A Guide to Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh

Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh Outlaw King Filming Location

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If I’m being honest, I love discovering underrated places in Scotland so that when I get home I can shout about them from the rooftops.

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

Read: How to spend a remote weekend hiking in the Scottish Highlands

 

 Read: My tips for travelling Scotland on a budget

 

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.

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 Secutary, 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: The most romantic places to visit in Scotland

 

 Read: My guide on moving to Edinburgh

 

Read: You can walk to this Edinburgh Island

 

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

Admission:

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

 Read: A 1 Week Hike through the Scottish Borders

 

Read: The Best Things to do in Edinburgh

 

 Read: How to spend 2 days in Edinburgh

 

Summary

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 I inspired you to visit Craigmillar Castle?

*****

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Craigmillar Castle was a filming location for the Netflix film Outlaw King. The castle is actually one of Ediburgh's least visited attractions, which is surprising because it has a very interesting history, and is a beautiful castle to explore! #outlawking #craigmillar #craigmillarcastle #edinburgh #craigmillarcastleedinburgh #scotland #castle #robertthebruce #scotlandcastle #scottishcastle #thingstodoinedinburgh

PLANNING A TRIP TO SCOTLAND?

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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. 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 🙂

    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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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ABOUT YVETTE

Hello, I’m Yvette! Originally from New Zealand, I now call Scotland home. I left New Zealand three years ago to go on an adventure around the world. I help people to go on their own adventures, whether it’s travelling to a new country, hiking or outdoor activities.

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