Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA Castle Tour Of The Edinburgh Area - June 2006

Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle


Location OS Map 66 – NT 274 628

Lothians: About 2 miles south of Loanhead, 0,5 miles south east of Roslin village, on minor road south of the B7006.

Martin Coventry (1995): Once a formidable and splendid fortress, Rosslyn Castle consists of a ruined 14th century round keep, altered and extended with ranges of buildings and towers in the 15th and 16th centuries, some of these complete. It stands on a high bank, above a river, and is defended by a wide ditch on the only weak side. The keep and ranges of buildings were arranged around a courtyard. A 16th century block of five storeys, still mainly entire, is rectangular in plan, with a projecting square tower at one end.

Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle, the main stronghold of the Sinclair Earls of Orkney

The walls are pierced by gunloops. The three lower floors each have four vaulted chambers, with another in the tower. The main block rooms are reached by a long corridor, and there is a wide scale-and-platt stair from the basement to the top floor. The block contains a kitchen, with a huge fireplace. The hall, on the third floor, has a finely carved fireplace, dated 1597. The third and fourth floors were altered in the 17th century, but have ornamental plaster ceilings. Rosslyn was the main stronghold of the Sinclair Earls of Orkney and Caithness, who lived like princes. During the Wars of Independence, an English army was heavily defeated by the Scots in 1303 near the castle. Sir William Sinclair, who probably built the keep, was one of the knights who set out on crusade with Robert the Bruce's heart, and was killed fighting the Moors in Granada in 1330. The castle was accidentally burned in 1452. It was sacked and torched by the Earl of Hertford in 1544, and attacked again in 1650 by Monck during Cromwell's invasion of Scotland. A mob damaged it in 1688. The property passed by marriage to the Sinclair-Erskines, who were made Earls of Rosslyn in 1802. They still own the castle, and part of it is habitable, and can be rented through the Landmark Trust. Rosslyn Chapel, intended as a Collegiate Church, was founded by William Sinclair, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, in 1446, and is open all year to the public. The chapel is richly carved with Biblical stories, and has the largest number of 'Green Men' found in any medieval building. In the crypt belo w the chapel ten of the Sinclair lairds and their kin lie, said to be laid out in their armour without coffins.

Cramond Tower, Edinburgh

Cramond Tower, Edinburgh


Location: OS Map 66 - NT 191 770

Lothians: About 4 miles west and north of Edinburgh Castle, at Cramond, near shore of Firth of Forth, east of the mouth of the River Almond.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Cramond Tower - This plain lofty late 15th century tower is picturesquely situated on high ground overlooking the Forth at the mouth of the River Almond, within the policies of its successor, Cramond House. Built of coursed rubble with dressed stone details, it is oblong in plan with a semicircular stair-tower projecting at the south-east angle. Though tall it is not very large, measuring only 24 by 2 I feet externally. There are four storeys beneath the present wallhead, although there would be a further garret storey above, before it fell in. The parapet is a little unusual in that it does not project from the wall face on corbelling. The tower is not in a good state of preservation, even for a ruin. It is well worth preserving. The door is in the south wall, and has been provided with an outer iron yett and an inner door of wood. To the right of the entrance lobby, a passage within the thickness of the wall admits to the stairfoot. Owing to the rise in ground level towards the south, the doorway is a few feet above basement level, which necessitates a short flight of steps leading down from the entrance lobby to the ground floor with its high pointed vault. This is lit only by a small window placed in an unusual position over the doorway. The stair, a turnpike, is very narrow and steep, lit by windows that are little more than slits, and has terminated in a cap-house, now no more. The Hall, on the first floor, has been largely altered, the wide fireplace having been reduced in size and sundry win dows filled in; also the south wall has been thinned internally to provide extra floor space. The second floor chamber is provided with a substantial hooded fireplace, in the back of which a window has been opened out. Stone seats are contrived in the north and south window breasts, and an L-shaped garderobe or wall-closet has been provided. The third floor is unusual in having a barrel-vaulted ceiling, lit only by one window.

The tower is now free-standing, as it was designed to be, but at sundry periods outbuildings of various heights have been erected against the north, east and west walls, though these have now disappeared. The Cramond property, important from Roman times, was originally Church land, belonging to the Bishops of Dunkeld, who must have built the tower. At the Reformation, it passed, in 1574, to a branch of the powerful and acquisitive house of Douglas, who did so well out of the said upheaval, their foremost man, the notorious Earl of Morton, being Regent of Scotland at the time. The Douglases held Cramond until 1622, when it was acquired by James Inglis, a wealthy Edinburgh merchant whose grandson was created a baronet in 1687. In this family the estate remained until 1795. It was the Inglis lairds who moved from the tower to the nearby mansion which they began to erect about 1680. Very considerable and interesting Roman remains are now being uncovered within a stone's throw of both tower and mansion.

