A mile from the mediaeval city walls of Edinburgh, Craigmillar Castle has served as a safe haven for Scottish royalty. It is now a well-liked tourist destination that provides an intriguing look into Scottish history combined with a few rural walking routes on the edges of the city. This thorough visitor’s guide will help you discover Craigmillar Castle.
In addition to providing a welcome change of pace from Edinburgh’s city centre attractions, Craigmillar Castle is conveniently located so that buses frequently travel in that direction during the day. Children will have a great time exploring the castle’s many crevices, while adults will love exploring the rooms and curtain walls.
The Castle is the place where Sir William Preston, Scottish king Robert ii, Sir Simon Preston, Sir John Gilmour, Sir George Preston, Edward Seymour and many others lived. And there are many attractions to see, like the Craigmillar castle road, Historic Scotland inner courtyard, the west range and northeast corner of the Castle, and so many others.
One of the Scottish castles that have been preserved the best is Craigmillar. Play hide-and-seek in the maze-like rooms of Edinburgh’s “other castle,” enjoy a picnic in one of its courtyards, or take in city vistas from its high walls. The castle still has the appearance of a fortification from the Middle Ages.
1. History of the Craigmillar Castle
Construction of the castle started in the 15th century, & over the next 250 years, it developed into a cosy home surrounded by lovely gardens and pastureland. In addition to having a direct connection to the history of Edinburgh, Craigmillar Castle is significant in the narrative of Mary Queen of Scots, who sought refuge there after Rizzio’s assassination. The plan to assassinate Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, was conceived at the castle.
Craigmillar was vastly increased in the 15th & 16th centuries after being constructed around an L-plan tower house from the early 15th century. It is a charming ruin with a number of private chambers connected to the old tower’s hall. A pair of Yew trees having a significant historical link to Craigmillar Castle stand near the entrance to the castle.
The trees were planted to make a castle entrance feature. They twist in unexpected ways. They are thought to have historically supplied wood for arrows and bows. The Edinburgh Council is attempting to raise awareness of these “Heritage Trees” among locals and tourists.
To visit this & other Scottish castles for free, get a Historic Nature Scotland Explorer Pass. As there are relatively few parking spaces, take the bus to go to the castle. Simply board the number 14 in the city centre. Since there isn’t a café on the property, get a sandwich before you depart. The castle grounds have picnic tables.
2. Overview of the Castle
When the words “Edinburgh” and “castle” are used together, the majority of people immediately picture the mediaeval fortification that looms over the city from Castle Rock. There is another castle in Edinburgh, though, with almost as much history, and the majority of travellers completely ignore it.
The main residence of the once-mighty Preston family, Craigmillar Castle, is located just 3 miles from the city centre and is a worthwhile sight to visit if you want to escape the busy crowds of Edinburgh.
The castle is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which has done an amazing job of rehabilitating it as a tourist destination despite the fact that it is currently in ruins. Even though the castle is mostly roofless, it is still among the best preserved mediaeval castles in Scotland, and if you’re interested in Scottish history, you can easily combine a trip there with a stop to Holyrood Palace or Edinburgh Castle, thanks to its position.
There is a parking lot on the property, but since the Lothian Transit system is so excellent, we recommend that you use it instead. Take the # 14 bus from North Bridge, which will drop you off close to the castle’s entrance.
Beautiful Buildings and Courtyard
The enormous L-shaped tower house, a walled-in courtyard, and a sizable exterior courtyard make up Craigmillar Castle’s core. The tower house was constructed around 1425.
Everywhere you turn, you can see how strong these defences are, but the central tower, where the walls are over 11 feet thick, stands out particularly. It makes sense why royalty would retreat there when tense political situations arose in the metropolis.
Look for the “murder holes” in the central tower’s outer walls when you visit. These features were once commonplace in Scotland’s walled castles. As you stroll around the considerably bigger Edinburgh Castle, you can see comparable defences that were utilised by soldiers to hurl massive stones at advancing forces.
The buildings are fairly interesting to visit, but it’s also fun to stroll through the gardens. The remnants of the Preston formal gardens, which included a family chapel constructed in 1520, are to the south. It’s simple to allow oneself to assume that you are travelling the same paths as Mary Queen of Scots did when she was a visitor.
These gardens actually have so much historical significance that they are listed on the UK’s National Register for Historic Gardens. Very impressive.
3. Visitor Information
You must admit that you adore Craigmillar Castle. Despite the fact that bus travel just takes 20 minutes, it’s a good change of pace from the hectic city centre and is far enough away from the noise that you nearly feel like you’re in the country.
It’s a great site to take kids to because there are so many secret nooks & crannies to hide in, but it also has some surprises in store for you. First of all, there is the enormous tree that has grown inside the main courtyard (how did that get there?). The second is the, as well as second is the observation deck on the tower house’s higher level.
From the platform, you’ll have fantastic views of the entire city, and it’s the ideal spot to capture some unique photos of Holyrood Park. The remainder of the castle is essentially simply a collection of bare walls, some of which are without roofs, but at least HES has placed numerous information panels so you may study the castle’s history as you walk through it.
After seeing the buildings, you may venture outside into the grounds, which aren’t extremely large but are rather attractive. HES has erected a few picnic seats, making them the ideal location to break out a cheese platter. The circular tower doocot that stands on the northeastern side of the grounds is only one example of the small elements that provide us with a look into the life a few centuries ago. These gardens are characteristic of most Scottish castles.
