Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot teacher information

Preston Mill is one of the oldest water-driven meal mills in Scotland. There has been a mill on this site for centuries, and it was last in operation commercially as late as 1959.

A century ago, there were many mills operating along the River Tyne, serving the farmlands of East Lothian, but most have disappeared. 

The Preston Mill site comprises two pan-tiled buildings: the conical-roofed kiln for drying the corn and the mill containing the machinery for grinding the corn. The water system is still in place. A large iron waterwheel (believed to have been produced by Alex Mathers & Son in 1910) powers the machinery. There is an exhibition on milling, with archive images and recordings, in the visitor centre.

Phantassie Doocot is a 15-minute walk from the mill along a well-marked track. It contains nesting boxes once used for 550 birds. The walk connects to a food theme – from the mill to arable fields to the doocot. You can also opt to follow a footpath around the field and beside the river, for a longer walk.

The school visit offers opportunities for cross-curricular work and engaging with the Curriculum for Excellence. A guided tour of the mill demonstrates the machinery and explains the processes. Tours can be adapted to suit the requirements of your class. You can also visit the Preston Mill exhibition and enjoy a teacher-led walk to Phantassie Doocot.

Possible topics 

  • Trees and plants
  • Milling and industrial life
  • Food

Resources for schools

  • Illustrated guidebook (for sale on site)
  • Exhibition about Preston Mill and milling

Planning your class visit

  • To book: please telephone the Newhailes property manager on 0131 653 5599 for a booking form.
  • Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Preston Mill is open for schools during the season – please check precise timings with the property manager.
  • Maximum class size: 30 pupils, with a ratio of 1 teacher/adult to 6 pupils recommended for the mill. 
  • Teachers can lead a walk to Phantassie Doocot.
  • Access: we regret that this historic mill is not accessible for wheelchair users. The exhibition, shop and picnic site are accessible for wheelchair users. Please phone to discuss your requirements – we will do our utmost to accommodate your pupils.
  • Parking: there is room for small coaches and minibuses in the car park. Large coaches should drop off at the top of the drive – please check when booking your visit.
  • Toilets: there is a toilet on site that includes accessible facilities.
  • Refreshments: pupils are welcome to picnic here. In wet weather, you may shelter in the visitor centre.
  • Clothing: pupils should be dressed appropriately for the outdoors.
  • The site has been risk assessed. Teachers should prepare their own risk assessment for the visit.
  • For further information on the site, please see the property page.

Charges

  • There’s no admission charge for schools with Trust educational membership.
  • Non-members are welcome but there’s an admission charge of £2 per pupil.
  • Accompanying adults are admitted free.
  • All class teachers are encouraged to make a free preparatory visit to the site.

During your class visit

  • On arrival: please report to reception in the visitor centre.
  • Tours of the mill are always led by Trust staff.
  • SAFETY FIRST: please be aware that Preston Mill is a very old building with uneven floors and steps, some low beams and working machinery – so extra care is needed.
  • A mill tour takes around 45 minutes.
  • A class will be split into groups – each group must be accompanied by a teacher/school helper. The number of groups depends on the class size and activities booked (could be 3–4). Please check when booking your visit.
  • Teachers are responsible for their pupils and their behaviour.
  • Schools may take photos/films – but great care must be taken inside the mill.
  • Pupils are welcome to visit the shop, in small groups and with teacher supervision.
Download

If you prefer to print this information you can use this download. Please note that some of the information may now be out of date.