Martin Coventry (1995): Although part of a much larger castle at one time, Cramond Tower is a tall narrow 16th century tower house, with a vaulted basement. It is located in the picturesque village of Cramond. The property was owned by the Bishops of Dunkeld, but passed to the Douglases, and was then acquired in 1622 by an English merchant, John Inglis , His grandson abandoned the tower in 1680 for Cramond House, now the home of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The tower became ruinous, but was consolidated by the local council, and finally restored and reoccupied in 1983. Cramond is also the site of a Roman fort, remains having been found near Cra mond Kirk, which itself has a 15th century tower and interesting burial ground.

Laurieston Castle

Laurieston Castle


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 204 762

Lothians: About 3 miles west and north of Edinburgh Castle, between Davidson's Mains and Cramond, on minor road north of the B9085.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Laurieston - The name and general aspect of this mansion house at Davidson's Mains is well known to most Edinburgh citizens, since the property now belongs to themselves, having been gifted to Edinburgh Town Council, as trustees for the people, by its last private owner, the late Mr Reid. With its pleasant grounds it is open to the public as a period museum. Not everyone is aware, however, that its nucleus is an interesting and attractive tower of the late 16th century. The original building consists of a rectangular block, rising to three storeys and an attic, with, to the north, a circular stair-tower. This, above second-floor level is built out to the square to provide a small upper watch-chamber, reached by a little stair-turret in the angle. The two southern comers of the main block are crowned by large two-storeyed angle-turrets containing tiny apartments. The former entrance is in the south front at ground level and has been reduced to form a window. Over this is carved a long Latin and English inscription, with the names of Robert Dalgliesh and his wife Jean Douglas. One of the dormer pediments is also enhanced with the arms of Dalgliesh impaling those of Douglas of Pumpherston. The interior has been much altered to connect up with the large modem mansion attached. The ground floor still contains two parallel vaulted apartments however. On the first floor, as usual was the Hall, and at the west end of it, a small secret stair, hidden by a window shutter, leads to a little mural chamber above, from which the Hall can be watched through a spy-hole. It would be interesting to learn why Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, father of the inventor of logarithms, who built the tower, included this curious provision. He lived in difficult times, of course but then so did the majority of fortalice builders, for the period, with the Reformation in progress, was the great one for tower erection in Scotland, as the vast Church lands were being parcelled out to new upand- coming proprietors. Yet few of them actually ran to secret stairs, and spy-holes to watch their Halls. In 1456 the lands belonged to John Louranstoun and remained with his descendants until the Forresters of Corstorphine acquired them early in the 16th century.

They were sold in 1587 to the aforementioned Sir Archibald Napier, and the initials of his wife, Dame Elizabeth Moubray, appear on another dormer pediment. Their second son became Sir Alexander Napier of Lauriston, Senator of the College of Justice. The Robert Dalgliesh, who seems to have made sundry alterations, bought the property in 1656. He was Solicitor to Charles Second. At the end of the 17th century, Lauriston came into the possession of the astonishing John Law of Lauriston, one of the most famous of all wizards of finance, who became eventually Comptroller-General of the Finances of France. At the age of twenty-three he had to flee to Holland after killing a man in a duel, but was back in Scotland in a few years to propose new and revolutionary schemes to the Scottish Parliament for the provision and administration of its revenues, including the issue of paper money. Laurieston remained with his descendants apparently, who all served their adopted country France in various ways, until it was acquired by an Edinburgh Banker, a Mr Allan, in 1827-thus retaining its connection with the financial and mathematical world. Martin Coventry 1995 - Lauriston - Lothians: About 3 miles west and north of Edinburgh Castle, between Davidson's Mains and Cramond, on minor road north of the B9085. Lauriston Castle is a much-altered 16th century tower house of three storeys and an attic, to which was added a two-storey Jacobean extension, designed by William Burn, in 1824-7. The tower has a round stair-tower, and two large pepper-pot bartizans crown one side. The basement of the old part is vaulted. The first-floor hall has a hidden stair leading to a spy hole. The castle was built by the Napiers of Merchiston. One of the family, John Napier, was the inventor of logarithms. In 1656 the property was sold to Charles II's solicitor, Robert Dalgleish, and in 1683 to the Laws. In 1827 it passed to the Allans, and then later to the Rutherfords, the Crawfords of Cartsbum, then the Reids, who were the last owners, and gave it to the city of Edinburgh. The castle has a fine Edwardian-period interior, housing good collections of Italian furniture, Blue John, Grossley wool mosaics, Sheffield plate, mezzotint prints, Caucasian carpets, and items of decorative art.

