A Socially-Distanced Day Out at Hopetoun House
Continuing with our mission to make the most of the (very) occasional sunny days we’ve been getting this summer – and try to pretend that we’re NOT still in the middle of a big ol’ pandemic – a couple of weeks ago, Terry, Max and I headed to Hopetoun House, near South Queensferry, for the afternoon.
(We were really excited about it, as you can see…)
Now, as longtime readers might recall, Hopetoun is a regular haunt of ours, which has featured on the blog many times now: so much so, in fact, that this year we’d actually been planning to buy an annual pass for the grounds, so we could go as often as we liked. Then, of course, Covid hit, we found ourselves on lockdown, and that idea became just one of the many plans of ours that got cancelled this year – and if I still sound bitter about that, it’s because, YES, I AM STILL BITTER ABOUT THAT, I MEAN, FFS. But I digress.
We’d assumed we probably wouldn’t make it to Hopetoun AT ALL this year, then, but, a few weeks ago, we heard that, while the house and restaurant remain closed for now, the grounds have opened up on a ticket-only basis, so we booked our tickets for the warmest day on the weather forecast, then crossed our fingers and hoped it would be accurate for once. (Sidenote: anyone else noticed that the weather forecast has been way out lately? I’m not sure if it’s pandemic-related, or something totally random, but I just can’t trust it any more, and have taken to bringing clothes for every possible weather condition with me every time I leave the house. That’s what’s in the bag I’m carrying in the photo above, actually…)
The Hopetoun grounds are large enough to never feel crowded, even on a busy day, so I wasn’t particularly worried about not being able to socially distance while we were there, but it was still reassuring to see how efficient it all was. Instead of parking up as usual, and buying our tickets at the little office on site, we printed them out the night before, then were met at the gate by a staff member who checked out names off a list, before waving us through. There was absolutely no contact at all, and, as it turned out, that was the closest we got to anyone: there were a few other family groups dotted around the grounds, but none came anywhere near us, so we were able to eat the picnic we’d brought right in the middle of the lawn, feeling a bit like the lord and lady of the manor or something.
(I’m in two minds about this, actually: on the one hand, I can’t deny that it was a real treat to feel like we had the place more or less to ourselves, but, on the other, I know places like this rely on having lots of visitors to keep them going, so I can’t help but worry a bit – not just about Hopetoun House, but about all of the other businesses etc that will really struggle this year.
After a quick lunch on the lawn, we headed off for a walk along Hopetoun’s woodland trail, which takes you along the coast for a bit, before doubling back towards the house. It’s a lovely, shady walk, with some stunning views, and is actually the main reason we come back here so often. (Don’t get me wrong, the house itself is amazing, too, but we’ve done the tour a couple of times now, so mostly just come back to wander the grounds – and, of course, to eat in the restaurant, when it’s open…) I’m really glad we got to go at least once this summer, and am hoping that by the time it re-opens next year (The estate is normally open from around April until September each year, although who knows what will happen in good ol’ 2020…) things will be back to normal again, and we can take Max for one of our favourite high teas: fingers crossed…