Scotland 7: Day 25

03.26.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 18:34

Today was another incredible day in Edinburgh! I walked so much this morning that my knees felt old. I was able to rest for a bit, however, and now my body is reset and I am feeling 100%, once again. The reason for this- I decided to take a walk to the south and east to go take a look at Craigmillar Castle.

When you first get to the castle grounds, you are greeted by a gift shop (of course). Here is where you can purchase the entry fee for the castle, which I’m glad was only £6. I did get to meet Amber, who is “The Castle Cat”. And even though she’s often cranky, she did let me pet her, even though the store clerk told me that she usually doesn’t like to be pet. She is quite possibly the reincarnation of one of my Scottish ancestors.

And now it’s time to learn about Craigmillar Castle (it’s true- is fun AND informative):

Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh has a dark past, linked to plague, murder and at least one horrible death. Less than three miles from Edinburgh yet perched high on a hill in a rural setting, Craigmillar’s air was considered very healthy in the late Middle Ages. Several monarchs used the castle as a convenient retreat when pestilence was raging through the narrow wynds of the city. James III also used Craigmillar in 1477 to imprison his brother John, Earl of Mar, who later died mysteriously within the castle’s walls. The discovery of a skeleton walled into the castle vaults during restoration work in 1813 added to Craigmillar’s notorious reputation.

In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots ordered a refurbishment of Craigmillar after the murder of her secretary Rizzio at Holyrood Palace. Craigmillar Castle was much more secure than Holyrood and was just far enough away from the plotting and intrigue that spilled out of the taverns along the High Street and Canongate to calm Mary’s nerves. She remained there during the winter of 1566-67, refusing to follow the advice of her half-brother Regent Moray that she should divorce her husband Lord Darnley. Mary’s refusal sealed Darnley’s fate however, for several of her nobles then met at Craigmillar to plan the murder of the Queen’s Consort. Darnley was ‘blawn up wi gunpooder’ at Kirk o’Fields the following March. The neighborhood below the castle is still called ‘Little France’, a memory of the winter in which the castle village was crammed with French courtiers and servants waiting upon the Queen.

Craigmillar was an important link in the chain of fortifications that defended Edinburgh from invastion. Overlooking Arthur’s Seat and one of the main routes into the capital, Craigmillar was within sight of Edinuburgh Castle which allowed for the passing of messages by flashing mirrors and beacon braziers. The castle that is currently on the site was begun by Sir Simon Preston in 1374, probably replacing a wooden fort held by John de Capella. A particularly find machiolated curtain wall and circular angle towers were added after 1427. The bailey, which held supply buildings, a chapel and gardens, survives today in excellent condition, despite being burned badly by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 during the ‘Rough Wooing’. The gun loops in the castle doocot or dovecot are a reminder that the residents of Craigmillar had to remain vigilant even in the course of their daily domestic routines. The Prestons eventually sold the castle to John Gilmour in 1660 but it was ruined by 1800.

Scottish Castles & Fortifications – Richard Dargie

I enjoyed learning about this so much but I just wish I had a sound remember historical facts like my dad can. At any rate, this has inspired me to add a new bucket list item and that is to visit 60 castles in Scotland. Even though I’ve seen Edinburgh Castle a few times, and even Stirling Castle as well, I have decided to start from scratch, Craigmillar Castle being the first one visited. Let the games begin!

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