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16 Aug 2018

New life for Newhailes

A view of the Weehailes playpark, showing purple playhouses, a zipline and a large sand pit. In the background are wooden walkways.
Weehailes playpark
We plan to revitalise the estate at Newhailes by investing in visitor facilities and creating a brilliant new play park.

This Musselburgh estate has strong historical links with the Scottish Enlightenment, and Newhailes House was once said to have the best library in Scotland.

The estate was originally laid out to impress visitors by stimulating their senses and contained a series of impressive garden features, including an atmospheric shell grotto, an elegant summerhouse, water gardens with water cascades combined with quieter, reflective pools, and a beautiful walled flower garden. However, it fell into disrepair after World War II.

Now, we’re taking steps to revitalise this fantastic green space on the edge of Edinburgh. A £2.4 million project has seen a range of improvements on site: the historic ha-ha is under repair, the flower garden wall is being rebuilt, a new community garden has been created, and the historic glasshouse is now repaired and being used daily as a catering space.

The Shell Grotto stands next to a path in the woodlands of Newhailes
The shell grotto is one of the unique features within the historic Newhailes estate.

We’ve been investing in visitor facilities too, making it an even more enticing place for families to visit - improved car parking and catering have gone down well with visitors this summer.

Also proving to be a massive hit is the Weehailes Playpark, which opened at Easter 2018. Inspired by the story of the house and its important role in the Scottish Enlightenment, the play park has a book-related theme centred around the ‘library’, complete with stained glass windows. Turrets, slides and high-level walkways provide lots of opportunities for younger visitors to explore.

There’s been a big increase in visitor numbers as a result and the feedback has been fantastic too.

“Weehailes Playpark only opened this spring and it’s the sort of wonderland I dreamed of as a child, but that just didn’t exist back then. It’s a real Aladdin’s Cave of treasures with walkways, cute wee wooden buildings, rope bridges and even zip wires.”
Robin McKelvie, travel writer and dad
A little girl in a bright purple fleece sets off on a zipline from a wooden platform. A woman and young boy stand on the platform, watching her go.
One of the McKelvie clan tries out the zip wire at Weehailes Playpark

This is just one example of how the National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this for the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 201823, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.

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