Old Millhouse in Dalkeith sees bookings triple amid staycation boom

An 18th century former miller’s house on the banks of the River Esk, which has been renovated into a five-star VisitScotland spa retreat, has seen bookings triple as demand for staycations soars.

The property sleeps ten, with five bedrooms and bathrooms, a Hydropool swim spa and an orangery extension. Picture: Viktor Vass.
The property sleeps ten, with five bedrooms and bathrooms, a Hydropool swim spa and an orangery extension. Picture: Viktor Vass.

The Old Millhouse is located eight miles from Edinburgh in Dalkeith and surrounded by four acres of ancient woodlands. It was formerly known as Newmills House and dates back to 1703, when it formed part of a large complex of commercial properties servicing a flour mill further down the river. It was built over two levels until 1852 when another was added and it became a residential property.

Married owners Terry Walker and Sally de Waard, an interior designer, originally from East Lothian, bought the house in 2012. It had lain empty for six years, and they embarked on a two-year revamp to turn it into a luxury hideaway that sleeps ten, featuring five bedrooms and bathrooms, a Hydropool swim spa and an orangery extension.

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Dalkeith's Old Millhouse rural retreat given five-star rating by VisitScotland
Married owners Terry Walker and Sally de Waard bought the house in 2012. Picture: contributed.

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The couple have been helped by various organisations including Business Gateway Midlothian, including start-up and growth support, network-building and digital and marketing consultancy.

Since lockdown restrictions were lifted on self-catering homes, enquiries and bookings have tripled. These include everything from family getaways and weddings in 2020 to film company location bookings and a two-week exclusive use takeover by The Yoga Wellness Company for their first Scottish retreat.

De Waard said: “The last three months have really given us the opportunity to assess our business model, and although we’ve been really busy with enquiries and bookings, especially since the lockdown restrictions were lifted, it has given us the chance to review the way we run the business, especially in terms of wedding attendee numbers and our overall offering.

“We have a unique property, steeped in history and designed to a very high spec with influences from around the world, which we will continue to take group bookings for. However we’ll also be moving into even more partnerships with businesses like The Yoga Wellness Company to take over the property for a longer period of time.”

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Support

She also hailed continued support from Business Gateway Midlothian, from its adviser and all of the experts, “who have helped us through many steep learning curves and given us the guidance and confidence to keep going in the right direction”.

Neil Christison, VisitScotland regional director, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism and events industry. The Old Millhouse has shown great innovation and resilience in how it has adapted to the situation, which is great news for The Old Millhouse and for tourism across the region to see these first green shoots of recovery.”

Ann Marie Macaskill, head of Business Gateway Midlothian, said it is great to see The Millhouse’s owners “diversify to new markets and audiences, which will transform the business and help put Midlothian on the map as a great place to visit”.

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It was recently reported that 70 per cent of people in the UK plan on taking a staycation, which could add £27 billion to the UK economy.

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