Martin Coventry (1995): Site of a castle, which was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots. The old castle was demolished when the present house, a symmetrical castellated mansion of three storeys, designed by James Playfair, was built at the end of the 18th century. The property took its name from Norman de Malavilla in the 12th century. It passed to Sir John Ross of Hawkhead in the late 14th century, but was sold to David Rennie in 1705, then passed by marriage to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, later Duke of Lauderdale. Dundas was a very powerful man in Scotland, and there is a memorial to him in the gardens of St Andrew Square in Edinburgh. The house was used as a hotel, but although only abandoned in the 1980's, is now derelict. It may be about to be restored.

Melville Castle
Melville Castle


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 310 669

Martin Coventry (1995):

Lothians: About 1.5 miles west of Dalkeith, on minor roads east of A7, just west of the North Esk, at Melville.

Site of a castle, which was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots. The old castle was demolished when the present house, a symmetrical castellated mansion of three storeys, designed by James Playfair, was built at the end of the 18th century. The property took its name from Norman de Malavilla in the 12th century. It passed to Sir John Ross of Hawkhead in the late 14th century, but was sold to David Rennie in 1705, then passed by marriage to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, later Duke of Lauderdale. Dundas was a very powerful man in Scotland, and there is a memorial to him in the gardens of St Andrew Square in Edinburgh. The house was used as a hotel, but although only abandoned in the 1980's, is now derelict. It may be about to be restored.

East Coats House

East Coats House


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 241 734

Nigel Tranter (1962): East Coates House - Standing in the shadow of St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, this small early 17th century laird's house serves as a reminder that Edinburgh's West End was once open country. The original house, considerably added to last century, is Lshaped, with a small stair-wing projecting west of the main block, and a stair-turret, corbelled out to the square at its top, rising above first floor in the re-entrant angle. An unusual feature here is the projecting three corbels following the rise of the steps, externally. The building is only two storeys and a garret in height. Two large angle-turrets, containing little chambers, overhang the south gable, a sundial enhancing one of them. The entrance is by a modern porch near the foot of the stair-wing. Internally the usual arrangement prevails, though there has been much alteration, with domestic offices in the basement, public rooms on the first floor and bedrooms above; the main stair rises only to the first floor, the turret-stair serving the attics. A dormer pediment contains the initials I.B. and M.B., re presenting Lord Provost Sir John Byres, an Edinburgh merchant, and his wife, dated 16 I 5. This picturesque house is in good condition, and the property of the Church Commissioners. Martin Coventry 1995 - East Coates House - Lothians: About 0.5 miles west of Edinburgh Castle, on minor roads north of A8, near St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral. Near St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, East Coates House is an early 17th century L-plan tower house of two storeys and a garret. It was considerably added to in the 18th and 19th centuries. A stair-turret, in the re-entrant angle, is corbelled out to a square at the top. Two large bartizans crown one gable, and the walls are pierced by gunloops. The entrance is in the foot of the stair-wing. The building has been much altered inside. The house was built by Lord Provost Sir John Byres in 1615. The house is in good condition, was part of a music school attached to the nearby cathedral, but is now the Episcopal Church's Theological Institute.




Location: OS Map 66 – NT 234 709

Lothians: About 2 miles south and west of Edinburgh Castle, on minor roads west of A702, east of A70, on Craiglockhart Hill.

Nigel Tranter (1962): A late 16th century house, with 18th century additions, Craig house stands high on Craiglockhart Hill, Morningside, and now forms part of the well-known mental institution. The original building consists of a tall narrow four-storeyed main block, with a square stair-tower projecting northwards close to the west end. To this has been added a lower extension, dated 1746. The walls are roughcast. The main block roof has been altered, the gable crowstepping having disappeared. Chimneys also have been heightened. The doorway of moulded stone opens at the foot of the stairtower. Above it are the initials of Laurence Symsone and his wife, who built the original house, dated 1565. The interior has necessarily been much altered. The ground floor is vaulted, with the kitchen to the west. The main turnpike stair rises to second floor level, above which a small turret stair in the north-west re-entrant serves the attics and the little watch-chamber in the top of the stair tower. In the 17th century, Craighouse belonged to Lord Provost Sir William Dick, one of the wealthiest men of his day, who lost all supporting the cause of Charles First. A later laird was Sir James Elphinstoun, whose arms appear on the extension.

