First impressions of the Old Millhouse

“It’s not what it looked like in the brochure…” 

That’s what a lot of people say when they first arrive at their holiday accommodation. However, it took some time for this thought to cross our minds and when it did it was to muse that, in this case, it was true – it wasn’t what it looked like in the brochure (or rather the website): in fact, it was a whole lot better, and by a considerable margin.

That’s not to say the website doesn’t give you an idea of what to expect when you rock up to the Old Millhouse in Dalkeith.  It does – it looks fabulous: it’s just that the reality is actually even better than the impression you get online.

We – that is to say my wife and I – were recent guests at this most impressive, restored eighteenth century house just a few hundred yards away from the centre of the historic town of Dalkeith, outside Edinburgh. I have driven past the entrance literally hundreds of times, but I never knew there is this small oasis of verdant tranquility nestling in a crook of the river South Esk. We missed the entrance the first time, that’s how unimposing it is, but circled round and found it easily enough on our second pass.  An intercom opens the gates and Sally de Waard, the owner of the property, told us as she buzzed us through, “the door’s open, just come in.”  What a lovely, friendly welcome!

We had the place to ourselves, although it takes up to 10 adults (plus a few kids and the odd pet).  We spent the first ten minutes exploring, working out which bedroom to sleep in.  We eventually plumped for the Esk Room (largely because it was the biggest!).  We then spent another ten minutes exploring the gigantic kitchen, opening drawers, closing them, trying to remember which ones contain the plates and which the place mats, where the cooking utensils are and marvelling at the array of herbal teas, condiments, herbs and spices, as well as the box of freshly-laid hens’ eggs (from the house’s hens, naturally).

This being Scotland, the weather was variable. Well, I say variable, but it was actually pretty consistent; consistently wet that it, ranging from raining a wee bit to dingin’ doon like stair-rods. This was a clue that we should hunker down for the evening, which we did in the huge Orangery, which contains an enormous dining area and an even more enormous sitting space.  Despite it being May, we lit the ultra-modern gas fire and the room warmed up quickly.  A glass of wine and an exploration of the many fascinating books about Midlothian, trains, planes and automobiles (amongst other things), whiled away the hour before dinner.

Old Millhouse DeerReturning to the kitchen, we were faced with a dizzying array of cooking options*.  An electric range cooker, a huge microwave, an extra oven – and an enormous central table with chairs for those who don’t fancy making the effort to walk through to the dining room to eat.  A quickish blast of the microwave, another glass of wine (Beaujolais, if you must know), and dinner was ready.  We finished eating at about eight o’clock and repaired to the sitting area.  While quietly reading (we’re pretty restrained in our habits) I became aware that someone was looking in at us through the huge windows of the Orangery.

It was a hind, a female deer.  We later discovered that she is a resident and, as such, relatively bold, for a deer at least.  We wandered to the front door, to find our visitor mildly gnawing some leaves on one of the trees.  She meandered, unconcerned, across the lawn and disappeared.  And it was at this point that we realised that this is no ordinary holiday venue.  It seemed strange to realise that less than a short distance away was a town centre full of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. It wasn’t like the brochure/website – it was a country mile better…

Alastair Blair

PS – in my next report on our stay at the Old Millhouse I’ll tell you a bit more about the rest of the rooms in the house and what it’s like in the garden.

* We were there on a self-catering basis but it’s equally easy for Sally to arrange for all the catering should you wish.


Contact us

The Old Millhouse 40 Newmills Road Dalkeith EH22 2AQ

Phone: 0131 660 1767

Mobile: 0782 477 3060