A doocot, or “dovecote,” is a small structure that was used to house pigeons in the same way we raise chickens today. Pigeon meat used to be a crucial source of protein in Scotland, and the Preston family always had access to it because the birds were not only simple to raise but also produced a lot of meat.
You can see the hole which the birds were using to fly in and out of the doocot’s roof, which is encircled by a large number of nesting perches. Its size, which is unexpectedly large, only serves to highlight how heavily our ancestors depended on them as a food source.
4. Nearby Things to Do
Blackford Hill Local Wildlife Reserve activities. Braid Hermitage, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ. Nine minutes driving. A sizable grassy area in Edinburgh’s centre that receives little visitor traffic. It has a network of walkways that wind up the hill to the summit offering sweeping views of the city.
1. Gilmerton Cove
A distinctive attraction in Edinburgh is Gilmerton Cove. Most visitors are unaware of this hidden treasure, which is quite amazing. This is the place to go if you want to experience a side of the city that is far off from the masses.
Don’t just show up on the day hoping to get in; you must make a reservation in advance to view the caves. It takes about 30 minutes to travel via public transportation to Gilmerton Cove. The number 29 bus may be taken from Princes Street. Both sides of the attraction are bus stops on Drum Street.
If you’re seeking additional local attractions, We suggest driving to Vogrie Park, which is a true gem in terms of family-friendly things. Alternately, take a drive to Dalkeith Rural Park, a sizable woodland area with a great shopping centre, a top-notch play park, and several country walks.
The fact that this landmark is concealed beneath an average home on an equally plain street makes it one of Scotland’s most peculiar heritage monuments, yet the underground tunnels are absolutely worth exploring. You can find unusual elements like a fireplace, a well, a blacksmith’s forge, as well as marble tables and benches if you go into the murky depths beneath Gilmerton.
The top-rated Tourist Attraction
Gilmerton Cove is one of the tourist attractions that may be categorised as an Edinburgh hidden gem, so it makes a great change from the overly commercial attractions you’ll find all throughout the city centre, which is what you truly like about it. In fact, We bet if you ask any passing tourist about the underground cavern, they won’t even know what it is.
Now that Gilmerton Cove is a part of the hugely popular Edinburgh City Pass, which you can acquire using the link in the Tickets & Opening Times section below, hopefully, this situation will change. You can discover for yourself what this archaeological enigma is all about after you descend far below ground.
The City of Edinburgh Corporation, as well as the Gilmerton Heritage Foundation, who, in addition to digging the tunnels, restored the mediaeval mining house above as a tourist centre, contributed to the significant rehabilitation that led to the caverns as we know them today.
Gilmerton Cove, though old (perhaps even ancient), only became a tourist attraction. It is actually a system of seven chambers and countless corridors that are located beneath the suburb’s streets.
You enter through a typical mine worker’s hut from Midlothian’s past, and it’s there that you’ll first understand what makes the attraction so special.
2. Holyrood Park
The calm Holyrood Park is located in the heart of Edinburgh. Excluding Arthur’s Seat. Once there, you’ll have to navigate past throngs of tourists. However, the view is fantastic. Due to the size of the park, there are numerous pathways to explore. As it’s quieter than that of the western side around Queen’s Drive, we advise visiting Dunsapie Loch, just on the eastern side of the park. However, Calton Hill offers a commendable view as well.
In a mile’s walk to the east of Edinburgh Castle, you’ll find Holyrood Park, a stunning natural setting that provides visitors with a calm retreat amid the city’s bustle. This is a surprisingly large urban green space that offers almost 650 acres of forest to explore despite being in the centre of the city.
On a quiet day, it’s simple to forget you’re in the centre of the nation’s capital city as you stroll around Holyrood Park, which looks like a mini version of the Scottish Highlands with wild meadows, serene lochs, rocky peaks, and swaths of gorse.
The Scottish Parliament building is the closest entrance to the park, & from there, you could either walk all around the perimeter to take in the beautiful scenery along the ring road, or you may follow the paths which wind their way around the park.
While all choices are enjoyable, if you want to get the most out of your trip, We suggest moving toward the centre to take in the breathtaking views from Arthur’s Seat. If you’re feeling brave, you may ascend the 800-foot incline to Arthur’s Seat, which is Edinburgh’s highest point, and take in the breathtaking 360-degree vista.
However, keep in mind that despite being a well-travelled trail, getting to the top requires a strenuous climb, so those who are ill might wish to pass. The most direct option, though, is to head east beyond Dunsapie Loch & follow the apparent, well-travelled trail if you’re an adventurous traveller seeking the best views in Edinburgh.
3. Neil’s Garden for Dr
Duddingston, Edinburgh, EH15 3PX; 15 Old Church Ln, a five-minute drive. In Holyrood Park, there is a quiet city garden next to Duddingston Loch. a variety of heathers and alpines, as well as conifers, rhododendrons, and herbaceous borders, were planted. The entrance is free.
There are more castles inside the boundaries of the city besides Edinburgh Castle, as seen by this lovely property. Although semi-ruined, Craigmillar Castle is still in good condition and is situated in acres of beautiful countryside.
Craigmillar Castle, which is located southeast of Holyrood Park, next to a golf course and the Royal Infirmary at Edinburgh, is arguably most known for its association with Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Queen of Scots gave the surrounding lands the nickname “Little France” because she thought they reminded them of France. The brother of King James III would be imprisoned in the castle on witchcraft charges, and the building would subsequently house the young King James V of Scotland.