The Lost Gardens of Penicuik

Nestled at the feet of the Pentland Hills not far from Edinburgh, Penicuik is a fairly quiet, unexceptional town, not the kind of place you would expect to find magic. But on its outskirts lies the estate of Penicuik House, a grand mansion which is now a stately ruin. The huge gardens which surround it were once some of the most impressive in Scotland, but since the house was gutted by fire in 1899 they have been slowly returning to nature. The result is a wonderfully wild and picturesque landscape now known as the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”.

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

Penicuik House has long been the home of the Clerk family, and indeed they still live in the imposing stable block near the ruins of the late 18th Century house. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, the famous antiquarian and politician who lived here until 1755, was responsible for much of what we see in the gardens today. A huge fan of ancient Rome, he littered the grounds with picturesque neoclassical fountains, and even built a dramatic cave leading to a lake based on the famous grotto at Pausillipo near Naples.

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

In the 18th Century the gardens at Penicuik were compared to the romantic landscape of Tivoli near Rome, famous for its huge waterfalls and rugged cliffs. Nowadays the place is rather overgrown, and on the day I visited the Pentlands were cloaked in heavy grey clouds, but this sense of brooding neglect only added to the magical atmosphere.

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

Some areas of the garden, including that ‘Roman’ cave, are still off limits to visitors, and in need of restoration. The opulent terraces are hidden in the overgrowth, the once proud gates are rusted and its crumbling walls covered in moss. The impressive ruins of Penicuik House itself are currently being consolidated, and a new project has also recently been launched to revive the large walled gardens which sit close by. It’s good to see the gardens of Penicuik being brought back to life, but I hope they still retain their wild, overgrown magic.

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

The inclement weather on the day of my visit prevented me from fully exploring the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”, but you can be sure that I will be back there soon to soak up its unique, enchanting atmosphere of elegant, magical decay.

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House

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11 Responses to “The Lost Gardens of Penicuik”

  1. I’m reminded of Daphne du Maurier’s description at the beginning of “Rebecca” of a return, in a dream, to the fictional ruined estate of Manderley.

  2. What a lovely place to visit, full of mystery. Thanks for sharing, love it when someone finds something like this out of the ordinary 🙂

  3. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words Says:

    what an amazing place…
    I want to go !
    maybe I will add to my bucket list, okay I did LOLs..
    Thank you for sharing the most wondrous places for us
    to walk along with you…
    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

  4. Rachael Charmley Says:

    Neglected places are wonderful! In many ways it’s rather sad when such buildings are restored…

  5. stuart macintyre Says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful and very evocative photographs. They brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood ,we lived in the Stable Block my stepfather being the estate gardener it was a very magical plce.

    • Many thanks for your comment – what a wonderful place to grow up! I didn’t really get the chance to explore the gardens fully, largely due to the awful weather, but I hope to get back there soon and take some more photos. As you say, it really is magical.

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