Craigmillar: a surprisingly good castle

Craigmillar: a surprisingly good castle

In exciting news, I got membership to Historic Scotland, mainly to force us off our backsides (and Errol out of his workroom/garden where he hobbies away) and into exploring our adopted country, seeing as it’s beautiful.

So expect many castles to come, because we get in free now to most of them (well, for a bargain price of £7 a month)!

Craigmillar Castle is in the suburbs of Edinburgh, with lovely open views to the south side of Arthur’s Seat. It’s set in parkland and from the approach doesn’t look like much – “It’s not a castle, it’s a ruin!” remarked Stroppy – but from closer up it’s pretty well preserved.

Craigmillar door

Knock knock…

As you go in through the attractive main door you find yourself in a lovely courtyard with a great, ancient, gnarly yew tree growing in the middle. ‘Ah’, I thought. ‘I might even enjoy this visit as well.’

Play count the windows in the courtyard

Play count the windows in the courtyard

The castle itself is compact but surprisingly easy to get lost in: did we just come up that staircase? Or was it this one? And the rooms themselves are unusually homely– it could be the warm sandstone colour as opposed to granite, which I believe was the fashion for many castles of the day. It’s easy to imagine Mary Queen of Scots sighing in her chamber over her plan trend the life of her vain and treacherous husband, Lord Darnley. Did she have any regrets as she closed the velvet curtains around her four-poster that night? Probably not, as Darnley had just murdered her private secretary David Rizzio, rumoured to be the father of her child.

There are a lot of fascinating nooks and crannies in this castle, including the kids’ favourite – a tiny, round, very high-ceilinged room with a chainmail door, containing a large pile of twigs. Unfortunately I failed to take a picture of it, though to be fair it was pretty dark.

Dinner is served...or was 400 years ago

Dinner is served…or was 400 years ago

A group of slightly older children were playing hide and seek, which looked like an excellent idea, but not with Whingey, who would likely get himself lost for good or fall off a turret. Stroppy and I did the quiz instead, involving counting fireplaces and such, with Stroppy keenly focussing on the possible prize, which turned out to be a sticker. She was happy enough with that.

The grounds were a sun trap that April day and we turned our faces gladly to the unfamiliar great orb in the sky and gratefully absorbed its warmth.

We took a picnic and I forgot my purse, which was great, as I didn’t need to feel my usual guilt at refusing them everything in the gift shop.

Serendipitously, we checked the information board in the park around the castle and discovered the existence of an adventure playground, which we then literally stumbled upon as it wasn’t signposted, and whiled away another hour or so of the Easter holidays.

Craigmillar Castle,  Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY. Adult £5.50, Child £3.30, Concession £4.40. Toilets in castle grounds. Free carpark. No café. 0131 661 4445. Visitor info at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

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