Walk into a magical world of ancient machinery, cogs and cranks turning to the rhythm of the water wheel that powers them. This is Preston Mill in East Lothian. A unique experience that can be visited by bicycle.
Fans of Outlander will recognise Preston Mill, as it featured in the series. Visits to the mill are by a short guided tour. The highlight is being able to watch the machinery at work. I was fascinated that the cogs slow down and speed up, depending on how fast the waterwheel moves. You get the feeling of something that is predominantly dependent on nature rather than human intervention, something more organic than machine. This is now quite alien in today's technology, which is why it is so special to see this.
The building itself is quite unusual. I have not seen anything like it before. The roof is inevitably compared to a witch's hat or something from the imagination of J.K. Rowling or Tolkien, but it serves a practical purpose. It houses a furnace to dry the grain.
There are chains to pull up the bags of grain to avoid the previous practice of people carrying it on their backs.
This building was added to through the years as successive generations of millers built up their knowledge and experience and looked for the least labour intensive methods.
I liked my guide's theory that it was probably the apprentices who suggested the improvements. The miller would have been used to doing things the same way for years, but an apprentice would spot new ways of working. This is exactly what happens in today's modern workplace when new people are employed and suggest improvements.
Outside the mill you can have a look at the waterwheel at work.
Take a short walk across the river to get a closer look at the curious beehive-shaped structure. Can you guess what it is?
It is a 16th century doocot that housed 500 pigeons for the purpose of eating them. Pigeons were once a delicacy for the owners of large estates, but they were a nuisance to farmers as one bird could gobble 100 kg of grain per year.
There were pigeons flying in and out of it during my visit , so it looked like it was still providing a home for birds.
How to get to Preston Mill
Preston Mill is just under 6 miles from the nearest train station at Drem, so you can cycle there direct from the station using the map below.
Or for a circular route that starts at Longniddry station and ends at Drem follow these steps:
East Linton. You would be hard pressed to find a prettier village. Colourful flower beds, a row of characterful buildings and a fountain with golden figures. When you are cycling on Route 76 it is worth stopping to have a look around and then head to the nearby Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom for a spot of lunch next to the bird feeders.
The previous blog covers the cycle route from Haddington to Hailes Castle. From the castle continue along the narrow road for just under 2 miles and you will enter East Linton over a bridge crossing the River Tyne.
The village has a variety of buildings, which makes it an interesting and attractive place to walk around.
In this photo I like the small white house with the round window in its gable, sandwiched between the grander white building and the stone cottage:
There are some of the characteristic East Lothian cottages with their red roof tiles. In this photo I like how the window to the right of the door is higher up than the window to the left of the door:
The centrepiece of the village is the cast-iron fountain with figures of four boys pouring urns. There is a decorative lamp stand on the top of the fountain.
There are a couple of places to eat in the village, but I tried the Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom less than a mile away, down a long driveway (marked on the map below).
I had pea and watercress soup, a coffee cake and a cappuccino. It was excellent food, but what I loved the best about this tearoom was being able to watch the bird feeders out of the window. A blue tit arrived at one of the feeders just as I sat down. It was pecking at the seeds and I noticed that more seed seemed to end up on the ground than in his beak!
I tried to take a photograph of the birds, but each time I positioned my camera they flew off, so these photos are not brilliant.
The birds waited in a nearby hedge and then flew over to the feeders once the coast was clear. Each time that I made a movement to take a photo the birds flew away back to the hedge. They waited there until they felt safe enough to come back to the feeder. Again, when I moved they flew back to the hedge. I decided to sit still and enjoy watching them than trying to get a perfect photo.
East Linton is due to have its train station reopened. This is written into the contract of the current operator of the Scotrail franchise, but no dates has yet been set. It does mean that it will be much easier to reach this village and access the surrounding area by bicycle.
Where to next?
Preston Mill is in East Linton and well worth a visit. Read my blog about Preston Mill.
How to get to East Linton
East Linton is just under 6 miles from the nearest train station at Drem. For a circular route that starts at Lingniddry station and ends at Drem follow these steps