One of my favourite discoveries during this trip is Craigmillar Castle. It is not so well known as Edinburgh Castle, or so extravagant as Stirling Castle (which I'll post about in part two), but it has real atmosphere and authenticity. It is the kind of place you dream about when you're a child while reading Tamora Pierce and pretending the kitchen broom is a valiant steed.
During anxious times, Mary Queen of Scots would often retreat to this castle to relax and regroup. It is rumoured she planned the assassination of her husband here.
Honestly, it's no surprise she loved the place so much, given the surrounding landscape looks like this:
The power of nature, wearing slowly away at human constructions, is obvious everywhere.
Nonetheless, Craigmillar Castle is known as one of the best preserved medieval castles in Scotland, and for good reason.
The main walls of the castle are still intact, as well as many of the inner structures.
The main door through the outer wall leads into an enclosed courtyard, which contains two gracefully twisting trees standing on either side of the entrance.
The castle seems relatively neat and contained from the outside. Inside, however, you are soon half lost in the network of interconnected rooms, narrow passage ways, and steep winding staircases. There are strange nooks and crannies everywhere; little shelves, crawl spaces and openings into darkness.
Also moss. Lots of moss.
All important parts of the building are intact, including the kitchens, bed chambers and main hall.
One whole wing of rooms has lost their roof, but the walls and even fireplaces are still standing thanks to conservation efforts.
The ruins are very atmospheric. Along with a cool draft, your explorations are accompanied by the echoing and whistling of the wind, the fluttering of pigeons roosting in the crevices, and the croaking of ravens up on the ramparts.
It wasn't too spooky on the day I visited, as the weather was so cheerful. Would be quite exciting on a stormy night though...
What I loved most is that you can go everywhere, including high up onto the battlements. From there you can see all the way to Edinburgh Castle (making it a very strategic spot, historically).
As you can probably tell, I like this place a lot. I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone traveling nearby. It is a bit difficult to find, as there are no signs, but you just need to plan your visit in advance.
There is even a baby bunny who lives in the wall and eats the grass. If you look closely you might see his/her little furry legs hiding in the hole.
If customs are reading this, I did not steal the bunny and it is not in my suitcase. So you don't need to look, okay.