Martin Coventry (1995): Craighouse incorporates a much-altered 16th century tower house. It consists of a narrow main block of four storeys with a square projecting stair-tower, and is dated 1565. To this has been added a lower extension, dated 1746. The entrance is at the foot of the stair-tower. The basement is vaulted. The main turnpike stair rises to second-floor level, above which is a small turret stair. The castle was built by the Symsons. In the 17th century Craighouse belonged to Lord Provost Sir William Dick, one of the wealthiest men of the day, who lost everything supporting Charles I, and the property passed to the Elphinstones. It was part of a psychiatric hospital, but is now a campus of Napier University. In 1712 it was a property of Sir Thomas Elphinstone, who was married to the much younger Elizabeth Pittendale. Elizabeth is said to have fallen in love with Elphinstone's son John, and Sir Thomas caught them together. Thomas stabbed Elizabeth to death in a terrible rage, although John escaped, and Sir Thomas committed suicide. John Elphinstone then inherited the property, and let the house, but a 'Green Lady', the spirit of Elizabeth, began to haunt the building. The hauntings only ceased when Elizabeth's remains were removed from the burial vault of her husband, and when John died he is said to have been buried beside her.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 288 709

Lothians: About 3 miles south-east of Edinburgh Castle, on minor road south between A6095 and north of A68, just south of CraigmilIar housing scheme.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Craigmillar - One of the best-known landmarks of Edinburgh, this great castle crowns a green ridge three miles south of the city, above its spreading modern housing. Although it looks a complicated and mighty fortress, in fact it is a fairly simple composition, stemming from a massive plain late 14th century L-planned tower, extended by the addition of lofty parapeted curtainwalls with circular angle -towers a century later; and a further large walled enclosure, within a moat, plus lean-to buildings, and a chapel, within the courtyards, in the 16th century. The building, though roofless, is well maintained. The original tower rises to four main storeys, with its wing a storey higher and finishing in a 16th century gabled watch-chamber. A flush parapet surmounts the main block wallhead, with wide and shallow crenellations. The entrance is by a wide arched doorway in the wing, under a heraldic panel of the Preston family. It opens into a narrow vaulted lobby which leads to the turnpike stair and also gives access to the main block basement, subdivided and dimly-lit cellars. These each now have doorways slapped through the 10-foot thick walls to east and west, linking with later work. There is an entresol floor above, of timber, and above this the main vaulted ceiling, the lobbies also being vaulted. Another small turnpike rises to the main first floor. Here is the Hall, a fine apartment of 35 by 21 feet, with a vaulted chamber in the wing, now called Queen Mary's Room, but the original kitchen. The Hall has a good hooded fireplace with a stone kerb, and the windows have stone seats. There are two garderobes. The kitchen had a wide arched fireplace with stone sink and slop. Still another small turnpike leads to the main second floor, another vaulted entresol. The large chamber has no fireplace, but the vaulted apartment in the wing has, also a garderobe with chute. Above this level is the low-pitched, stone-slabbed roof of the main block, within the parapet-walk; also the gabled watch-chamber, with its own fire place and garderobe, which also serves as caphouse for the stairhead. The 30-foot high curtain- walls are very fine, with a good parapet walk carried on heavy machicolated corbelling. The angle -towers also have machicolated parapets. There is a large square corbelled projection at the south wallhead, adjoining the keep. Westwards the wallhead has lost its crenellations and parapet, and there are socket holes for a timber gallery or bretache. The later buildings within the courtyard comprise a four-storey range on the east, containing four cellars, three vaulted, in basement, reached by a vaulted passage from the keep. These included a well chamber, later kitchen, and a bakehouse with a round oven and stone table. The floor above also has four apartments, two vaulted, reached by a large turnpike stair contrived partly in the keep's walling. The middle chamber is still another kitchen, with huge fireplace, for which the massive chimney-stack seen in sketch houses the flue. Above was a single long apartment, communicating with the parapet walk, no doubt a dormitory for the guard. The west range of outbuildings dates from 1661, although there is an older nucleus of vaulted cellarage. Otherwise each storey contains three chambers, the central one long and narrow. In the outer court the chapel has been fairly plain. It dates from the mid-16th century, with crowstepped gables, and has a screen and piscina. The round flanking-tower, with gunloops, at the extreme north-east angle of the outer curtain, was a dovecote.

