Just less than ten miles south of Edinburgh's city centre lies the beautiful rural area of Midlothian. With its diverse range of historical buildings, rolling hills, and huge areas of woodland to explore, it's no wonder Midlothian is so popular with people who love to get outdoors!
Here's what we recommend you see and do next time you're in this wonderful part of Scotland.
National Mining Museum Scotland
Winner of the Association of Scotland Visitor Attractions 'Best Visitor Experience' award in 2009 and 2013, this museum is great for a family day out. Kids and adults alike can drive Scotland's largest winding engine, which used to pull coal and mine workers up and down the 1,625ft shaft every day for almost 90 years.
There's also an Interactive Zone, which shows kids how to create electricity, build a bridge, and more. The little ones will love running around in the Mini Miners Soft Play area, giving you some much needed respite, as you can sit and watch whilst enjoying a coffee.
Midlothian Snowsports Centre
Photo from Wikipedia by Craig Murphy
Scotland is fantastic for skiing, but if it isn't the right time of year for snow when you visit, not to worry – this ski slope is open seven days a week, 50 weeks a year. It's the longest and most challenging artificial ski slope in Europe, and it's worth a visit no matter how good or bad you are on the snow. Expert instructors can teach novices the basics of either skiing or snowboarding, and all the equipment you need is provided.
There are two main slopes, two nursery versions, and one jump slope here, and each one is floodlit, allowing you to ski until 7pm on weekdays.
You may recognise this picturesque and ornate chapel from the hit film and book 'The Da Vinci Code'. Dating back to 1446, this chapel took 40 years to build, and it's easy to see why – the stonework alone is truly a sight to behold. If you want to know more about the history of the chapel, be sure to listen to one of the introductory talks.
Whilst you are free to visit and walk around the chapel, please note that it is a working church and so sometimes may be closed for funerals, weddings and other events. No photos may be taken within the church, either.
Dalkeith Country Park
Photo by seth m on Flickr
If you're itching to do some walking or cycling, head to Dalkeith Country Park. It's located just five miles outside of Edinburgh's bustling city centre, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. The 500-acre woodland is begging to be explored, and there are several walks to enjoy – why not stroll among the Bluebells or along the river?
We recommend you bring your binoculars when you visit here, as there's a good chance to spot foxes, deer, and even otters if you're lucky. Pack a lunch too; the park is full of wonderful places to have a picnic.
If the kids still aren't knackered from all that walking, they can burn off the excess energy in the Adventure Playground.
Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World
Fans of creepy crawlies will love this indoor tropical rainforest. It's the world’s longest-running indoor butterfly house, and it's home to hundreds of butterflies who are all free to fly around as they please. If you're feeling brave, you can take part in one of the feeding or handling sessions, which are available daily. You can hold a tarantula, giant millipede or snake (we'll let you go first).
The falconry at Dalhousie Castle is well worth a visit if you've ever dreamed of handling owls, eagles, falcons, hawks or buzzards. Experiences aren't cheap – they start at £40 per person for a 45-minute session – but it's worth the cost, as it's certainly a day out you won't forget any time soon. Don't just take our word for it though; the falconry is the proud owner of a TripAdvisor 'Certificate of Excellence Award' due to the fact it consistently receives great reviews from its visitors.
Hot air balloon rides with Alba Ballooning
It's almost impossible to see all of Midlothian during one visit - or is it? A hot air balloon ride is a wonderful way to see as much of this beautiful area as you can, and Alba Ballooning offers daily flights most mornings and evenings from several Midlothian locations. Make sure you visit between mid-March and late-October though, as flights rarely run throughout the winter due to the poor weather.
On a typical flight, you can expect to see over Midlothian's rural landscape, and all its castles, villages and reservoirs. You may also pass over the Moorfoot or Pentland Hills.
We hope the above has provided you with some inspiration for your next visit to Midlothian. If we've missed out any great attractions, let us know in the comments.