Craigmillar is one of Scotland’s most perfectly preserved castles. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore.

The surrounding gardens and parkland were also important. The present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascinating reminders of the castle’s days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland’s capital city.

At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor.

‘Queen Mary’s Room’, also on the first floor, is where Mary is said to have slept when staying at Craigmillar. However, it is more likely she occupied a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range.

Sir Simon Preston was a loyal supporter of Queen Mary, whom she appointed as Provost of Edinburgh. In this capacity, he was her host for her first night as a prisoner, at his townhouse in the High Street, on 15 June 1567. She was taken to Lochleven Castle the following day.

The west range was rebuilt after 1660 as a family residence for the Gilmour family.

The 15th-century courtyard wall is well preserved, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes. Ancillary buildings lie within it, including a private family chapel.



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Founded: c. 1375-1425
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Saverio Divittorio (37 days ago)
What a wonderful castle! Easy to reach by city bypass and not far from the city centre. Small car park just upfront the main entrance. Very quiet and easy walking natural park all around the castle. The site is very well maintained. To entry into the castle there's a ticket to pay of 7 pounds. It's easy to visit inside, not suitable for disabled people unfortunately. Toilets available inside. Lot of ancient,secret and tiny rooms and tight stairs but the landscape view from the top of the walls is fantastic. The visit of the whole castle takes 20/ 30 minutes. If you like medieval buildings this place deserves a visit.
Keith Brown (56 days ago)
A castle with a surprising amount of history that takes longer than expected to explore, so definitely worth the trip. No definitive route and you can go round at your own pace. Sits in a lot of open countryside, so plenty of easy walking can be tagged to a visit. Although I arrived by car, I think quite a few people were arriving on foot from Edinburgh. An audio guide would probably have added to the experience. Understandable but slightly disappointing that, as with so many Historic Scotland sites at the moment (Summer 2022), a portion is off limits pending structural assessment and no doubt some follow up repairs.
Kim Kjaerside (6 months ago)
We had visited Craigmillar Castle some years ago, bit never brought our kids, now 3 years and 6 years old. We visited on a Sunday morning, managed to park just outside and then headed in to purchase the tickets, which can also be pre-purchased online, we however decided to buy them on arrival. The lady serving us was really helpful and also advised there would be a quiz for the kids as we walked around. When we got to the Castle entrance we were welcomed by two gents who told us a little about the recent developments and what was open, along with giving our eldest her quiz sheet. We then spent about an hour walk around and through the castle. Absolutely fascinating and both kids loved their first ever castle experience, although our youngest was concerned it was pretty ruined ? At the end the gent told how they have lots more activities planned for the coming months and suggested we kept an eye on their website. All round a really exciting visit for all of us and definitely recommend it for families even with relatively small children. There are several stairs where I had to carry our youngest, but was no issue for us certainly. Thank you!
Graeme Heddle (8 months ago)
Fantastic castle. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore and a fascinating history. Keep is roofed if you need to escape from the rain. It was a grey day when we visited, but the view from the top of the keep out towards Arthur's Seat and the city is breathtaking.
Richard Baigrie (8 months ago)
Great fun experience, friendly staff and lots of exploring to be done. Great for kids or adults. Some winding stair cases to access the upper parts so mat not be for everyone, but certainly one of the best in the area!
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Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.