Martin Coventry (1995): A strong, imposing and well-preserved ruin, CraigmilIar Castle consists of a 14thcentury L-plan keep, surrounded by a 15th century machiolated curtain wall with round corner towers. Early in the 16th century it was given an additional walled courtyard, protected by a ditch. The keep is roofed with stone slabs, inside a parapet, and the stair is topped by a caphouse. Domestic ranges were constructed around the courtyards. The entrance to the keep is through a wide arched entrance, and leads to a vaulted lobby and to a turnpike stair. The basement is vaulted. The large hall, on the first floor, has a fine hooded moulded fireplace. The vaulted chamber in the wing was once the kitchen. Another turnpike stair leads to the vaulted second floor. The courtyard enclosed four-storey ranges, with vaulted basements, which contained a kitchen and a long gallery, as well as many other chambers. The Prestons held the property from 1374, and built a new castle on the site of a much older stronghold. In 1477 James III imprisoned his brother John, Earl of Mar, in one of its cellars, where he died. The Earl of Hertford torched the castle in 1544, after valuables placed here by the citizens of Edinburgh had been seized. James V visited the castle to escape 'the pest' in Edinburgh. Mary, Queen of Scots, used Craigmillar often, and fled here in 1566 after the murder of Rizzio by, among others, her second husband Lord Darnley. It was also here that the Regent Moray, Borthwick and William Maitland of Lethington plotted Darnley's murder. Mary's son, James VI, also stayed here. In 1660 Sir John Gilmour bought Craigmillar, and had the castle altered into a comfortable residence. A walled-up skeleton was found in one of the vaults in 1813.

Dundas Castle

Dundas Castle


Location: OS Map 65 – NT 116 767

Lothians: About 1.5 miles south of South Queensferry, on minor road west of A8000, just north of Dundas Loch, at Dundas Castle.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Dundas - Situated on a mound, with the ground level dropping sharply on three sides, this massive 15th century tower, now superseded by a large modern mansion, is still in good repair although greatly altered internally astonishingly so, for of all things it was at one time converted into a distillery. It is a four-storeyed rubble-built structure on the L-plan, to which a wing has been added at the north-west angle at a slightly later date. The present roof is flat, there being no garret storey within the parapet, as is usual. The turnpike stair terminates in a rather unusual circular caphouse with a rib-vaulted ceiling, the flat top of which, surrounded by a little parapet of its own and reached by an external stair, forms a look-out tower. It is not difficult to trace the periods of building, for Dundas of Dundas received a warrant from Robert, Duke of Albany, to build a fortalice here in 1416, and a further warrant from James First in 1424 for the addition. In those days the Crown was somewhat careful about which of its warlike subjects it allowed to embattle their houses. The doorway lies in the re-entrant angle, and is still provided with a fine iron yett. A great deal of brick has been used internally to alter and divide up the building for distilling purposes. The ground floor is vaulted, and is provided with a service stair in the north-west angle leading to the Hall on the first floor, but this is screened off by a modern brick wall. The main stair rises to the left of the entrance lobby as far as the first floor only. The ground floor of the wing originally was reached from a doorway placed a few steps up this stair, now built up and a new doorway formed in the west wall. The vaulted basement of the later extension is reached by an external door to the east. Next to the Hall, which was provided with three aumbries and a fine fireplace, was the original kitchen in the wing, superseded later by the first-floor chamber in the 1424 wing. A secondary stair rises in the thickness of the north west angle. The second floor main chamber is set at a lower level than formerly, owing to the lowering of the ceiling of the Hall below, and one of the corbels for the support of the Hall ceiling projects well above the present flooring. There is a good moulded fireplace, and a doorway communicating with the wing chamber, which is vaulted, with fireplace, garderobe and aumbry, probably the laird's bedroom. The second floor chamber of the later wing is similar. Between second- and third-floor levels a small mural chamber has been contrived in the thickness of the north wall, vaulted and provided with little fireplace and window. The third floor apartments are also vaulted. The parapet, which is supported on individual three-member corbels, is provided with open rounds at the angles. The family of Dundas held the lands from the 12th century until comparatively recent times. The castle sustained a siege in 1449, very soon after it was built, and is said to have received a visit from Oliver Cromwell in 1651. Charles Second had already been there that same year, inspecting the fortifications of the island of Inchgarvie in the Forth, of which Dundas of Dundas was the owner and keeper-so presumably Cromwell was on the same errand. Dundas Castle itself, however, does not seem to have come into the hostilities on this occasion.

