Arniston House - Rear view

Rear of Arniston House

Arniston House - main Hall

Main Hall - Arniston House


Arniston House is a historic house in Midlothian, Scotland, near the village of Temple. The Arniston Estate lands were a royal hunting park in the Middle Ages, and were later owned by the Knights Templar, who gave the village of Temple its name. The estate came into the Dundas family in 1571, when they were bought by George Dundas of Dundas Castle. He left the estate to a younger son, James, who built a house and a walled garden here around 1620. The estate was expanded, and improvements were made by James' grandson Robert Dundas (died 1726) in the late 17th century. His son Robert, later the Lord President, continued the improvements, and built the present house.


Robert Dundas (1685–1753) was a lawyer and politician. He served as Solicitor General for Scotland from 1717 to 1720 and as Lord Advocate from 1720 to 1725. He was also a Member of Parliament from 1722 to 1737. In 1726, he commissioned the architect William Adam to design a new house at Arniston. Adam was then working on Sir John Clerk's nearby house at Mavisbank, but Arniston was to be a somewhat larger house. It was built over the foundations of the original 17th-century house, but Dundas ran out of money during the building works, which were only completed after 1753. By this time, William Adam was dead, and the design for the western part of the house was provided by his eldest son John Adam (1721–1792), for Robert Dundas' son Robert Dundas, of Arniston, the younger (1713–1787). In 1872, a new entrance hall was added to the north front by the architects Wardrop and Brown. The house is still occupied by members of the Dundas family who, in the summer months, open the house to the public and lead guided tours.


The house is of three storeys over a basement. The entrance front of the house faces north, and comprises nine bays. The central bays have a colossal order of Ionic columns, topped by a pediment, while the outer two bays at each end stand slightly forward. Pavilions, connected by diagonal corridors, flank a forecourt to the north, into which the 19th-century entrance hall projects. The south, garden front, is plainer, having a pediment but no columns. The Royal coat of arms of Scotland in the pediment may have come from Parliament House in Edinburgh, which was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century, around the same time that the porch and stair were added. Overall, the design of the house shows the influence of James Gibbs, and particularly his Down Hall, Essex. The most significant interiors are William Adam's two-storey, galleried saloon, with decorative plasterwork by Joseph Enzer, and the Rococo dining room and drawing room, by the Adam brothers. There are family portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn and Allan Ramsay.


William Adam designed a semi-formal park around the house, building on the late-17th century formal landscape. This was gradually changed during the 18th century to a more informal layout. The landscape gardener Thomas White (1736–1811) planned a new park in 1791, in the informal style of Capability Brown, and planting continued into the 19th century. A 19th-century formal garden occupies the site of the 18th-century "wilderness garden". Visitors are encouraged to walk in the tranquil grounds. The policies make for a romantic setting among ancient Beech, Lime and Oak Trees. The Sunken Garden which is a pleasant walk across the policies gives the chance to admire the south façade of the house in all its glory. To the North, Arniston looks over to Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh or Auld Reekie in the distance.


Parking is at the front of the house. Light gravel makes an outside circuit of the house accessible for most wheel chairs. There are three steps leading to the front porch where there is a wheelchair ramp. Most of the tour is on the ground floor beginning in the Hall. There are nine steps from the Porch to the Hall. They have a “TO8” stair climber which will transport most wheel chair users to the Hall from the porch in their own chairs. They regret that the stair climber will not transport electric wheelchairs. They have one wheel chair for use of visitors. Two rooms on the tour are on the third floor. Unfortunately there is no wheel chair access to these rooms. A large print version of the guide book is available for use on a tour. All tours are guided, Tours take around 1.5 hours. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Arniston Estate, Gorebridge, Midlothian EH23 4RY

Transport: Gorebridge (National Rail) then bus (R1, R5). Bus Routes : R1 and R5 stops 15 minutes (speak to driver).

Opening Times : May, June - Tuesday, Wednesday, tours at 14:00 and 15:30; July to 10th September, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday tours at 14:00 and 15:30.

Tickets :Adults £7.00;  Concessions £6.00;  Children (5 - 15) £3.00

Tel. : 01875 830 515