Ike has been staying with Jane recently. On this day out they went to Craigmillar Castle with some friends. Craigmillar Castle has been in state care since 1946, and is now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the grounds of the castle are included on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, the national register of historic gardens.
After arriving at Waverley Station in Edinburgh the party made their way to the North Bridge to get the no 30 bus to Craigmillar Castle. The bus journey was only 15 minutes and after a pleasant 10 minute walk through a meadow, the party arrived at the castle. Visitors had to pre-book to visit the castle due to Covid-19 restrictions and only certain parts of the castle were open but that did not spoil the enjoyment of visiting such a lovely place.
The castle dates from the 14th century and is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Britain. It is best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots. The castle was built by the Preston family who derived their surname from their estate at Preston (now Prestonpans). The Firth of the Forth can be seen in the distance of the righthand photograph below:
Ike and his new friends entered the inner courtyard and saw the remains of the Preston Family chapel (left). The chapel was built in the 1500s and was dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury. The castle was inhabited continually for more than 350 years and so many alterations were made to it. Ike looked over to the East Range, which dates from between 1427 and the 1510’s and could see the remains of the tower house (right):
The next port of call was the inner courtyard and Ike was surprised to see two yew trees growing. The trees are believed to be from the time of Mary Queen of Scots. Ike climbed one of the trees to get a closer look at the Tower House, unfortunately, he was unable to go further into the courtyard or the various buildings as the area was under renovation.
Ike was impressed with the attention to detail when he saw an entry in the wall which had been used to deliver water into the courtyard from above. He stood to one of the yew trees to get a closer look.
After leaving the Inner Courtyard, Ike and his friends went through a small access to the West Garden. Above the entrance lies the coat of arms of the Preston family. This shows the date 1510, and three unicorns. Below is a rebus, or wordplay, on the family name with a press on the left and a tun, or barrel, on the right.
The most prominent remaining feature of the gardens is the fishpond designed in the shape of a ‘P’ for Preston. It was once fringed with trees and had two little islands at the top of the initial with a hawthorn tree on each one. Before leaving the castle Ike got a photograph of himself in front of the inner courtyard curtain wall. He was disappointed that he had not been able to enter the rooms of the castle but the history of the castle was of interest to him.
Fortunately for Ike, and the rest of us, Jane filled him in on some details later:
The Craigmillar Bond and Murder of Lord Darnley
Mary Queen of Scots arrived at Craigmillar on 20 November 1566, to convalesce following an illness after the birth of her son, the future James VI of Scotland, who later became James l of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth l. (In Scotland he is known as James Vl of Scotland and l of England).
Before she left on 7 December 1566, a pact known as the “Craigmillar Bond” was made, with or without her knowledge, to dispose of her husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
The agreement was signed by Mary’s Secretary of State William Maitland of Lethington, and several nobles including the earls of Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly. Although Mary made it clear that she was unhappy with Darnley, she was not part of the conspiracy, and was probably unaware of the plot to kill her husband.
It was initially intended that Darnley would lodge at Craigmillar when he returned to Edinburgh, although he opted to stay at Kirk o’Field in the town, where he was murdered on 10 February 1567.