Martin Coventry (1995): Dundas Castle or Tower is a massive 15th century keep of four storeys and a flat roof, now Lplan with the addition of a later wing. A round caphouse with a rib-vaulted ceiling crowns the main turnpike stair. The corbelled-out parapet has open rounds at the corner. The entrance, in the re-entrant angle, still has an iron yett. The basement is vaulted and has a stair, in one corner, which leads to the hall on the first floor. The castle has been greatly altered inside with brick partition walls. The main stair climbs only to the first floor. There were fine private chambers above the hall, some of them vaulted. The Dundas family held the lands from about 1124 until 1875, and built the castle in 1424. It was besieged in 1449, and visited by both Charles II and Cromwell in 1651. The castle was abandoned when the nearby Gothic mansion, designed by William Burn, was built in 1818, and later converted for use as a distillery. It is empty, but in fairly good condition. The house was sold to the Stewarts in 1875.

Monkton House

Monkton House


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 334 703

Monkton - Lothians: About 1 mile south of Musselburgh, on minor road north of A6124, at Inveresk, east of the River Esk.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Monkton - This is an impressive and substantial house of character, dating from at least four periods, which has grown and developed from a plain square free-standing tower of earlier than 16th century origin. It stands within high old walls something over a mile south of Musselburgh on the Millerhill road. At one time it was in a condition of great neglect, but it has been lovingly restored and is again an inhabited home. The house has developed in the form of a square containing an inner courtyard of which the remaining buildings comprise the east and west sides. The main house now approximates to the letter L, with a semi - octagonal stair-tower projecting near but not in the re-entrant angle as at Plewlands, West Lothian, a house which at first sight Monkton much resembles. The second building opposite is a lower oblong block with a square stair-tower which has been reduced in height. The north side of the courtyard consisted of a range of building, now gone. The south flank, in which is the early arched gateway, is partly represented by the wing of the main house. This tall main building, although it has a certain aspect of homogeneity under a single late-17th century hipped roofline, is in fact a highly composite structure. Its northern end is the early square fortalice, with thick walls, circular gun-loops and small moulded windows, many of which are built up. The top storey has been lowered and completely altered. The original door, guarded by a shot-hole, is near the north-west corner, and enters directly into the well of the former turnpike stair which rose in this angle to all floors, with a pronounced inward projection. The basement is vaulted, and like the single chambers on each floor above, is L-shaped, owing to the intrusion of the stairwell. The original Hall, on the first floor, has probably had a private access to the vaulted cellar below. This room, and that directly above, have simple moulded fireplaces and have been panelled at a later date in pine. The first extension appears to have been a simple rectangular block to the south of the tower, lower in height and probably dating from the mid 16th century. This in turn was greatly extended, probably soon after the Reformation, further still to the south, with a circular stair tower, now no more, at the south-east angle, and a wing thrusting westwards. In the vaulted basement of this is the old kitchen with its enormous arched fireplace, with drain, salt-box and oven. Later still, in the late 17th century, the final transition took place, under the skilled hands of the famed Sir William Bruce. He erected the semi-octagonal stair-tower and its projections to north and south that form a lobby, produced the present roofline and inserted the handsome Renaissance doorways on the north and south fronts. To the latter, at first floor level, he raised the graceful stone forestair. The 16th century building across the square is notable for the excellent mullioned dormer windows, almost unique in Scotland. Monkton was a property of Newbattle Abbey, probably a grange. No doubt this accounts for the unusual mullioned windows. The Hays of Yester acquired the estate after the Reformation, and to them must be ascribed the large late 16th century extensions. They lost Monkton for their share in the Rising of 1715, and thereupon it passed to the Falconers and then to the Hopes of nearby Pinkie.

