Craigmillar Castle

Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

Craigmillar Castle is one of the best preserved castles in Scotland. It was begun in the early 15th century by the Preston family, who had acquired the lands of Craigmillar in 1374. Sir Simon Preston was a staunch supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots and a member of her Privy Council. In 1477 James III imprisoned his brother John, Earl of Mar, in one of its cellars where he died. The earliest part is the lofty L-shaped tower, housing the laird's main accommodation. A little later, the castle was enlarged by the building of a great enclosure wall with round towers projecting at the corners. These tower bristle with gun-loops. Ranges of buildings lined the inside of the wall, adding greatly to the accommodation. A spacious open courtyard lay at the centre. Attractive gardens and a fish-pond surrounded the castle.

Click here to see a reconstruction of the castle.

Walking up to the castle Outside the castle showing outer wall
In the 16th century the east range was rebuilt, possibly after the burning of the castle by the English in 1544. After the murder of her secretary, David Rizzio, at Holyrood in 1566, Mary Queen of Scots sought the peace and quiet of Craigmillar. It was here in that same year that the famous "bond" was signed between the Earl of Bothwell and other noblemen which led to the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley.
Gateway of outer wall Outer courtyard
Mary, Queen of Scots, used Craigmillar often, and stayed here from 1 to 7 September 1563, recuperating after her long tour of south-west Scotland. She fled here from 20 November to 7 December 1566 after the murder of Rizzio by, among others, her second husband Darnley. Mary's son, James VI, also visited. In 1660, the castle was purchased by Sir John Gilmour, the Lord President of the Court of Session. He completely rebuilt the west range in 1661 to provide a more fitting residence for a 17th century nobleman.

A walled-up skeleton was found in one of the vaults in 1813. The castle featured in the BBC production of "Ivanhoe". Mary, Queen of Scots once planted a tree in the vicinity of the castle which, sadly, had to be cut down some twenty years ago. There is however, a big tree growing in the inner courtyard of the castle...

Close-up of main entrance through inner wall Tree growing in the inner courtyard

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