criagmillar castle courtyard
Europe,  scotland

The history behind Craigmillar Castle and its links to Outlander

Craigmillar Castle is a wonderfully preserved medieval fortress located in the south of Edinburgh, Scotland. The castle, which dates back to the 14th century, is steeped in history and has played a significant role in Scotland’s past.

If you’re paying this location a visit, make the most of the opportunity to explore the other things to see and do in the neighbourhood: Things to do and see in Craigmillar, Edinburgh (blog coming soon)

Craigmillar Castle’s History and its connection to Mary Queen of Scots

The castle was originally built by the Preston family in the 14th century and has had a rich and varied history. It was a royal residence for King James II and was also used as a prison during the 16th century. The castle was extensively remodelled in the 16th century, with the addition of a Great Hall, a chapel, and a range of other buildings. The Great Hall is my favourite part of the building, it gives you a real appreciation for just how grand the castle was back in its heyday; the restoration work here is immaculate and (in my opinion) the best place to capture a couple of photographs.

One of the most interesting stories associated with Craigmillar Castle is the “The Craigmillar Bond”. In 1566, a group of noblemen, including the Earl of Bothwell, met at the castle to plan the murder of Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The plan was successful, and Darnley was killed in a mysterious explosion in Edinburgh. Although the exact details of the plot are still a matter of debate, it is clear that Craigmillar Castle played a crucial role in the events leading up to the murder.

doors to passaways in craigmillar castle with spiral staircase

Craigmillar Castle’s associations with Outlander

One of the most notable features of Craigmillar Castle is its connections to the popular Outlander series. The castle served as the inspiration for the fictional Castle Leoch, the home of Clan MacKenzie in the series. Author Diana Gabaldon visited Craigmillar while researching for her books, and was inspired by its rugged beauty and rich past, using it as a basis for her fictional setting.

One of the highlights of the castle is the beautifully preserved ruins, including its keep, which dates back to the 15th century. The keep offers marvelous views of the surrounding countryside and is another prime spot for a photo opportunity.

Another must-see at Craigmillar is the castle’s underground vaults. These dark and atmospheric tunnels were used in the show as a hiding spot for Jamie and Claire, and they make for a compelling and eerie visit. But perhaps the most exciting part of a visit to Craigmillar for Outlander fans is the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the much-loved couple. The castle’s Great Hall and other rooms were used as filming locations in the show, and it’s hard not to feel a sense of excitement as you imagine the characters coming to life in these spaces.

craigmillar castle castle from outside - internal view
Inside craigmillar castle great hall

How to get to Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle is located in the south of Edinburgh and can be easily reached by public transport from the city centre.

To get to Craigmillar Castle by bus, take the number 44 or 45 bus from Edinburgh city centre. The bus stop is located near Waverley train station and the journey takes approximately 20-25 minutes. Get off at the Craigmillar Castle/Niddrie Mains Road stop, from there it’s a short walk to the castle.

Alternatively, you can also take the Lothian Buses number 15, which goes through Craigmillar, it takes around 30 minutes, and then you will have to walk a bit more, around 15 minutes to reach the castle.
Both options run regularly, and the frequency of buses can vary depending on the day of the week and the time of day. It is recommended to check the timetable in advance and plan your journey accordingly.

NOTE: Tram works across Edinburgh are currently causing a lot of changes to bus routes across the city. See the Lothian bus live tracking for daily info.

craigmillar castle courtyard with stairs leading into the castle

Craigmillar Castle prices

The prices and tickets for visiting the castle may vary depending on the time of year, so it is recommended to check the official website or contact the castle directly for the most up-to-date information. However, as of 2023, the general admission prices for Craigmillar Castle are as follows:

Adults: £7
Children (5-15 years old): £4.00
Concessions (students and senior citizens): £5.50
Families (two adults and up to three children): £24.00

The prices for the castle are standard and include access to the castle and its grounds, as well as guided tours that take place throughout the day. Some special events and exhibitions may have additional charges, which will be advertised on the castle’s website in advance.

If you’re visiting Edinburgh and looking for things to see and do, you might also like these posts:

Travel writer, marketing adviser and blogger based in Edinburgh, with a focus on budget and vegan travel. 39 countries to date, with extensive knowledge of travel within Asia, particularly within Thailand.

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