A Guide to Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh

Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh Outlaw King Filming Location

Keep yourself and others safe- remember to check the government guidelines and plan ahead before you travel. Maintain social distancing and always carry a face mask. Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may get a wee commission (which I’m super grateful for) at no extra cost to you.


Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh is often overlooked thanks to Edinburgh Castle, however, it is a castle that everyone should make the effort to visit.

I spent two years living in Edinburgh, so I got to know the usual tourist haunts pretty well. Craigmillar Castle is one of my favourite hidden gems in the city.

Sitting on the fringes of the city, it is one of Scotland’s most beautiful and best-preserved castles. These factors have made it a popular filming location; both Outlaw King and Outlander used Craigmillar Castle to shoot scenes!

Craigmillar Castle doesn’t need the fame garnered by Outlaw King as it is an interesting location in its own right. The ancient ruin was a popular residence for horse-riding, hunting, and, most commonly, for plotting away from the watchful eye of the city, While the history of Craigmillar castle has very little to do with Robert the Bruce, it is tied closely to the fate of another royal- Mary Queen of Scots.

A half-day or a day trip to Craigmillar Castle should be on every visitor to Scotland’s bucket list; the castle is easily accessed from Edinburgh’s city centre; it is located only 3 miles away, with regular buses.

So if you want to avoid the crazy crowds that Edinburgh Castle attracts, Craigmillar castle is a gem waiting to be discovered!


On a budget? Grab my Scotland Bucket List Planner

Organising a big trip? Grab my Ultimate Scotland Planner

Want to tick off all the must-sees? Grab my Must-See Scotland Essential Travel Planners

Have a question about travelling around Scotland? Join my Facebook groups Scotland Travel Tips and Scotland Travel Tips for Locals

Love podcasts? Listen to my Scotland podcast Life in Scotland

Want more Scotland? Join my exclusive Scotland community Secrets of Scotland to unlock bonus content

Craigmillar castle history

Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh: A Wee Bit Of History

Craigmillar castle was originally outside of Edinburgh, until the city limits expanded widely enough that it is now included as being part of the city!

It is one of the most well-preserved castles in Scotland, as well as being incredibly photogenic (walk around to the south side of the castle for the best photos!).

The Preston family of Craigmillar began building the castle in the late 14th century. It was extended over the two following centuries. The old fish pond in the shape of a ‘P’ can still be viewed on the south side of the castle.

In 1660, the castle was sold to Sir John Gilmour. The Gilmour’s left the castle during the 18th century, and it was during this time the castle fell into ruin.

The labyrinth of stairs and rooms makes the castle an interesting and slightly confusing place to explore. It makes for a great family day out- children love exploring the many nooks and crannies of the castle.

Craigmillar castle also offers stunning views of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh castle can also be spotted from the top of the tower.

Read more: Cramond Island, the Edinburgh island you can walk to

Craigmillar castle Outlaw King Filming Location

The Castle and the Queen

One of Craigmillar castle’s most famous visitors was Mary Queen of Scots. She stayed here on two occasions; the first in September 1563, and the second in December 1566 after suffering an illness shortly after she gave birth to James IV- the future King who would unite Scotland and England.

Queen Mary partook in activities such as archery, hunting and horse-riding at Craigmillar Castle.

The first thing you’ll notice about the castle is the two yew trees that line the entrance. It is believed these trees were planted in Queen Mary’s honour when she stayed at the castle. The wood from yew trees are often used to craft bows for archery, and they symbolise longevity and rebirth. You’ll find them planted at the entrance of many churches in Ireland.

It was during Mary’s second visit that the plot to dispose of her reckless husband, Lord Darnley, was hatched. The plan was called the ‘Craigmillar Bond’, and Queen Mary probably didn’t know about it.

