Dalkeith Country Park, or DCP for short, located to the north-east of Dalkeith town centre offers up a good dozen well-spaced zones, plus one other isolated zone I’ve added due to its close vicinity, and because it was sad and lonely, giving us an unlucky 13 zones to play for. DCP is easy enough to access either on foot, by velocipede, by infernal combustion engine (by which you have to pay a £3.00 parking charge or £10 a month if really keen), or by trusty human powered Swifty kick scooter.
Now, a tour of the turf zones in DCP is not all that straight forward, mainly ‘cos they are well spread about the park, often in locations with nasty and to my mind illegal, signage stating, NO BICYCLISTS HERE OR ELSE and ONLY HORSES HERE BECAUSE. Neither of which makes for a joyous carefree visit. Note that my chosen route through the 13 zones may not be optimal so feel free to follow your own route.
However, a turf visit must begin somewhere and zone Restoration is as good as any of them. For starters, it’s beside the restaurant and café and you can all enjoy that mind-numbingly confusing question they ask when you simply ask for a coffee. What kind of coffee would you like, sir? We have Latte, Filter, Cappuccino, Americano, Espresso, Doppio, Cortado, Red Eye, Macchiato, Mocha, Mud Puppy, Ristretto, White, Flat White, Hilly White, Café au Lait and Slightly Irish. See what I mean? I just want a coffee, please! Do you want milk, sir? Yes, please, thank you. Hot or cold milk, sir? Jesus, I just want a bloody coffee! Whole milk, semi-skimmed milk or skimmed milk, sir! Sugar is on the table. White or brown.
Your choice of transport here in DCP is, as noted above, either on foot, bicycle or kick scooter. On foot is fine as you can access most zones without encountering any of those nasty signs restricting access. Oh, I forget, other than the one leading into the wood for zones TheUnknown and YouAreTheAce, namely Horses Only. I’ve had more than one encounter with a certain very aggressive
lady woman person evil witch here. If I were to repeat her first greeting to me while I was cycling, you may get the idea. “What the fuck are you doing here?” was what she shouted. And bearing in mind I’d dismounted from the bike and moved back some three meters from the path for them.
Anyway, back to transport. My preference is for the Swifty kick scooter, and visiting under cover of darkness means I need not concern myself about encounters with aggressive horse riders, dogs out walking their owners, screaming stocky-fingered wains, flexible yoga fiends, and suspicious looks from park staff, or with anyone else, for that matter. Next zone I would go for is DoNOTCrossEsk. This is easily reached along the tarmac road heading east from Restoration Yard. Keep left at the end and cross the Smeaton bridge. The zone is a short way up the dirt track at the corner. Note the nasty sign on the gate. What sign you say? Yes, indeed. Well done.
Next our two aforementioned zones, TheUnknown and YouAreTheAce. Continue following the tarmac road. Soon you will encounter a path on the right leading into Smeaton Glen and down through the woods. The track here is often churned up by horses so can be quite rough underfoot, and also boggy in places. By now you will probably not have even noticed the nasty sign on the fence. Good stuff! Zones taken? Now, unfortunately we have to back track to the road and continue following same, looping round to the left back towards Dalkeith. You should cross under the A68, if not, you are lost and need to start again.
Our next zone is BridgeOfFaith, a short way down a rough track to the River North Esk. Again, more signage here, this time NO BICYCLES. Yea, no worries me thinks riding his kick scooter. Sorry, your sign clearly states bicycles, this is not a bicycle. Look no pedals! You need to cross the bridge to take the zone. A short prayer will probably help if you want to get back again safely. Note the holes in the bridge decking, the rusty cables, crumbling foundations and woodworm colony! Only jesting, it’s quite safe. Probably.
Our next zone is an extra one I’ve included here, NewtonChurch, actually located across the stone wall outside DCP but close enough to be worth visiting. Start by following the track alongside the stone wall. If you can hear the rumble of traffic on the A720 City Bypass to your right, you are on course. If not, you are lost. Now, just as you drop down the dip towards the Dean Burn, veer right and you will come across a low part of the wall, with a handy rope to assist. The zone is across the field in the trees. Always follow the perimeter to avoid damage to crops, if any. Not much remains of Newton Church other than the tower itself. Good for owl pellets if you are interested in teasing them apart and adding some mouse, nano-goblin or shrew skulls to your collection. There are clay pigeons breeding in the long grass.
HowlandsPark zone is next, so return to the track by the wall and head towards Dalkeith, you will soon walk through the zone. Next straight on forwards, cross the crossroads and zone LugtonCross is at the next junction. Again, another easy take. Then straight on again for zone LugtonBrae. Our next zone is SneakyPlace, located down by the river below Dalkeith Palace. So, back to zone LugtonCross again and turn right along the track heading downhill and keep left along the river. GPS can be a bit variable here occasionally and may require some work.
For zone DalkeithHouse, found in the open grass area between the house and the river, cross the Montagu Bridge, and follow the wee path down to the left, this will take you under the bridge and into the field (once upon a time a bowling green) where the zone is located. Just two zone left now. For the second last zone, ToEdinburgh, it’s back under the bridge again and this time straight on, following the signposted path. Note the No Bicycles sign. The zone is located beside the fence soon after. The path here can be quite tricky on either kick scooter or bicycle due to exposed tree roots, some at just the right angle for sending you sideways. For our final zone in DCP, about turn and walk back keeping the fence to your left until you reach a metal barred gate. If you cross the gate, you will enter Steel Park, same place as zone ParkOfSteel. Then it’s just a short walk back to your start point.
And that was Dalkeith Country Park, 13 zones for the budding turfer, a nice walk in the countryside, shops to buy stuff you don’t need, dodgy signs that shouldn’t be there but the coffee and scones are worth waiting in the queue for. Day visits are okay but often busy. Night-time visits are best but note the main gates close at 7.00 pm each evening (yes, you can still get out after 7.00 pm and won’t be trapped). 24-hour access to the pedestrian gate can be purchased for £12.00 a year with the Friend of Dalkeith Acorn membership, or you can always climb over the wall from the Millerhill side. Have fun.
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