The first place to take advantage of the power of the River North Esk as it descended from the hills was Patie’s Mill at Carlops which later also generated electricity for part of the village in the 1920s. There is a small car park in a former quarry in the village and footpaths allow a fairly easy walk to the North Esk Reservoir and the Bore Stane beyond. The village grew at the end of the 18th century around the cotton weaving industry and the Alan Ramsay Hotel has provided a focal point for summer visitors who have travelled to enjoy the beauty of the countryside since the middle of the 19th century when roads started to improve and travelling became easier.
Watch the Video (extract from ‘The North Esk River, From Source to Sea’)
The poet Allan Ramsay (1684 – 1758) spent much time with John Forbes at Newhall House which provided the setting for his greatest work, the pastoral comedy The Gentle Shepherd, – a story of rustic life and courtship in the Pentland Hills.
The name Carlops is thought to come from the story of two witches, or ‘carlines’, called Jenny Barry and Mause who would jump between the two outcrops of rock in the village – ‘Carline’s Loup‘ or Carlops, Mause being the witch in Ramsay’s story. According to local legend, lead is thought to have been mined in Jenny Barry’s cave in Mary, Queen of Scots time, the ore being exported to Holland where the high silver content of the ore was exploited to yield pure silver.
Near Newhall is Habbie’s Howe, a wooded gorge on the banks of the river where there is also a small waterfall and a beautiful pool called Peggy’s Pool. Farther downstream, there are signs of other mills; gunpowder was manufactured near Marfield until an explosion in 1830; a woollen mill provided the Penicuik paper mills with felts made from coarse Tweeddale wool.
There were also a number of quarries and mines in the area. A large stone quarry on the North Esk is said to have supplied the stone for Penicuik House. Earth embankments and inspection chambers, the remains of filter beds for filtering the water drained from one of the coal mines before it reached the river can be found – it was reported that the paper mill owners in Penicuik did not like the water from the North Esk to be polluted!!
Signs of the Talla [water] Main can also be seen in the area in the form of towers which were used to mount surveying equipment to assist with the construction of the Main. Talla Main was completed in 1905 to supply Edinburgh with water from the Talla Reservoir in Tweedsmuir. The aqueduct is 56 km long with 21 tunnels and cast iron syphons to take it under the rivers Tweed, Lyne and the North Esk.