The river flows through the estate of Penicuik House, a great landscaped park laid out from about 1700 by Sir John Clerk, where many thousands of trees have continued to be planted over the centuries. It is thought that Sir John installed the first horse gin at his coal mine at Brunstane Muir as early as 1735.
Watch the Video (extract from ‘The North Esk River, From Source to Sea’)
Sir John was a patron of the arts and the old mansion house became a meeting place for others including Allan Ramsay. Sadly, the new mansion house built by Sir James during the 1760s was gutted by fire in 1899 and is now a ruin. Sir Robert Clerk is continuing the tradition of his forebears by pursuing a programme of improvements to the estate. Work is being carried out at present to make the outward structure of the building secure, offering the opportunity to create work experience and training in the use of traditional building methods. After the fire, the stables and courtyard were converted into the family home and garden and remain so today.
Many paths on the estate are open to the public. Some have recently been upgraded and areas where trees have been forested have been replanted. Circular routes from a small car park beside the South Kirk take you high up the hillside for some stunning scenery and a new footbridge over the river is planned to improve access but sadly this work will be delayed due to the recent landslide in the area (January 2007).
The Knight’s Law Tower, a round castellated doocot eye-catcher can be seen to the north and to the south, an obelisk memorial to Allan Ramsay. The remains of Ravensneuk Castle are beside one of the paths. A beautiful old bridge, known as the Roman Bridge, crosses the river although it has been renewed since the Romans were in the area. A weir on the river near the edge of the Estate formed a head of water to power the first paper mill on the North Esk in Penicuik.