Fortunately for us, we followed in her horse’s hoof-steps and found our way to Craigmillar Castle, former home of the Barons Craigmillar, the Preston and Gilmour families, and in 1563 and 1566, the place Mary Queen of Scots chose for at least two rural retreats.
If the walls of this ancient rambling ruin could talk, they would have some pretty exciting tales to tell! That is why, while not restored, but beautifully preserved, this turned out to be one of our favorite castles!
What fun Jim and I had exploring this castle with all its nooks and crannies. Yes, we are just big kids sometimes!
But the most compelling story is the one about Mary Queen of Scots…….
Mary’s first stay at Craigmillar included relaxing and pleasurable court activities typical to entertaining the Monarch and her retinue. The Preston family would have had lots of space and amenities to house the queen and her court. Some say she stayed in the tower (hence her "room" there), but many think she might have stayed in the East Range (Grange).
The East Range, was built in the 15th century and had been attached to the Tower-House to add more space to the laird’s apartments and additional private chambers, and a gallery. Today the roof is long gone, but you can walk through the basement storerooms, bake-house, and even a prison. A long gallery would have provided a place for the owner and guests to walk in bad weather. The great hall on the West side of the tower may have been built by this time as well.
During this unhappy time in her turbulent and tragic life, she reportedly spent days in her rooms at Craigmillar, deep in despair over the murder of her beloved secretary Rizzio, her disastrous marriage to Lord Darnley, and precarious royal position.
Even more disastrous for Mary; during this time, her host, Simon Preston IV (Baron Craigmillar) was plotting to murder her husband Lord Darnley. The Plot was called the “Craigmillar Bond”, and was launched a few months later. Lord Darnley was blown up in his own house and his strangled body was found blown across the yard.
With Queen Mary’s fortunes falling, the long friendship between Sir Simon Preston and the queen ended. In fact, Sir Preston, as Lord Provost of Edinburgh, took the queen under guard and delivered her to the island stronghold of Lochleven for imprisonment.
We walked through what must have been three impressive rooms in those days. The large hall would have had a decorative painted wooden ceiling and large windows with views. Unfortunately, the wooden ceiling is gone and the windows are all filled in with stone now.