Yesterday, we spent a lovely day on an ‘explore and discover’ mission just 15 miles from home in Gorebridge. Our adventure was part of the Doors Open Days which is a month-long celebration held every September. It is a fantastic initiative that describes itself as “Scotland’s largest free festival that celebrates heritage and the built environment. It offers free access to over a thousand venues across the country”. They go on to explain that “the aim of Doors Open Doors is to ensure that Scotland’s spaces and stories, new, and old, are made accessible to people living and visiting the country”. With that inclusive spirit, join us as we take you on virtual exploration of Vogrie House and Country Park in the beautiful countryside of Midlothian, Scotland.
James Dewar acquired the Vogrie estate in 1719 and laid out the Vogrie Country Park in the early 19th century. It was his son, Alexander Cumming Dewar, who built Vogrie House in 1876 in the Baronial style. The Dewars made their money in coal (as well as rents from the lands they owned and farming).
Captain James Cumming Dewar was the last of the male descendants to live in the house, and he died in 1908. His wife sold the house and estate in 1928 to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders and it became an exclusive residential nursing home. The cultural history of medicine has always fascinated me, and the transition of Vogrie House from Baronial mansion of a wealthy family to a residential nursing home for the wealthy is an intriguing one, though, perhaps not surprising.
One common theme that has greatly benefited Vogrie House- and frankly is why it is still standing- is that it has been in continual use since it was first built by the Dewar family. In 1963, Vogrie House changed ownership again and became the headquarters of the Midlothian Civil Defence. Midlothian Council took over ownership of Vogrie House and Country Park in 1975 which continues to this day.
The Midlothian Ranger Service is now based within Vogrie House. One of their rangers, Alan, was our tour guide of the House for their Doors Open Days event. As you explore Vogrie House, it is apparent that it has undergone massive transitions since its Victorian heyday.
What is important is that the bones of the House are still solid, and I am happy to see it is still in use. There isn’t much left from the Dewars’ time in the House; of note are the original marble fireplaces and decorative cornices (pictured below).
Vogrie House is not usually open to the public for tours, which is why we were excited to see it listed as an event on the Doors Open Days website. However, there is a café, The Treetop Café, housed in a former section of the House that is open daily to the public visiting the Country Park.
A highlight of our trip was exploring the expansive Vogrie Country Park grounds. The Park is a rural oasis for humans and canines as it covers 103 hectares (255 acres) and goes through the Tyne Valley. There is an extensive woodlands trail network (11.5 miles in total) that Finn, Sawyer, and Stirling thoroughly enjoyed.
Although I have to say we weren’t surprised when we found out that the name Vogrie comes from the Gaelic and means ‘marshy boundary land’ as the land was quite wet at times. Overall, it was wonderful to see much of the original Victorian parkland has survived.
Vogrie Country Park is a fantastic way to enjoy nature and is fun for all ages. Activities offered include an adventure playground, nine-hole golf course, miniature railway, and BBQ sites. They also often hold special events at Vogrie Country Park. This past weekend they had ‘Vogrie Pogrie’ which was billed as “a celebratory weekend of innovative open air performance and creative happenings of all kinds in the beautiful setting of Vogrie Country Park”. Be sure to check the Council’s website for more information to plan your visit to the Park.
We hope you have enjoyed our visit to Vogrie House and Country Park. Fortunately, this is just the first stop of several we plan on doing for Doors Open Days 2021. So that you get future articles as soon as they are published, be sure to subscribe to the blog. Another fun way to join in on our adventures is to follow us on social media channel on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!