Craigmillar is one of Scotland’s most perfectly preserved castles. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. Of equal importance were the surrounding gardens and parkland, and the present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascinating reminders of the castle’s days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland’s capital city.
At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this new form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor, and the so-called ‘Queen Mary’s Room’ beside it, where Mary is said to have slept when staying there as a guest of the Prestons. In all probability, Mary resided in a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range.
Also here is a labyrinth of dark spaces, including a grim basement prison where an upright skeleton was found walled up in the early 19th century. The west range was rebuilt as the Gilmour family’s residence after 1660. Beyond the well-preserved 15th-century courtyard wall, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes, lie other buildings, including a private family chapel.