As it leaves Penicuik, the North Esk passes through Beeslack Woods or Ladywood, said to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Hamilton. Her husband, James Hamilton, was a loyal supporter of Mary Queen of Scots and fought at Langside. Lady Hamilton fled from her home to seek refuge at Old Woodhouselee near Auchendinny. Unfortunately Regent Murray had her and her child turned out into the November night and they perished, provoking Hamilton’s murder of the Regent at Linlithgow some months later.
Auchindinny House, situated just outside the village was designed by William Bruce and built near the site of an older house between 1702-1707 for John Inglis, Writer to the Signet. It is still owned by a member of the original family. Because it was rented out for over 100 years, often to Officers from Glencorse Barracks, it hasn’t suffered from Victorian “improvements”. Like many prominent men in the city, Henry Mackenzie, author, best remembered for his novel of The Man of Feeling, and Controller of Taxes for Scotland, had a place in the country and lived in Auchindinny House between 1795 and 1807. He commented that the chimneys didn’t smoke!! One interesting feature is the sun emblem above the front door, an indication to the fire brigade should there be a fire of the insurance company providing cover for the family.
At Auchendinny Station, the railway bridge crosses the river and the road bridge crosses both railway and river which must have provided an unusual if not unique view for the passengers waiting on the platform. There are two railway tunnels at Auchendinny and the beautiful Firth Viaduct which carried the railway high over the river. Between the second tunnel and the viaduct are the remains of Old Woodhouselee Castle on an outcrop of rock and on the river beneath is the bridge leading to Firth House which can be glimpsed through the trees.
Midlothian’s last remaining paper mill producing specialist paper – Dalmore Mill, Auchendinny – operated from 1837 until 2004. In 1866, the North Esk was so polluted that all the mill owners were forced to install measures to treat the waste before it reached the river. The mill buildings have now been demolished (2007) and the area has been being redeveloped for housing, hopefully retaining an attractive footpath by the river’s edge.
The Esk Valley Trust have produced a leaflet showing walking routes between Roslin to Auchendinny.