Martin Coventry (1995): Monkton House incorporates an altered 16th century L-plan tower house, extended in the 16th and 17th centuries, and added to again and remodelled in the late 17th century. The old tower has thick walls, which are pierced by gunloops and small moulded windows. The original entrance opened into a turnpike stair, which has been removed. The basement is vaulted. One of the extensions contains the vaulted kitchen. Monkton was a property of Newbattle Abbey, but was acquired by the Hays of Yester after the Reformation. They were forfeited for their part in the Jacobite Ris ing of 1715, and it passed to the Falconers, then to the Hopes of Pinkie. It is still occupied. General Monck, Cromwell's commander, is said to have made Monkton his favourite residence in Scotland.

Fenton Tower

Fenton Tower


Location: OS Map 66 – NT 543 822

Fenton - Lothians: About 2 miles south of North Berwick, on B1347 south from North Berwick, south of Kingston.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Fenton - Placed conspicuously on Kingston Hill, about two miles south of North Berwick, Fenton is a wellbuilt late 16th century house on the L plan, tall and commodious, now unfortunately ruinous. The main block, three storeys and a garret in height, remains practically complete to the wall head, but the upper storey of the wing, to the south, has disappeared, only the corbelling of the two angle turrets remaining. A slender stair turret projects within the re-entrant angle above first floor level, and a semicircular stair-tower rises from the north wall of the main block. The doorway is in the wing, under the stair-turret, and is surmounted by an empty panel space, said formerly to have contained an heraldic panel bearing the arms of Carmichael and the initials J.C. with the date 1577. This date is in general agreement with the period of architecture. Internally there is the usual arrangement for this type of house, with a wide turnpike stair rising in the wing to first floor level, after which the ascent is continued by the narrow turret stair. There are two vaulted chambers of unequal size in the main block basement, the large western one having a separate outside door in the west gable, flanked internally by wall cupboards, though this may have been an early alteration, since it weakens the tower's defensive arrangements. The smaller eastern chamber has communicated separately with the first floor by means of a small turnpike stair in the projecting north tower. Above that level this semicircular tower contains a small round chamber on each floor, reached by a tiny turret stair corbelled out at the east side. In the corresponding angle to the west, at second floor level, is a projecting garderobe carried on corbelling, a sanitary arrangement, if somewhat crude.

Martin Coventry (1995): Fenton Tower is a ruined 16th century L plan tower of three storeys and a garret. It is dated 1587. The entrance leads to the vaulted basement and to a wide turnpike stair to the first floor, while the upper floors are reached by a turret stair. A small separate turnpike stair links the one basement chamber, probably the wine cellar, with the first floor. The property was originally owned by the Fentons, then the Whitelaw family, who were forfeited in 1587, then passed to the Carmichaels. Sir John Carmichael, the Scottish Warden of the Marches, argued with the English Warden, Sir John Foster, at a meeting at Carter's Bar in 1575. A battle resulted which the Scots eventually won, slaying many and taking captive several of the English leaders, embarrassing the Scottish leadership of the time. In 1600 Carmichael was ambushed and murdered by the Armstrongs after he had tried to bring some of them to justice for reiving. Unfortunately all the floors have fallen in, and the building is in a bad state of repair, presenting a desolate appearance, however romantic. It was the Laird of Fenton, Sir John Carmichael, who in 1575 touched off the Border fight known as the Raid of the Redeswire, one of the last of such struggles between the Scots and the English, at an official level. He was Scots Warden of the Middle March at the time, an unusual position for a Lothians laird; but he was a crony of the Regent Morton then ruling Scotland ostensibly in the name of the young King James Sixth. At one of the statutory meetings of the Wardens, on the Borderline, to discuss Border affairs, his English counterpart made a derogatory remark about his status, and when Carmichael objected, the English answered with a flight of arrows, truce or none. Sir John fell but Scotland won the day with the timeous arrival of the Provost of Jedburgh and his men shouting 'Jethart's here!' This has remained Jedburgh's slogan ever since, and their annual Common Riding festival is centred round this incident. It is to be presumed that the building as it now stands, at Fenton, is therefore the work of this Sir John's immediate successor.

