The centre of Dalkeith including the Country Park is a conservation area in recognition of its importance as an historic town with a number of listed buildings.

Dalkeith House, originally a 12th century fortalice built on an easily defendable ridge at the confluence of the North and South Esk was extended by the Earls of Douglas into one of Scotland’s premier classical houses between 1701-1711 by the architect James Smith.

p1010980      img248  Dalkeith House/Palace

Midlothian’s county town grew from the boundaries of the house along the High Street gaining importance as a market place when it became a Burgh of Regality in 1540. From then on the town developed with many interesting buildings dating from the 17th century onwards.

One of the earliest buildings in the High Street is the Tolbooth dating from the late 17th century. This has a stone classical frontage and was once the town jail and court.

p1010976      tolooth sketch The Tolbooth

Restoration and repair work undertaken as part of the Dalkeith Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) found evidence of an earlier structure beneath the render at the rear.

Another important historic building in the High Street is the former Cross Keys Hotel next to the Tollbooth, built in 1824 as an inn to serve the important market town area. The building has Georgian proportions with a rusticated stone ground floor with stone balustrades to first floor windows and a Doric pilastered central doorway and a carriage pend to one side. Again restored and repaired as part of the Dalkeith THI and CARS.

p1010984      cross keys sketch The former Cross Keys

There are a number of well proportioned stone tenement buildings in the High Street dating from the early/ mid to late 19th century onwards i.e. the Tait Street corner buildings, 100-102 High Street and 110-114 High Street.

A distinctive character of the architecture and urban form of Dalkeith in the mid 18th century was the density of development with residential adjacent to industry i.e. tanners, slaughter houses, market areas and the large number of closes giving access to the High Street from linear development at the rear.

ariel view of the High Street  High Street in the 1850’s

More recent is the town centre, Jarnac and Eskdaill Courts built in 1960-4 to the design of Robert J Naismith for Sir Frank Mears & Partners architects. This is typical of many early 1960’s town centre developments, concrete frame and panel architecture with shops on the ground floor and offices above.

jarnac court 2  Jarnac Court

The Dalkeith Townscape Heritage initiative (THI) and Conservation Area regeneration Scheme (CARS) was started in 2009 to upgrade tthe archiectural character of the town.

The Dalkeith THI and CARS was set up in 2009 to assist with the regeneration of Dalkeith town centre and ran until 2014.

The scheme was a partnership between the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Midlothian Council and Dalkeith Business Renewal. All the partners put money into a common fund to grant aid the repair and restoration of key historic buildings in Dalkeith town centre conservation area. In total £3.5 million was invested in the town centre.

The scheme had the following main priorities:

  • The repair and restoration of historic buildings. In total 28 buildings were repaired including The Tolbooth, the former Cross Keys Hotel, 1-3 High Street and 1-3 Musselburgh Road.

cross keys before    p1010984  The Former Cross Keys Hotel ,before and after photos, now retail on the ground floor with flats above .

tolbooth before   tolbooth after    The Tolbooth , before and after photos .

1-3 high street before    1-3 high street after   1-3 High Street , before and after photos .

1-3 musselburgh Road before   1-3 Musselburgh Road after  1-3 Musserlburgh Road , before and after photos .

  • The improvement and enhancement of the High Street. Footpaths were widened and paved in yorkstone, the carriageway as reduced in width and resurfaced, granite sett lay-by areas were provided for car parking and servicing and a granite sett pedestrian table was installed. The overall effect has improved the appearance of the street and made it safer and more comfortable for pedestrians to use. Millers, Elliot’s and Wilson’s Closes have been improved with new paving and lighting. In total 1,742m2 of public realm has been improved.
  • Training Plan. A formal training plan was set up in partnership with Edinburgh College to offer free training courses in traditional construction skills to trainees, contractors, home owners, building professionals and school pupils. Overall 50 people attended the courses.
  • Education and Awareness Raising. There was a wide engagement programme with the local community that involved the development and implementation of a number of projects including:
  • Dalkeith Heritage Trail
  • Youth projects – Dalkeith at a Crossroads DVD
  • The Corn Exchange project
  • Iwozheredalkeith initiative, and many others.(see for further details)

The success of the scheme has lead on to the repair and restoration of Dalkeith Corn Exchange together with further improvements to Dalkeith town centre.