Craigmillar Castle: Edinburgh’s Lesser-Known Medieval Marvel

While Edinburgh is known for its impressive and well-preserved medieval castles, there is one hidden gem that often goes overlooked: Craigmillar Castle. Located just a few miles southeast of the city center, Craigmillar Castle is a fascinating example of medieval architecture and a testament to Scotland’s rich history.

Key Takeaways:

  • Craigmillar Castle is a lesser-known medieval castle located near Edinburgh.
  • The castle is a great example of medieval architecture and Scotland’s rich history.

Uncovering the History of Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle is not only a mesmerizing architectural wonder but also holds a significant place in Scottish history as a medieval fortress. The castle dates back to the 14th century, when Sir George Preston constructed it as a simple tower house. Subsequent significant expansions by the Clan Gilmour between the 15th and 16th centuries turned this sturdy tower house into a grand fortress.

Craigmillar Castle played a prominent role in Scottish politics and royal affairs. The infamous Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed in the castle in 1566, which led to numerous conspiracies and political machinations. It was the place where the “Craigmillar Bond” was signed, leading to the murder of Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, in an attempt to strengthen her position on the throne. It was also a stronghold during the Wars of Independence and was besieged several times by the English forces.

Over time, the castle’s strategic importance waned, and by the 18th century, it fell into disrepair. It was deemed a ruin in the early 20th century and handed over to the state. Today, Craigmillar Castle stands as a testament to Scottish history and is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in the country’s medieval past.

Architectural Wonders of Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle boasts some of the finest medieval architecture in Scotland. Visitors to this historic site can explore the impressive features that make it a marvel of medieval engineering.

The castle’s stunning towers, courtyards, and defensive structures are some of its most noteworthy features. One of the most striking is the East Tower, which stands at 17 meters high and features a spiral staircase leading up to its battlements. The main tower, also known as the Mainhouse, was once a five-story structure that included a great hall and private chambers. Visitors can still see the remnants of these rooms within the tower today.

The South Range is another highlight of Craigmillar Castle’s architecture, featuring a series of interconnected buildings that were once used as living quarters for the castle’s occupants. The kitchens, located in the West Range, are also worth a visit with their large fireplace and impressive chimney.

Defensive Architecture

As a medieval fortress, Craigmillar Castle was built with defense in mind. The castle’s walls are thick and reinforced with towers and battlements for protection against invaders. The castle’s location, perched high on a hill, also provided a strategic advantage for its occupants.

The castle’s defenses were put to the test during the 16th century Siege of Craigmillar, when forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots, attempted to retake the castle from the supporters of her husband, Lord Darnley. Despite their best efforts, the attackers were unable to breach Craigmillar’s formidable defenses.

Today, visitors to Craigmillar Castle can appreciate the impressive defensive architecture that has withstood the test of time and helped to protect its occupants throughout its history.

Highlights of a Visit to Craigmillar Castle

Visiting Craigmillar Castle is a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the rich history of this medieval fortress. There are several must-see attractions within the castle’s walls, including:

  1. The Great Hall: This impressive space was once the center of royal banquets and gatherings, and still boasts its original wooden roof and impressive fireplace.
  2. The East Range: Explore the living quarters of the castle’s inhabitants, including the kitchen and bedrooms.
  3. The Underground Chamber: Descend into the eerie depths of the castle and discover the secrets hidden within its walls.

In addition to these key attractions, visitors can also admire the impressive defensive structures of the castle, including the drawbridge and the impressive towers that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

For those with an interest in history, there are plenty of educational opportunities available, with guided tours and interactive exhibits that explore the castle’s rich past. Don’t miss the chance to learn more about the key role Craigmillar Castle played in Scottish politics and royalty.

Tales and Legends of Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle is steeped in tales and legends that add to its historical allure. According to one legend, Mary, Queen of Scots, sought refuge within the castle walls following the murder of her husband Lord Darnley in 1567. She allegedly stayed here for a few weeks to regain her strength and plot her next move.

Another ghostly tale associated with Craigmillar Castle tells of the “Grey Lady,” a female apparition said to roam the castle’s chambers and towers. Locals believe that the ghostly figure is the spirit of Marion Shaw, the wife of the castle’s former owner, Sir John Gilmour.

Craigmillar Castle is also said to have a secret underground passage leading to nearby Edinburgh Castle. While the truth behind this tale remains unclear, the idea of a hidden passage adds to the castle’s mysterious charm.

“Craigmillar Castle is steeped in tales and legends that add to its historical allure.”

