HAWTHORNDEN house stands on the south bank of the Mid-Lothian North Esk, amidst exquisitely picturesque and romantic scenery, and contributes, in its own figure and in the fine demesne which surrounds it, interesting features to the warmly tinted landscape. Constructed with some reference to strength, it surmounts to the very edge a grey cliff which, at one sweep, rises perpendicularly up from the river.
—— “The spot is wild, the banks are steep,
With eglantine and hawthorn blosssom’d o’er,
Lychnis, and daffodils, and hare-bells blue:
From lofty granite crags precipitous,
The oak, with scanty footing, topples o’er,
Tossing his limbs to heaven; and, from the cleft,
Fringing the dark-brown natural battlements,
The hazel throws his silvery branches down:
There, starting into view, a castled cliff,
Whose roof is lichen’d o’er, purple and green,
O’erhangs thy wandering stream, romantic Esk,
And rears its head among the ancient trees.”
Beneath are several remarkable artificial caves, hollowed with prodigious labour out of the solid rock, communicating with one another by long passages, and possessing access to a well of vast depth bored from the court-yard of the mansion. The caves are reported by tradition, and believed by Dr. Stukeley, to have been a stronghold of the Pictish kings, and, in three instances, they bear the names respectively of the King’s gallery, the King’s bed-chamber, and the Guard-room; but they seem simply to have been hewn out, no person can tell by whom, as places of refuge during the destructive wars between the English and the Picts, or the English and the Scots; and during the reign of David II., when the English were in possession of Edinburgh, and strove to deal death to Scottish valour, they and the adjacent caves of Gorton gave shelter to the adventurous band of the heroic Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie. Hawthornden was the property and residence of the celebrated poet and historian, William Drummond, the friend of Shakspeare and Ben Johnson. A sort of seat cut in the face of the rock adjoining the house, and called Cypress grove, is pointed out by tradition as the place where he composed many of his poems.