Featured image of Craigmillar Castle

The History of Craigmillar Castle

LocationCraigmillar, Edinburgh, Scotland (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byHistoric Environment Scotland
Official WebsiteCraigmillar Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Weddings, Events)

The 14th Century Craigmillar Castle is a beautiful, well-preserved castle built to impress. The castle is an enigmatic example of a medieval castle that hides many fantastic attributes and mysteries, setting it apart from the other conventional keeps.

History of Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle was built in the late 14th century as a simple tower house residence making it one of the earliest tower houses in Scotland. Sir Simon Preston built it after the Preston Family, also called Barons of Craigmillar, were granted lands in the region by the Scottish King Robert II. Craigmillar Castle was burned by English troops under the rule of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, during the Wars of Rough Wooing in 1544. Sir Simon Preston was also a staunch supporter of Mary Scott, who had appointed him Provost of Edinburgh. Later in 1566, a pact between several of the Scottish Queen Mary Scott’s noblemen to murder her husband, Lord Darnley, was signed. The pact was named the ‘Craigmillar Bond’ after the castle, and in the subsequent year, the deed was carried out when Lord Darnley was murdered at Kirk O’ Field.

In 1660, the Preston Family sold Craigmillar Castle to Sir John Gilmour. Misfortune beheld the castle when the Gilmour family abandoned the castle in the 18th century leading the castle into ruins. Even in the 18th century, the castle was a popular spot for tourists consisting mainly of artists keen to draw the castle and its essence. The mystery surrounding the castle started in the early 19th century when a secret compartment was found in the basement prison containing an upright skeleton. The mystery continues to date, leaving the tourists to speculate the happenings and whose skeletons lie forgotten and buried in the basement.


Craigmillar Castle aerial view
Craigmillar Castle”, by PaulT (Gunther Tschuch), is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Primitively a simple tower house residence, Craigmillar Castle grew into a comfortable residence with complex structures and spaces as each owner improved its facilities and added something new to the original form. The medieval castle is nearly 56 feet high, and the walls are almost 10 feet wide. It holds an array of rooms, including a beautiful Great Hall with a fireplace on the first floor and several rooms, including a kitchen dating from about 1500 on the second floor. The courtyard was later added by Sir William Preston, which houses the private family chapel and other minor buildings.

A maze of medieval tunnels exists in the estate for the tourists to explore, and the curious remains of a fishpond-shaped ‘P’ for Preston (named after the Preston Family). Many ‘veteran’ trees stand on the grounds, which enhances the scenic beauty of the castle.

Movie Features

Ivanhoe (1997)– The Adventure- Drama- Romance movie starring Ciaran Hinds, Susan Lynch, Victoria Smurfit features Craigmillar Castle veritably.

Outlaw King (2018)– The Action- Drama film directed by David Mackenzie features the castle brilliantly. It is a gripping story about how the 14th Century Scottish king defeated the mighty English Army, starring Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Rebecca Robin, and Billy Howle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Mary Queen of Scotts stay at Craigmillar Castle?

Yes, Mary Queen of Scotts stayed at Craigmillar Castle for a brief amount of time to recover from her illness after the birth of her son, James VI, in 1566. You can visit ‘Queen Mary’s Room’ on the first floor of the tower house where she stayed.

Was Craigmillar Castle used in Outlander?

Yes, Craigmillar Castle was featured in Episode 3, All Debts Paid, of Outlander Season 3. It was portrayed as Ardsmuir Prison, where Jamie’s male lead protagonist was imprisoned with his mates.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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