Newhailes is an amazing survival story. This means you can experience this dignified 17th-century home and its 18th-century additions in authentic condition. With much of the original decorative scheme – the Chinese hand-painted wallpaper, painted woodwork and furnishings – surviving intact, the interiors have mellowed beautifully, adding greatly to the character of the house. Newhailes is also a unique achievement in conservation terms. Rather than attempt to re-create an immaculate dwelling, the Trust has worked hard to keep the house ‘untouched’ by modern hands.
If you’re hungry for Scottish history, Newhailes features prominently in the Scottish Enlightenment. Sir David Dalrymple, one of Newhailes’ most illustrious owners, built the library in 1718. Unusual because of its size and prominent placement, it was probably the largest private library of its time in Scotland.
It’s easy to imagine key figures of the Enlightenment gathered in this room for discussion and debate surrounded by Dalrymple’s vast collection of books (currently held in the care of the National Library of Scotland). Dr Johnson himself reportedly described the library as ‘the most learned room in Europe’.
The 18th-century designed landscape surrounding the house holds a few surprises of its own. Take a little time to explore and you will discover a raised walkway beneath the overgrowth, a hidden grotto, and a number of woodland paths. Research is currently underway to reveal the original layout of the landscape, so who knows what other delights we may be able to share with you in the future?
By Rachel F