Sunday, 18 November 2012

Craigmillar Castle

It was a very cold but yet again beautifully sunny day. Autumn has done its best to make up for our miserable summer. And I suggested a visit to Craigmillar Castle after reading about it in the Member's magazine of Historic Scotland that owns and runs the place. We're both members and although I definitely make it worth my while by visiting as many of their properties as I can manage, John doesn't go to quite as many. However he was game today and didn't regret it. 
Craigmillar is only a "league" away from the centre of Edinburgh, a league being the distance a person could walk in an hour, so about 3 miles. It started life as a simple late 14th century tower house, built by the Preston family of nearby Prestonpans. The tower was erected on a rocky high point and the rocks are still clearly visible in the grounds.
The walls of the old tower can be seen behind the newer outer walls and it's possible to get all the way to the top of it even now! If there are stairs I will always climb them, they are one temptation I simply can't resist!
The outer walls were added and much of the castle added to and rebuilt in 1660 when the Gilmour family took over the place and as a result the castle has become a maze of passages, re-purposed rooms and stairs.In the courtyard you get to by going through the above door there are 2 old and very large trees growing. 
And this is the shield above that door. The unicorn is a symbol of Scottish royalty  and Mary Queen of Scots visited this castle at least twice (verified by documents) but probably many more times. She came here in November 1566, suffering from depression, having given birth to her son James (the future James I of England and VI of Scotland) in the June of that year, only 3 months after witnessing the murder of her secretary by her husband Henry, Lord Darnley. The plot to kill Darnley was also decided by her supporters at Craigmillar Castle and became knows as the Craigmillar Bond. 
There are many heraldic arms to be seen on the walls of Craigmillar Castle. The above one belongs to the Preston family and features 3 unicorn heads held by 2 rampant lions.
As I mentioned above we climbed all the way up and were rewarded with stunning views in all directions. The above one is towards the river Forth and you can just about see the shores of Fife on the other side as well as some passing ships.
They were much admired by the "old mariner" (hope he won't read this bit!) who is staring out to sea here. He used to work for Forth Navigation Service and was in the Merchant Navy so ships are always of interest.
 I was much more taken with the views over towards Edinburgh Town itself, where you can clearly see "Arthur's Seat" and where the fact that Edinburgh is built on a now long extinct volcano is clearly visible.

This is the very top of the tower and I was struck with the resemblance of this roof to that of St. Mary's Aisle in Carnwath which we visited quite some time ago
And this is the great hall and the enormous fireplace. I can just about imagine Mary, Queen of Scots, drawing nearer to the flames during that November of 1566. If it was anything like this November the heat would be oh so welcome.I could have done with some warmth myself as my fingers were virtually frozen by the time we got back to the car. I can't use my camera with gloves and as it was continually in action in my hands I suffered for my art!
 The sun might have been out but the wind was whipping through the place!
There were once beautiful gardens around the castle, installed at the time of the Gilmours whose mausoleum is also in the grounds (I just can't get away from graveyards, it seems!). Above  you see the ground of one of the gardens where you can clearly see the rocks the castle was build on as well as the photographer there on the left! Only discovered that when I looked at this picture on my computer screen!
And of course I could not resist a chance to try out my latest favourite photographic technique, taking pictures into the light so that everything else becomes a silhousette. Quite like the above one but the one at the very top of this blog post was the favourite and will become my blip for today.


Lenna Young Andrews said...

I am impressed! What a castle.

Jewels said...

Oh I agree with you about the first pic - and what a wonderful view - to bad it was not just a tad warmer for you but at least you had sunshine! Enjoyed reading about your day...

The Pied Pedlar said...

I enjoy my visits to Scotland through your blog, thank you

Linda said...

I can't imagine living in a castle like that. Looks enormous, I'd never find my room. I especially enjoy the inside view. Very good photos and interesting reading.


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