the end of the 19th century. Dalmeny House, home of the Earl of Rosebery, commands magnificent views of the Firth of Forth. The house contains the Rothschild Collection of 18th-century French furniture, porcelain and tapestries. Two miles west, Hopetoun House is Scotland’s most distinguished Adam mansion, home of the Marquis of Linlithgow. Deer and St Kilda sheep coexist peacefully in the grounds, and the house contains interesting furnishings.
Torphichen is a quiet village below the Bathgate Hills, with a good view from The Knock (1017ft). Cockleroy, a local hill originally called Cuckold le Roi, is cited in an R L Stevenson poem. Cairnpapple Hill is one of Scotland’s principal prehistoric sites. Originally a Neolithic sanctuary, it was enlarged in the Bronze Age, when a circular temple was built. Torphichen Preceptory was the chief seat of the Knights of St John, a church that looked like a castle. Of the original Norman church, only the chancel arch survives. The transepts are 13th century, the tower 15th century. Over the ancient nave, the 16th-century parish church stands.
Prestongrange Historical Site and the Scottish Mining Museum at Prestonpans tells the 800-year history of this mining district inland of the Firth of Forth. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the only Cornish beam engine which remains in Scotland. Tranent has a 16th-century dovecote; a 19th-century church on ancient foundations; a place in Scott’s Waverley Colonel Gardiner died here after the Battle-of Prestonpans in 1745 and, two miles south west, the 15th to 16th-century ruin of Falside Castle.