[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
NEWHALL, a romantic locality chiefly in the parish of Penicuick, Edinburghshire, and partly in that of Linton, Peebleshire; 3 miles south-west of Penicuick, and 13½ from Edinburgh. The mansion of Newhall stands on the left bank of the North Esk, within a curvature of the stream, 4 miles from its source, and while it forms the boundary-line between the counties. During the 16th century, and an unknown period preceding, it belonged to the family of the name of Crichton. In 1646, Dr. Pennycuick became its proprietor; and, in his works, he mentions some particular plants found upon the grounds. He was proprietor also of Romanno, – a place not far distant in the parish of Newlands; and he there, in 1677, witnessed, with strong interest, a serious squabble between two parties of gypsies. In 1683 he built a dovecot on the scene of the quarrel, apparently to show his wit in the following very homely distich:-
“The field of gipsy blood which here you see,
A shelter for the harmless dove shall be.”
About the period of the Union, Newhall was acquired by Sir David Forbes, Knight, and afterwards it was inherited by his son, Mr. John Forbes, advocate, and became a favourite resort of some of the most eminent literati of the last century. While inhabited by the Crichtons it was an irregular castle, and, with its appendages, covered the whole breadth of the point on which it stands, formed by a stripe or low spur from the base of the Pentlands, cloven down on each side by a deep ravine, and terminating in the glen of the Esk. The ground-floor in the front of the present building, was part of one of the towers; it is vaulted in the roof, and has on every side slits for defence; and it is so strong as, in one place, to have a closet cut out of the thickness of the wall. The eastern ravine is overhung by the remains of a small round tower, with some vaults, and it is densely filled with wildly growing trees, and threaded by a dark and romantic rill, which leaps along in several beautiful cascades, and flings up its spray amid the deep shades and concealment of the woods. The western ravine is overhung by a point on which anciently stood a religious establishment of some note, and a prison remembered, at the close of last century, to have been recently in use; and though this ravine is dry, it vies with the other in romance, and, like it, is shaded with thick foliage. A walk goes round the site of the chapel and prison, forming a noble terrace from the west end of the house looking up the glen, and over to a mineral well among copsewood and pines on the other side. A farm in the immediate neighbourhood bears the name of Spital, and probably formed an endowment for supporting, under the management of the religious foundation of Newhall, an hospital or hospice for the refreshment and shelter of travellers. About half-a-mile above Newhall, amid a general flattening and widening of the Esk’s banks, the stream encounters a contracting and forking ridge of lime-stone; and, forming a linn, bounds down in successive leaps to a circular pool, which, under birches and shrubs, and upon a bed of pebbles, spreads out between the rocks and a little verdant expanse. On the face of a promontory which looks up to this beautiful and sequestered spot, and is formed by the sudden expansion of the glen, is a round turf-seat, known in romantic association as Mary’s Bower, commanding a full view of the linn, and terminating a winding path along the north brink of the glen. About half-a-mile below Newhall, Monk’s-burn, running upon rotten whin, enters the glen of the Esk in several considerable falls, and amidst much fine landscape, and is overlooked at its mouth from the opposite side of the Esk by an upland called the Steel, said to have got its name from being the scene of a skirmish with a straggling detachment of General Monk’s army. A little below this stream, and on the left bank of the Esk, is a clear and deep lake, surrounded with rising knolls, and on three sides, by the wooded banks of the river sweeping round far beneath; and the lake has no visible supply, outlet, or variation, and always laves the green sward at the foot of its dry and undulating banks. When a spectator stands at the eastern extremity at the mellowing of a summer’s noon, and the fish begin to leap, and the sun gets behind the ornamented farm-house of Old Harleymuir on a height beyond the river above the Steel, and throws his warm empurpling rays on the Carlop’s-hill in the distance to the right, the scene in view forms as enchanting a picture as the pencil could well select. Numerous other landscapes and objects of alternately soothing and thrilling interest exist on the grounds or their vicinity; the chief of which are the scene of Allan Ramsay‘s Gentle Shepherd, described in our article on HABBIE’S-HOWE, and some antiquities noticed in the articles CARLOPS and LINTON.