©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


This fine Palladian house lies a mile (1.5 km) west of Musselburgh and 4½ miles (7 km) east of central Edinburgh. Built as Whitehill by the architect James Smith as his home around 1686, it was quickly sold to Lord Bellenden, owing to Smith's bankruptcy and was subsequently bought by Sir David Dalrymple (d. 1721) in 1707. Dalrymple renamed the property Newhailes, after his ruined Hailes Castle (near East Linton). The original house was extended by William Adam, and a library was created, which reached its zenith with Sir David's grandson Lord Hailes (1726 - 1792). With uncharacteristic enthusiasm, Dr Samuel Johnson (1726 - 1792) described the library as 'the most learned room in Europe'. Further improvements were made by William Burn (1839). The house features fine plasterwork, a dining room, unaltered since 1739 and grand chimney-pieces, the only ones in Scotland by the noted Sir Henry Cheere.

The 35 ha (86 acres) of gardens around the house represent the remains of an important 18th C. designed landscape and have been subject to archaeological investigation. This featured a sophisticated water garden, with cascades and a roccoco shell grotto which is unique in Scotland.

The last of the line, Sir Mark Dalrymple, died in 1971 and, in lieu of death duties, the contents of the great library were removed to the National Library of Scotland. In 1997, the house was given to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) by his wife Lady Antonia Dalrymple because the cost of upkeep had become impossible and the house was in danger of falling into disrepair. Now, restoration is ongoing with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the NTS, and the intention is to return the magnificent collection of books to their rightful place in the library once restoration is complete.

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