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Parks: Hermitage of Braid Local Nature Reserve

Background
Hermitage of Braid is home to Old Hermitage House and its Visitor Centre. Other attractions include the Ice House, the Doocot within the walled garden and a pump system along the burn which was used to provide running water to the House. The reserve has held a Green Flag since 2011 in recognition of it being a quality greenspace.
History and heritage
The area is steeped in history - some of which is told in the old Hermitage House where the Headquarter of the City of Edinburgh Countryside Natural Heritage Service provides a charming Visitor Centre full of displays, activities and information. You can also explore the surroundings to discover the Ice House, the Doocot in the Walled Garden and even a clever water pump system along the burn that provided running water to the Hermitage House in the past!
The first recorded owner of this area was the son of a Belgian knight called De Brad, in the 12th Century. His son, Henri De Brad, was Sheriff of Edinburgh. He and his guests hunted for deer and wild boar in the forest.
In 1775 the architect Robert Burn was employed by Charles Gordon of Cluny to design the mansion house. The house was finished in 1788 and it was around this time that the dovecot, walled garden, stables and ice house were built. The dovecot housed pigeons which were eaten by the householders. The ice house was used to store food. It was kept cold by filling the base with ice colleted from local ponds and wrapped in straw, so it melted more slowly.
In 1937, the Hermitage was presented to the city as a public park by the owner John McDougal.
Wildlife
There is a wonderful mixture of habitats including woodland, scrubland, grassland, the Braid Burn and wetland which all provide a refuge for wildlife. Listen for green woodpecker calling from the top of the tall beech trees and if you are lucky, you could startle a fox hunting rabbits or even an otter swimming in the burn! Don't forget your binoculars as you might be surprised by the amazing birdlife you will encounter; herons, kestrels, kingfishers, song thrush and even tawny owls can be regularly seen around the Nature Reserve! A visit to Blackford Pond will give you a chance to get close to swans, mallards, geese, coots and more depending on the time of year. The Hermitage of Braid is a designated ancient woodland. This means that woodland has covered the site for at least 300 years. However, much of the woodland is now semi-natural with beech (Fagus sylvatica), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Sycamore (Acer pseudplatanus) regenerating freely. Most of the large, mature tees probably date from the early 19th century and there are many very old and large specimens scattered throughout the attractive woodland setting. Many exceed 40m in height, especially those growing in the valley bottom, which could make them the tallest trees in Edinburgh.
Geology
Blackford Hill is a contrast to the deep gorge of the Hermitage Wood. The Hill was formed from the oldest rock in Edinburgh and offers impressive panoramic views of the city, the Pentland Hills and Firth of Forth. Enthusiastic geologists love this place as it is full of significant hotspots to study rock formation. In 1840 the Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz declared the grooves in the rocks of Blackford Quarry were caused by glaciers and this was the start of a whole new chapter of geological study in Scotland.
Public Toilets
Public toilets are located at the stables.
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm.
Other useful links
Hermitage of Braid Birdlife
Orienteering
There is a permanent orienteering course here, which is accessible at all times. Map packs can be bought for £2.00 from the Hermitage Visitor Centre in the Hermitage of Braid, or through the website of Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club (www.esoc.org.uk)
Management Plan
Download the park management plan
Facilities
Natural Heritage ServiceOrienteering
QR trail
Interpretation panels
Car park (Midmar Drive)
Toilets
Visitor centre
Seating
Opening hours
Monday to Friday: 9am - 4pm.
Get Involved
Friends of the Park
Contact Details
Braid Road
EH10 6JF
0131 529 2401
naturalheritageservice@edinburgh.gov.uk
  • Monuments

  • Hermitage Doocot

    The dovecot is the second largest in Scotland, and once contained nearly 2000 sandstone nest boxes. It housed pigeons which were eaten by the family who lived in the main house....

  • Ice House

    The Ice house was built around 1788 when the main house was finished. It was used to store food. It was kept cold by filling the base with ice collected from local ponds and...

  • Memorial stone and sundial

    The original sundial was installed in 1938 to celebrate the gift of the Hermitage to the City of Edinburgh by John McDougal. However the complicated bronze superstructure, which...