Exploring the Surroundings of Craigmillar Castle

While Craigmillar Castle’s historical significance and impressive architecture draw visitors from far and wide, the castle’s surroundings are equally captivating. Take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque landscape surrounding the castle to experience the beauty of Scotland’s natural scenery.

Explore the woodland trails that wind their way through the lush greenery, providing opportunities to spot local wildlife and admire the stunning flora. The well-maintained paths provide easy access to the castle’s surroundings, making it an ideal destination for hikers of all skill levels.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, there are plenty of picnic areas scattered throughout the grounds, providing a perfect spot to take in the view while enjoying a packed lunch or local delicacy.

No visit to Craigmillar Castle would be complete without a visit to the charming gardens, where visitors can stroll through beautifully manicured landscapes or rest in the shade of the castle’s ancient trees. The gardens are perfect for a romantic stroll or a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Whether you’re a history buff or nature lover, the picturesque surroundings of Craigmillar Castle have something for everyone. Be sure to include a walk through the surrounding landscape during your visit to this fascinating medieval marvel.

Events and Activities at Craigmillar Castle

Visitors to Craigmillar Castle are in for a treat, with a range of exciting events and activities held throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or outdoor pursuits, there’s something here for everyone.

Events at Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle hosts a variety of events that transport visitors back in time and offer a glimpse into Scotland’s rich history. From historical reenactments and medieval banquets to ghost tours and storytelling sessions, these events provide a fun and interactive way to learn more about the castle’s past. Check the castle website or social media pages to find out about upcoming events and book your tickets.

Activities for Visitors

If you’re looking for something more hands-on, Craigmillar Castle has plenty of activities to keep you entertained. You can participate in a range of workshops focused on traditional crafts such as weaving, spinning, and blacksmithing, or take part in educational programs that explore the castle’s architecture and history. The castle also offers outdoor activities, including nature walks and guided tours of the surrounding countryside.

For children, there are various activities and games to keep them engaged, including treasure hunts, medieval dress-up sessions, and interactive exhibits.

Whatever your interests, Craigmillar Castle is sure to provide a memorable and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Planning Your Visit to Craigmillar Castle

If you’re planning a visit to Craigmillar Castle, here are some practical tips to help make the most of your experience:

Opening Hours

Craigmillar Castle is open daily from 10am to 4pm, with the last admission at 3:30pm. Note that the castle is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Ticket Prices

Admission prices for Craigmillar Castle are as follows:

Category Price
Adult $6.50
Child (5-15 years) $3.90
Concession (60 years+ and unemployed) $5.20
Family (2 adults and up to 3 children) $16.90

Note that prices are subject to change, so be sure to check the official website for the latest information.

Getting There

Craigmillar Castle is located just 3 miles south of Edinburgh’s city center, making it easily accessible by public transport or car. The castle can be reached by taking Lothian Bus routes 14, 18, or 30 from the city center. If you’re driving, the castle has a free car park for visitors.

Nearby Amenities

There are several amenities located near Craigmillar Castle, including a gift shop, toilets, and a picnic area. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, there are also several cafes and restaurants located within a short walking distance.


The castle’s courtyard and ground floor are accessible for wheelchair users, however, some areas may be difficult to navigate due to uneven ground and steps. Audio guides and large print guides are available for visitors with hearing or visual impairments.

By following these tips, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit to Craigmillar Castle, one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems.

Craigmillar Castle: A Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh

If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh, be sure to include Craigmillar Castle on your itinerary. This stunning medieval fortress is conveniently located just a short distance from the city center, making it an ideal destination for a day trip.

Visitors will be in awe of the castle’s historical significance and architectural marvels, from its impressive towers and courtyards to its eerie underground chamber. And with a variety of events and activities held throughout the year, there’s always something new to discover at Craigmillar Castle.

But it’s not just the castle that makes for a memorable day trip; the surroundings of Craigmillar Castle are just as breathtaking. Take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque nature trails and soak in the stunning views of the Scottish countryside.

And when it’s time to refuel, there are plenty of dining options to choose from, including on-site cafes, picnic areas, and nearby restaurants.

Overall, Craigmillar Castle is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Edinburgh, and a perfect way to spend a day exploring the city’s lesser-known historical treasures.

Accommodation Options near Craigmillar Castle

For visitors planning to spend the night in the area, there are several accommodation options available near Craigmillar Castle. From luxurious hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, there’s something to fit every budget and taste.

