Penicuik house preservation trust

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Following a devastating fire in 1899, the once magnificent Penicuik House was reduced to a roofless shell and remained in a state of ruin for over a century. Thanks to the Trust’s painstaking commitment to restoration, it now it lives on.  

 The trust

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In 1985, in response to a threat of demolition, the Penicuik House Preservation Trust (PHPT) was founded with a stated remit to restore and protect Penicuik House and the built structures within the Penicuik designed landscape for the benefit of the public. PHPT owns the parcel of land centred on Penicuik House, the focal point of the Penicuik Designed Landscape. The Trust is working with the Estate to repair and conserve the built structures within the Designed Landscape while the Estate is adopting a forestry management regime that, over a period of years, will reinstate the broadleaved woodlands to the design of Sir John Clerk, 2nd Baronet, who was instrumental in the creation of the Designed Landscape in the early part of the 18th century.




Our vision is to secure an exciting and sustainable future for Penicuik House and Designed Landscape, making it an appealing, accessible and inspiring place for new and existing audiences to visit, support and enjoy; now and for years to come.



Our aim, first and foremost, is to protect Penicuik House and restore the structures within the Designed Landscape so that we can open up new opportunities for a more diverse range of visitors to connect with our countryside and magnificent built heritage. Celebrating the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century – discovery, invention and exploration – we will bring them vividly to life for our 21st century audiences through inspiring interpretation and activities that create fascinating links between house, landscape and people



Promote the vision and mission of PHPT in order to encourage new and returning visitors and supporters, develop innovative educational, engagement and volunteer activities for a range of audiences and operate within a balanced budget with a secure income base.

Key activity  


Maintenance of the consolidated Grade A listed ruin of Penicuik House 

Preserving and restoring the historic built structures within the Designed Landscape

Introduction of a public programme of events and workshops

Stewardship of the Designed Landscape, jointly with Penicuik Estate


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 With the Penicuik House Project completed (2007-2014), the Trust is focusing on the repair and restoration of the built structures within this most important 18th century Designed Landscape. Our 20 year plan aims to:


Consolidate and repair these unique buildings, creating a place of inspiring heritage and natural biodiversity.

Revive the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment – discover, invention and exploration – for a 21st century audience.

Deliver tangible benefits, via PHPT and the Penicuik Estate, to the local community through the creation oF education, training and employment opportunity during the restoration project and beyond.


 Current & Future Projects


The Knight’s Law Tower Project

  • Grade B Listed Built Structure.

  • Located on a hilltop to the north-east of Penicuik House, Knight’s Law Tower is now in a dangerous state of disrepair and is currently closed to visitors.

  • Our Aim: Conserving a key ‘eye-catcher’ in the Designed Landscape.

  • Designed by Sir John Clerk and built between 1748 and 1750, the tower was conceived both as a belvedere (a structure designed to provide a beautiful view) as well as a working dovecot – a fine example of beauty meeting utility.

  • Rising to a height of some 16m, the circular stone tower comprises inner and outer drums, spanned by a flat roof of overlapping stone. The inner drum houses a stair giving access to wide circular passageways with the upper chamber providing 1,356 brick nesting holes for pigeons.

  • The view from the top of the tower over the Designed Landscape and rural Midlothian is magnificent and it is our ambition to return it to visitors by 2020.


The Ramsay Monument Project

Allan Ramsay (1684-1758) was perhaps the most important Scottish literary figure of this era, often described as leading a ‘vernacular revival’ through his writing. He laid the foundations of a reawakening interest in older Scottish literature, publishing The Tea-Table Miscellany and Ever Green in 1724 – a collection including major poetic works from the Stewart period. He led the trend for pastoral poetry, developing the ‘Habbie Stanza’, which was subsequently adopted by Robert Burns. Ramsay was also famous during his lifetime as author of the Scots pastoral play, The Gentle Shepherd, which was published in 1725 and performed as a ballad-opera in 1729.

  • Grade B Listed Built Structure

  • The Ramsay Monument is set on top of the Cauldshoulders Ridge, marking the end of the vista from Penicuik House as you look down the south-east avenue. An ashlar stone obelisk, pierced by three oval apertures on an arched base, it was built in 1759 by Sir James Clerk, 3rd Baronet, in commemoration of the poet Allan Ramsay, a frequent visitor to Penicuik House.

  • Our Aim: Preserving a monument to poetry

  • Restoring the monument will not only preserve this impressive feature but will also provide impetus for a programme involving visitors and school groups in the poetry of Allan Ramsay and the Scottish Enlightenment, revealing the inspiration behind pastoral verse. This project will provide an opportunity to contribute to the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence.



Grade B Listed Built Structure

The Hurley Tunnel and Ponds represent the 2nd Baronet, Sir John Clerk’s, most remarkable undertaking, enhancing an already unusual topographical formation occurring naturally within the landscape with the spirit and philosophy of the Enlightenment.

Our Aim: To return to visitors a unique Enlightenment experience

Restoring the Hurley Tunnel and Ponds will enable visitors to walk in the footsteps of Sir John Clerk and his contemporaries, ascending through the darkness of the Hurley Tunnel into the harmony and light of the delightful Hurley Ponds.

In 1741, Sir John, employing his own coal miners, dug a vast 40m long tunnel through an embankment between the River Esk and a U shaped valley in which he created a series of artificial ponds – a feature he had visualised in The Country Seat (1720s) as “Lakes from afar will charm the eye and seem huge silver mirrors set in verdant frames”.


Support us

Our ambitious undertaking will only succeed with the support of a variety of partners – from funders and donors to volunteers and conservationists – all of whom will share our desire to restore this unique place, of great intellectual and natural importance, with visitors and supporters who will find value in a landscape of significant heritage, inspiring ideas and great natural beauty.



Toby Metcalfe FRICS (Chairman)

James Dawnay (former chairman to 2014)

Sir Robert Clerk, Bt, OBE

Dr Iain Gordon Brown FSA FRSE

William Gray Muir CA

Charles Guest FRICS

James Drysdale WS

James Ferguson

Jason Elles CA