Travel review: Newhailes, Musselburgh, Scotland

The majestic Newhailes

The majestic Newhailes

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It is fun seeing how the other half lived in times gone by. Imagine living in historic castles or grand houses and having sumptuous gardens to boot.

The National Trust for England and Scotland cares for literally hundreds of buildings, which would be lost without their hard work.

Running huge old buildings can be a financial headache for their owners and over the years, homes have been placed in the care of The National Trust, who preserve them with painstaking expertise and accuracy, making sure the buildings are kept as much as possible, as they were in their hey day.

A fine example of this is Newhailes, a fantastic neo-Palladian Villa, just outside the beautiful town of Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.

The house was given to the NTS in 1997 by Lady Antonia Dalrymple, wife of Sir Mark, the third baronet of Newhailes, who died without leaving a heir in 1971.

So huge is the house, that Lady Antonia used to rent rooms out to art students to bring in some income and her last days in Newhailes were spent in a self-contained flat in one of the wings.

The house sits majestically at the bottom of a sweeping driveway and its hard to believe the big city of Edinburgh is only a few miles away.

To preserve the character of the house, the NTS has done as little as possible work wise and its fair to say that some of the décor is not to everyone’s taste.

But as you tour around, you can imagine living there. From the huge polar bear rug, which is now tatty around the edges, in the library to the magnificent Chinese sitting room and beautiful dining room.

Chinese artwork and silk wall paper is the main décor of the house and there are some imposing rooms. The library is now berift of books as Lady Antonia was forced to sell them off to pay debts, but so grand is the house, that you can imagine the fun the Dalrymple family and their ancestors had.

As you leave through the servants tunnel, which was created so the inhabitants of the house did not have to look at their helpers as they moved from one end of the house to the other, you appreciate what good work the NTS have done to make sure this impressive villa stays as it was.

Two of the best examples of gardens run by the NTS are Arduaine Garden, south of Oban, a tranquil green oasis on the south side of the Arduaine peninsula, which during the year boast a wonderful collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, Blue Tibetan poppies, giant Himalayan lillies and Chatham Island forget-me-nots.

And Crarae Gardens near Inveraray is one of Britain’s finest examples of an exotic Himalayan-style woodland garden and has a dramatic gorge, rippling burn, waterfalls and cliffs. It has been set out in such a way that it really looks natural and it’s a joy to walk around.

Check out some national treasures cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, www.nts.org.uk