Hotel Contact Info Distance from Castle
The Prestonfield House +44 131 225 7800 1.5 miles
The Salisbury Hotel +44 131 667 1264 2.2 miles
Edinburgh Lodges +44 131 468 0975 1.9 miles

For those looking for a more intimate experience, there are several bed and breakfast options available in the area as well.

  • The Craigmillar Guest House: Located just a short walk from the castle, this guest house offers cozy rooms and a warm welcome. Contact: +44 131 667 1828
  • 94DR: This stylish bed and breakfast offers a modern twist on traditional Scottish design. Contact: +44 131 662 9265
  • The Meadows: With a prime location near Edinburgh’s city center and Craigmillar Castle, this charming bed and breakfast is a great choice for those who want to explore both areas. Contact: +44 131 667 5432

Whatever your preference, there’s no shortage of accommodation options near Craigmillar Castle. Book early to secure your spot and ensure a comfortable stay during your visit.

Dining and Refreshments at Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle boasts a range of dining and refreshment options to suit all tastes and preferences. Visitors can indulge in delicious food and drink while taking in the breathtaking views of the medieval marvel and its surroundings.

On-Site Cafes The castle has two on-site cafes serving a variety of hot and cold drinks, snacks, and light meals. Both cafes offer indoor and outdoor seating, allowing visitors to enjoy their refreshments in the fresh air.
Picnic Areas For those who prefer to bring their own food, there are several scenic picnic areas dotted around the castle grounds. Visitors can bask in the sunshine while enjoying a relaxing picnic.
Nearby Restaurants For those seeking a more substantial meal, there are several restaurants in the nearby area. These restaurants serve a range of cuisines, from traditional Scottish dishes to international fare.

Whether you’re looking for a light snack or a full meal, Craigmillar Castle has something to offer. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the delicious dining and refreshment options during your visit.


Craigmillar Castle is undoubtedly one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems, waiting to be discovered by visitors. Its rich history, impressive architecture, and picturesque surroundings make it an ideal day trip destination from the city.

From its origins as a medieval fortress to its role in Scottish politics and royalty, Craigmillar Castle has a fascinating history that visitors can uncover during their visit. The castle’s stunning towers, courtyards, and defensive structures are marvels of architecture that will leave visitors in awe.

While at Craigmillar Castle, visitors can explore the must-see attractions, including the Great Hall, the East Range, and the eerie underground chamber. They can also uncover the fascinating tales and legends associated with the castle, including spooky ghost stories and historical anecdotes.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, Craigmillar Castle offers scenic nature walks and beautiful landscapes to explore. There are also exciting events and activities held at the castle throughout the year, including historical reenactments, workshops, and educational programs.

When planning a visit to Craigmillar Castle, visitors can take advantage of practical tips and advice, including opening hours, ticket prices, and nearby amenities. Additionally, there are accommodation options available near the castle, from elegant hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, ensuring a comfortable stay during the visit.

Refreshment options are also available at Craigmillar Castle, including on-site cafes, picnic areas, and nearby restaurants. Visitors can refuel and relax while enjoying the castle’s unique historical charm.

In conclusion, a visit to Craigmillar Castle is a must for anyone visiting Edinburgh. With its convenient location and unique historical attractions, it promises to be an unforgettable experience.


Is Craigmillar Castle open to the public?

Yes, Craigmillar Castle is open to the public and welcomes visitors throughout the year.

What are the opening hours of Craigmillar Castle?

The opening hours of Craigmillar Castle are from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, with the last admission at 3:30 PM.

How much does it cost to visit Craigmillar Castle?

The admission fee for adults is $10, while children under the age of 16 can enter for free.

Are guided tours available at Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, guided tours are available at Craigmillar Castle, providing visitors with in-depth insights into its history and architecture.

Is Craigmillar Castle wheelchair accessible?

While some areas of Craigmillar Castle may be challenging to access for wheelchair users, there are accessible routes and facilities available.

Can I take photographs at Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, photography for personal use is allowed at Craigmillar Castle. However, tripods and other professional equipment may require prior permission.

Are there any picnic areas at Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, Craigmillar Castle has designated picnic areas where visitors can enjoy a packed lunch or a leisurely snack amidst the picturesque surroundings.

Can I bring my pet to Craigmillar Castle?

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed within the grounds of Craigmillar Castle, with the exception of assistance dogs.

Are there any parking facilities available at Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, Craigmillar Castle has a small parking lot where visitors can park their vehicles free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Are there any nearby attractions to visit after Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, there are several nearby attractions to explore after visiting Craigmillar Castle, including Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.