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Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh

By Thursday, October 02, 2014 , , , ,

Edinburgh Castle is by far the most famous castle in Edinburgh, but there is a second often overlooked castle nearby, still within the city. After a short trip by bus to the Craigmillar Police Station stop a helpful woman pointed us in the right direction, and from there we walked down a street lined with houses, and into a park.

First we followed a path through trees, then it opened up into a field of golden grasses and the castle came into view

The park is public space and open to everyone, with lots of people walking lolloping dogs past the castle- what a wonderful daily walk!

When we bought our tickets we learned that there is an Explorer Pass which will let you save considerable money on the entrance to historical properties, including Edinburgh Castle, where we had gone the day before. 

Craigmillar's ticket office is in a separate building outside the castle, and so it does not mar the experience at all. The staff was also very helpful and friendly.

Started around 1425 by the Preston family, the castle has seen a fair share of warfare and intrigue: In 1480 Prince John Stewart was imprisoned here for witchcraft against his brother King James IIIIt was burned by the English in 1544. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here twice and her supporters conspired to murder her husband in the Craigmillar Bond of 1566, 

We could see Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat from the walls, as well as the Firth of Forth (bay north of the city).
The castle had been remodeled in the 1660s by Sir John Gilmour who turned the large halls into smaller rooms, giving it a maze like feeling as there was always another door across the room, another narrow, winding staircase to climb.

We explored several kitchens with vast fireplaces, a spooky prison, spectacular views and strange, closet like rooms just big enough for a person to stand in.

Where the floors had disintegrated the left fireplaces floating up the walls, and tightly locked doors.

Compared with Edinburgh castle, this tour felt more personal. Almost always, we were the only ones in a room or tower, and you could let your mind wander back to who else walked these floors, looked out this window or tripped over the uneven stairs rather than dodging tour groups and waiting to take a peek at an exhibit.

It also felt its age, there were no offices or gift shops here, just stones and shadows. A bird had made a nest above one of the doors and rabbits nibbled just outside the stone walls.

This may have been the highlight of my trip to Edinburgh, and we were so lucky to have beautiful weather the day we visited. If you're ever thinking about visiting the city, this is a wonderful stop that's not too crowded, easily accessible by bus and really lets you feel like you've taken a step back in time

Opening Times

1 April - 30 September, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

1 October - 31 March, Mon Tue Wed Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

Adult £5.50, Child £3.30

Take buses 2, 14, 21, 30, and N30

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  1. I LOVE castle ruins, and Scotland is a dream. I hadn't heard of this castle, but I hope we can go there on our next trip there. I'm devouring your posts about Edinburgh - and looking forward to more! :-) Lovely photos.

    1. I was so surprised how empty it was compared to Edinburgh Castle, I guess very few travelers hear about it? but that makes it all the better for those of us who appreciate ruins!

  2. I LOVE seeing photos of castles from the UK! Europe was always my first love, and I can't believe I haven't seen any castles yet. Lovely photos.

    P.S. Your blog link in your Disqus profile has a typo!

    1. Thanks! My grandparents lived near the welsh border, so as a kid I got to see a few of them. Someday I hope to take a week or two to return and do a proper tour of them.

      and thanks for the heads up about Disqus! I think I've fixed it now.

  3. What a spectacular looking castle! I love old ruins and this totally seems like the kind of place where you could curl up on the grass outside and lose yourself to the times when the castle was running. There is just something so mysterious and beautiful about these old castles, isn't there?

    1. We actually did just curl up in the grass for a while! It was such a nice day, I wish we'd brought a picnic with us.

      I know exactly what you mean, it's so great to find castles that actually look like the ones in story books.

  4. I absolutely love looking at pictures of castles...makes me think about all of the stories those walls could tell!

  5. What a fun place to tour and photograph!! Would be exciting to be there are sunrise or dusk too!

  6. I love such places, old castles always have something magic and imagine that actually people lived there years and years ago is just fascinating! I put this on my travel list :) Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love Edinburgh. Was there a few years ago with my sister-in-law, and keep telling my husband we need to go. It is simply idyllic. Have to say that Edinburgh Castle is impressive on the outside, but was quite the letdown for me inside...especially for the price. Craigmillar Castle looks fantastic. Def on my list for next time.

  8. I like these kinds of places where there are less people, less tourists. Just you and a massive amount of history to appreciate and understand. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler! See you next week :)

  9. Gosh! Being a ruin hasn't stopped it from having really high bits to climb to. Looks like a fun place to explore, and what a great view of the other castle.

  10. Beautiful photos!! Looks like you had amazing weather. Doesn't seem to happen for me when I visit! I've never been to this castle before, looks lovely.


  11. I've been here! When I interned in Edinburgh, and totally forgot about being able to see Edinburgh Castle from there!