At Inveresk Lodge Gardens you will enter a haven, an escape from the city, a place to sit and clear your head. As soon as you walk through the entrance gate your nose will be delighted by the sweet scents of flowers, plants and herbs. There are immaculate lawns, staircases and pathways to lead you through this gorgeous place. It is only an 8 mile cycle from Edinburgh.
To get here by bicycle follow my Edinburgh to Musselburgh route guide. When you reach the path alongside the River Esk continue along this until you see a passageway on the right hand side that leads uphill on gravel. It is probably a good idea to push the bike up most of this because it is quite steep and the gravel difficult to get a grip on.
At the top you turn right onto a road that goes through the village of Inveresk. You will be immediately struck by the grandness of some of the properties, some in bright colour tones. It feels like a lovely place to live.
It is only about one minute of cycling through the village before you spot the sign for the gardens, which are located on the right.
Inside the entrance there are some handy bike racks, so you can park up before heading through the gate into the garden.
The first thing you will see is an immaculate lawn with perfect vertical stripes. It makes you think that someone bent down with a pair of scissors to get it looking this good. Facing this is the house, Inveresk Lodge, built in 1683. This white house is not open to the public, but interesting to note that its first owner was Sir Richard Colt, Solicitor-General to King Charles II. I took a peek through a window and could see a grand wood paneled room with an antique rocking horse.
Adjacent to the house there is an Edwardian conservatory where you can step inside and have a look at the potted plants and enjoy the wonderful aromas. There is also information panels that explain the history of the gardens.
Leaving the conservatory you will find a terraced walkway that is crammed with a variety of colourful flowers and plants. This is a joy to stroll along. From up here there are impressive views of the distant Pentland Hills. It is almost unbelievable that you are just a short distance from built-up urban areas. You are reminded of this by the background din from traffic on the A1 road, but the bird song triumphs over this.
As you wander around you will come across many interesting features like the sundial at the centre of the garden, dating back to 1644. There is a water feature with a gentle trickle, a decorative urn and a wooden staircase leading you through thick foliage.
There are plenty of benches dotted around the gardens, so lots of opportunities to have seat a take a few moments to appreciate the surroundings.
The lower garden consists of a large meadow and a pond, bordered by woodland. The singing from blackbirds, wrens and thrushes is particularly prominent in this area.
My video gives an excellent impression of what you can expect on a visit to these gardens:
How to get there
Start in the Meadows in Edinburgh and follow the National Cycle Route One signs. A full description of the route can be found in my Edinburgh to Musselburgh route guide.
Follow the route until you reach the wooded path by the River Esk. Turn left along this path and look out for the uphill gravel path on the right-hand side. This will take you up to the village of Inveresk. If you don't fancy cycling back you can use the train station at Musselburgh.
House of Mark is a unique and unforgettable guest house experience. This is because of a spectacular location at the end of a 16 mile single-track road, friendly hosts and a house full of character that makes you feel like you have gone back to a different era.
House of Mark is the only accommodation in Glen Esk, a glen on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It is located 16 miles from the village of Edzell. This road is perfect for cycling and the views of hills and mountains completely stunning. The house is close to a ruined castle and a loch. For tranquility the location is hard to beat. There are no shops, no pubs and no traffic.
The interior has been kept true to its Georgian roots with fittings and furnishings appropriate to that era. Original wooden floors and a minimal decor of traditional furniture make you feel like you have gone back to a simpler and more elegant time. The crispest of white sheets and a thick duvet makes sleep come easy after a day in the fresh air.
A cooked Scottish breakfast includes bacon from House of Mark pigs and eggs from the guinea fowl that live in the garden. You can make an advanced booking for dinner, which is a good idea because the food is excellent. I was served duck legs in a sweet red wine sauce with braised cabbage followed by a gorgeous lemon and orange cake.
There are special touches like rooms scented of smoke from the fireplaces and a dinner table set with crystal glasses and white napkins. After dinner you can retire to the lounge for coffee and sink into a leather armchair in front of the fireplace. There are no televisions, but conversation with fellow guests and the host, Ian, who has led a colourful life, is much more entertaining.
During breakfast I watched red squirrels feasting at a bird feeder. The area is rich in wildlife such as red deer, mountain hares, and golden eagles.
House of Mark is a great base for the spectacular walking in the glen. The Queen's Well walk takes slightly over one hour return. A path lined with purple Heather and framed by mountains leads to a stone well that was constructed by locals to mark the occasion of a visit by Queen Victoria.
Born in the Borders Brewery was founded in 2011. It is part of a food and drink company that champions the produce of the Scottish Borders. They have several outlets across the region where you can go shopping or enjoy a drink in a cafe or a pub. Foxy Blonde is a straightforward golden ale that is refreshing and balanced.
The big selling point of this brewery is that they are the only microbrewery in Scotland to grow their own barley and make beer from it. Foxy Blonde is easy to drink with citrus flavours, some sweetness and a bit of malt and bitterness coming through. There is no single dominate flavour which makes it a good one for new beer drinkers and anybody who just wants a straightforward and refreshing beer. This does mean that it is not a distinctive taste and you may find it to be similar to many golden ales on the market.
If you are looking for a beer to have after your cycling ride in the Scottish Borders then this is definitely one to try.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.