Offen Referred to as Edinburgh’s ‘other’ castle, Craigmillar is a ruined late-medieval tower house with extensions that sits around 3 miles south of the city centre. The castle is relatively unknown by tourists, perhaps because it is in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle Scotland’s most visited historic monument but is well worth the short trip to the outskirts of the city as part of an Edinburgh tour.
Craigmillar has played a part in many parts of Scottish History including the Craigmillar Bond or ‘plot’, the rough Wooing when England tried to disrupt the auld alliance with France by forcing Mary to marry Edward Prince of Wale and when Mary’s infant son James V of Scotland escaped nearby Edinburgh during an outbreak of the bubonic plague during the mid 16th century.
Craigmillar was primarily used by the Royals as a leisure facility, with Mary Stewart enjoying hunting and other recreational activity at the castle. Given its proximity to Edinburgh, there is no record of a dungeon or jail at Craigmillar despite there being suitable cellars for the job.
The castle is an interesting myriad of rooms and spiral staircases that have been added, altered and re-purposed over centuries. Construction began in the 15th century and the final major changes took place under the Preston family who extensively remodelled the castle in the 17th century. By 1780 the castle had become all but a ruin after the family moved to nearby Inch house. The wider inch estate is now partly built-on, part golf club and Craigmillar Castle park.
Nearby ‘Little France’ is the namesake of the campsite of French troops when Mary returned from France, having left after her childhood husband the Dauphin of France died from an inner ear infection. The area is now the location of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Hospital.
In modern culture, Craigmillar has been used as a film set for productions including Outlander and Outlaw King. The mighty Yew tree that stands inside the main castle door is a distinctive feature in both productions and would have existed during the time of Mary Queen of Scots.
From the rooftop of Craigmillar Castle you get a fantastic view across Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle and the Pentland Hills. On a good day you can see the new Queensferry Crossing bridge to the west and North Berwick Law some 20 miles away in East Lothian.