The decision was reached after Darnley burst into Queen Mary’s supper chamber at the Palace of Holyroodhouse with his men, who murdered the Queen’s Private Secretary, David Rizzio, in front of her. Lord Darnley was jealous of their relationship and accused him of impregnating the Queen.

Craigmillar was a safe haven for royals and nobles to go about their plotting, or to simply escape the politics of the city.

Read more: The most romantic places in Scotland

Craigmillar castle yew trees
Craigmillar castle Edinburgh
Craigmillar castle history prison

How to get to Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh

Craigmillar castle is easily accessible by bus; it takes less than 15 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh. A bus ticket will cost you only £1.70 each way, or £4 for a day pass. You can use Traveline to find the right bus, or search using Google Maps for the next available bus from your location.

Opening hours:

1 April to 30 September: Daily 9.30am – 5.30pm
October: Daily 10am-4pm
1 November to 31 March: Sat – Wed 10am to 4pm


£6.00 adult | £4.80 concession | £3.60 child (5-15) | Under 5: Free

Read more: How to travel Scotland on a budget


It’s astonishing Craigmillar Castle isn’t more popular than it is, but with the boost of exposure as its use as a filming location (and maybe this article) this will hopefully change. It ticks all the boxes a good Scottish castle should- it was a royal residence, it has a dramatic history, is only partially ruined and is achingly beautiful.

Visiting Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh is a fantastic budget-friendly activity that isn’t yet overrun with tourists- I encourage you to visit!

Have you visited Craigmillar Castle?





Blog posts fullwidth

Hello, I’m Yvette and I’m from New Zealand. In 2016 I left home to travel the world; I met my husband after hiking the length of Scotland, and now we live in a wee Scottish village with our pup, Angus. I’m a full-time blogger and travel Scotland for a living! Read more about me here.



Has my blog helped you with your travel plans? You can buy me a virtual coffee to help me to continue to bring you free content to inspire your travels. All donations go towards running this site and my caffeine fix. Thanks so much!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


Disclosure: Wayfaring Kiwi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my disclosure page for more info.

11 thoughts on “A Guide to Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh”

  1. I have to admit I’ve never been to Craigmillar Castle – I didn’t know there was a castle so close to the city!!

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      Only 15 minutes on the bus from the city centre 🙂

  2. Dagney

    What a fascinating place! I didn’t realise there was another castle so close to the city! And the prices are incredibly affordable for a British castle. Bet that wont last long with the new film. Speaking of, I’m going to have to check out Outlaw King so I can see more of this beautiful spot since unfortunately we won’t be in Scotland for awhile 🙁

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      I’m guessing the price will be bumped up for next summer now that the castle featured in Outlaw King 🙂

  3. Ashley Cairns

    What a beautiful castle and with so much history!

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      It’s amazing given the history it’s not as popular as other castles in the area. I think this will change now given it was an Outlaw King filming location!

  4. scots2travel

    You’re right, the history of that castle is colourful enough! The plus side is that film fans will learn the history when they visit in pursuit of a cool cinematic backdrop. Everyone’s a winner.

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      I hope the film brings more tourism to the castle- it’s truly stunning and I’m amazed it’s not a hugely popular tourist attraction. It may very well be now however!

  5. I’ve just watched the Outlaw King and although I’ve yet to make it to Craigmillar Castle, it is definitely on my list for 2019. Thanks for all the tips to help make my planning a bit easier!

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      It’s a stunning castle and often overlooked thanks to Edinburgh Castle being so close. Have fun! The best photos are when you walk around the back of the castle into the field.

  6. Celeste Weklych

    SO excited to read this! Cannot wait to visit! I submitted my DNA on Ancestry.com and learned that Sir Simon Preston was my 18th Great-grandfather! When I saw the castle he built, although in ruins, was still able to be toured, I began researching and planning to visit! Hoping to stay at the Prestonfield House and perhaps see if I can find a tour guide who knows the history of the Preston family and the castle. In the meantime … I’m reading all I can find on the subject!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *