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: