EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
For those with the means and time to travel outside of Edinburgh, the surrounding areas and landscape are bursting with historic sights and attractions worth checking out.
Within easy distance of the city, and accessible by bus, is the small village of Cockenzie and Port Seton, an historic fishing village on the East Lothian coastline.
As well as being a picturesque area to walk through - and the popular John Muir Way leads straight along the shoreline here - one of the most historic features is Cockenzie House, a seventeenth-century manor house which was once home to the wealthy Cadell family from this area.
The house today is in the process of developing itself into one of the area's key historic visitor sites, with recent restoration of several rooms in the house to restore the style and atmosphere of the original property, as well as restoring the extensive gardens to the front of the building.
Now run by a heritage committee keen to showcase Cockenzie House's historic character, the venue is being made available for a variety of popular uses, from weddings to craft fairs, Jacobite-themed dinners and Outlander-inspired afternoon teas.
Inside the house, the atmosphere of the property in its heyday is wonderfully palpable, with the rooms illustrating the style and quality of life that was embodied by those who lived here.
The building was originally built in the 1680s by James Smith, whose other notable works include Edinburgh's Canongate Kirk, and Traquair House in the Scottish Borders. During the Jacobite Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, the Royalist forces, marshalled by Sir John Cope, left their luggage and valuables at Cockenzie House. In the aftermath of the battle (which lasted only 10 minutes) the Jacobite forces raided the house and made off with the valuables left there for safekeeping!
In the nineteenth-century Robert Cadell was the publisher of Sir Walter Scott's novels, and enlisted the artist JMW Turner to provide illustrations for many of Scott's books. Both Scott and Turner visited the property many times, and the Cadell family retained the property until 1919, when the house was leased to the botanist, anthropologist and explorer Sir Everard Ferdinand im Thurn. Thurn would later be credited as the inspiration for the central figure in Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World.
Today the house is a haven for those seeking to connect with East Lothian's historic past, and rooms in the house can be hired out for private events with an historic twist, or the gardens utilised for al fresco events.
Cockenzie House also currently houses Hecla, a contemporary art and jewellery studio (named after the unusual stone grotto in the gardens), and is soon to launch a new tea room, both with public access throughout the week. The house is available for hire for public and private events on request.
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