Our carriage drops us at the home of the Dalrymples. We have been invited to dinner. We admire the perfect proportions of the building and proceed to the grand staircase. We are particularly looking forward to seeing the library, which is famous throughout Scotland as a centre of learning and scholarly discussion.
A guided tour to Newhailes begins with a walk into the driveway and up to the front door, the same approach made by distinguished guests of years gone by. My tour guide, Faith, encouraged me to use my imagination and to see myself as an invited dinner guest, making my way up the staircase to proceed through the front door.
Faith encouraged me to feel the banister of the stairs and notice how worn they are. "The National Trust wanted to only preserve and restore what was necessary to keep the building structuarally safe and leave it in a state that the last occupant left it."
This gives the house an authentic lived-in feel, so that it is pretty much as it would have been when Lady Antonia left it to the National Trust in 1997. The house dates from 1686 and remained in the Dalrymple family until the Trust took it over.
Once through that chunky front door I admired the wonderful rococo plasterwork in the hallway- there are lions, birds and fruit. The hallway provides views of the Firth of Forth.
The Dalrymples loved shells and there are shell decorations everywhere. Faith said: "If you get bored of the tour you can always occupy yourself counting the shells."
In the Chinese Sitting Room Lady Antonia had kept a tube of glue close by so that she could stick the shells back on as they had a habit of popping off the wall when she put the fire on.
The library is my favourite room, with its marble fireplace and polar bear rug, and I could imagine curling up to a book in one of the armchairs. However, the shelves are empty, not a single book to be seen. Some books had been sold off to pay for the upkeep of the house. The collection is now in the National Library of Scotland and considered very valuable.
Faith entrusted me with shutting the doors of each room as the tour group left. They are lovely, sturdy, wooden doors that have a satisfying close.
The tour also includes the dining room, bedrooms and the kitchen.
The exit we took from the house was particularly exciting. It was a servant's tunnel, designed so that the family did not have to see the servants. This provided an entry and exit point for the staff where they would not be noticed. There was a peephole to allow the servants to watch for arriving carriages.
The stable block has a cafe where you can enjoy a coffee at a table in one of the stable pens.
The grounds are worth exploring where there is a shell groto, mostly a ruin and no longer decorated with shells. The summer tea house is also a ruin, but you can use your imagination to think how lovely it must have been to enjoy tea taken in the gardens.
You cannot take photos inside Newhailes, but there are good pictures of the interior on the Undiscovered Scotland website.
There is a charge for the guided tour and the house is open from April to October. The National Trust website has full details.
Newhailes is 5 miles from Edinburgh. The cycle route is mostly traffic-free and I have describe this route in the next blog post.