The Haggis and I were looking for new places to explore close to where we live in West Lothian, and we stumbled across this amazing hidden gem: the grounds at the House of The Binns.
The House of the Binns is a 17th-century mansion set within 200 acres of sprawling parkland. There is much to see around the grounds, including a tower, peacocks and pleasant walking trails.
The mansion recently opened for tours- these must be pre-booked on the National Trust For Scotland website.
The standout attraction for me was the Virginia Creeper, which turns a vibrant red during early-mid autumn! It covers the east side of the house, and it can be easy to miss- so keep an eye out for it.
We walked the Woodland Trail during our visit- a lovely, short walk where you encounter a few of the main attractions on the property.
Here is my quick guide on exploring the House of the Binns!
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History of the House of the Binns
This house has been the home of the Dalyell family for over 400 years. It was built by Thomas Dalyell, an Edinburgh merchant, in 1612. He made his fortune at the court of King James VI and I in London.
His son, General Tam Dalyell, was responsible for creating the regiment of the Royal Scots Greys, Scotland’s only cavalry regiment. Folklore has it that the General played cards with the Devil!
He supposedly won a game, and the Devil flung the marble playing table at him in rage. It missed and landed in the pond outside.
200 years later a marble table was found in the pond when it dried up- and it lives inside the house today.
The house is now under the care of the National Trust for Scotland, as long as future generations of the family can still live in the house.
House of the Binns translates to ”house of the hills” as it is built on two hills. There are beautiful views of Blackness Castle, the Firth of Forth, the Forth bridges and Fife from the front lawn.
You can book a tour of the mansion and view tour times and opening dates on the NTS website.
Things to see and do at the House of the Binns
The House of the Binns is home to a large party of peafowl. You’ll see them wandering freely around the grounds.
It is said as long as peacocks live on the grounds, the Dalyells will too.
When we visited we were surprised to see one admiring the view from the roof of the house!
>> Read more: The best birdwatching sites in Scotland
Virginia Creeper Wall
The House of the Binns is home to an incredibly pretty wall covered in Virginia Creeper. It looks particularly spectacular in autumn during the first two weeks of October.
When we visited in mid-October, most of the leaves had fallen to the ground, so make sure you time your visit well if you want to see the autumn foliage.
>> Read more: 5 awesome autumn breaks in Scotland
Binns Tower is a folly that sits on the highest point of Binns Hill. It was built in 1826, and was a result of a wager and cost just £29 to build!
It is thought the site it is built on was once a Pictish fort and may have once been a camp or viewing post in Roman times.
What’s a folly?
A folly is an expensive ornamental building with no practical purpose. Essentially, it’s just a way for the rich and elite to flaunt their wealth!
When you are at the Tower, look back towards the house and you’ll see a stone fence with an entranceway that is almost hidden from view. When you walk over you’ll discover a path that leads through woodland, and hidden in the trees you’ll find The Smokehouse, a roofless stone structure that was built by General Tam.
On the plaque outside it reads ”[General Tam]…probably came here for a quiet contemplative smoke away from the house and his womenfolk.”
Basically, it’s an early version of a man cave!
House of Binns Walks
There are two walks at the House of the Binns; the Woodland Walk and the Parkland Trail.
The Woodland Walk [0.6 miles / 1 km] is a short walk that takes you through woodland and farmland. On this walk, you will see past Binns Tower and General Tam’s Smokehouse. It’s an easy 30-minute walk but has some steep and uneven ground.
The Parkland Trail [2 miles / 3 km] is a circuit that goes around the entire property. There are many things to see, including the Errick Burn Wood, the Walled Garden, and the Old Stable Block where the Royal Scots Greys stabled their horses. This walk takes 1.5 hours.
Tips for visiting the grounds at the House of the Binns
- There is lots of free parking available.
- The best time to visit the grounds is in early autumn to see the Virginia Creeper turn bright red. It’s a great subject for photography enthusiasts!
- Visit in spring to see the snowdrops. The House of the Binns is one of the best places to see snowdrops in West Lothian.
- Dogs aren’t encouraged on the grounds, however, if you do bring your dog they must be on a lead at all times. There are livestock on the grounds, so do not bring your dog if he/she isn’t well-behaved on a lead around sheep and cattle.
- While you must pay for a tour of the house, the grounds are free to roam. There is a box to make a small donation at the entrance if you so wish.
- The ground wasn’t particularly boggy when we visited, however, there are some small hills and it’s muddy in parts. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear you don’t mind getting a little dirty!
Have you walked around the grounds at the House of the Binns?