Gosford House

Gosford House


Gosford (Goose-ford) Estate was purchased by the Wemyss- Charteris family in 1781. Shortly thereafter, they began building the present house to the design of Robert Adam. However, Adam never saw the house completed and his plan was somewhat altered. The House was completed in 1800 but the 8th Earl (who succeeded in 1808) had the wings removed, leaving just the centre block for some 50 years. His successor, Francis, "the Hunting Earl" was prepared to demolish the remaining block, but was dissuaded by his son, who succeeded to the title in 1883. The 10th Earl had a lifelong passion for collecting paintings, and it was this Earl who restored the missing wings of Gosford House, to a design by William Young. The 10th Earl and his family moved in to Gosford in 1890. After his death, the house was used only intermittently. The army, in the 1939-45 War, requisitioned Gosford House and part of the central block was gutted by fire in 1940. The roof was removed from most of the North Wing, after the discovery of extensive dry rot in 1948. When the family returned in 1951, the 12th Earl decided to adapt the undamaged south wing, where most of the contents of the House had been stored during the War. This is now the part of the House that is inhabited by the Earl and Countess of Wemyss and March. It contains the celebrated Marble Hall and a fine collection of paintings and works of art. Much work has been carried out on the House. The burnt-out part of the middle block was re-roofed in 1987 and the restoration of the interior is a workin- progress. The Gosford Policies were set out and planted in the late 18th Century. The Pleasure Gardens and Ponds are close to the House, and much work has been carried out recently to restore the paths and the ponds. There are several interesting buildings close by the ponds, including the Curling House and the Ice House. Permits are available to walk round the policies and ponds. The Estate itself surrounds the west and southern parts of Aberlady, and marches with Luffness Estate on its eastern boundary. There is a mixture of land uses on the Estate, including farms, woodlands and golf courses (most of these are let to Golf Clubs but Craigielaw Golf Club is owned and managed by the Estate). There are a few Estate properties within the village, but the majority of the Estate houses are at Craigielaw, within Gosford, and close to Longniddry.

Borthwick Castle - Lothians

Borthwick Castle - Lothians


Location: OS Map – 66 – NT 370 597

Lothians: About 2 miles south-east of Gorebridge, on minor road between north of the A7 and south of the B6372, south of Gore Water, just east of Borthwick village.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Borthwick - Situated in a secluded valley two miles south east of Gorebridge, near the Galashiels road, this imposing fortalice is well known to travellers by road and rail to the Borders. It is a practically unique and unaltered example of a massive 15th century nobleman's tower, still in excellent preservation. It was selected during the late war to shelter many of Scotland's art treasures from the attentions of Hitler's Luftwaffe.

Though in a valley, its position is a strong one, on a jut of land at the confluence of the Gore and North Middleton Waters. This gives protection on three sides, while the fourth was guarded by a moat. Additional outlying defences were provided by curtain walls and round flanking towers, but of these only that to the south west, now used as a gatehouse, remains complete.

The tower itself is excellently built of dressed ashlar, rising to no less than 110 feet, with walls of a thickness of 14 feet at base. A main block lies north and south with two massive towers projecting to the west, separated by a deep recess. The walls are crowned by a continuous parapet carried on machicolated corbels, stone brackets with gaps between from which defenders could hurl down suitable material on attackers, with open rounds at the angles. The east face of the main block has no parapet, this being said to have been destroyed by Cromwell's artillery in 1650. Within the battlements are the stone-flagged and gabled roofs, and the conical caphouse in which terminates the turnpike stair. Allegedly certain prisoners were forced to jump the fearsome gap between the projecting towers, at parapet level, with iron spikes awaiting the fallers a hundred feet below, but this may well be apochryphal. Any brief description of the interior arrangements is extremely difficult owing to the complexity of rooms and wall chambers and the differing floor levels. The main block has a vaulted basement and three storeys above, but most of these had entresols or half floors of timber, now gone. On the other hand the north tower contains eight storeys, and the south seven. All finish at the same roof level, however.

The vaulted basement of the south tower was a well chamber. The Hall, on the main block first floor, is a noble apartment, 50 feet long, under a stone vault 37 feet high. It is protected by a guardroom in the thickness of the walling-the entrance to the castle being at this level, by a drawbridge, though now there is a stone forestair. The Hall has a handsome hooded fireplace, and a minstrels' gallery reached by a mural stair. Another great apartment of, similar size, but unvaulted, occupies the storey above, the ingoing of one of the windows being used as an oratory, with piscina, stone basin and aumbry. The great walls throughout are honeycombed with stairways, chambers and garderobes.

The castle is still owned by the Borthwick family, and was built about 1430 by the first Lord. Here came Mary, Queen of Scots and Bothwell, a month after their marriage, but fled, Bothwell first, and then Mary dressed as a page at the approach of the Confederate Lords. They rejoined each other over the wild moors at Cakemuir Castle. John 10th Lord Borthwick, still adhered to the Stuart cause a century later, and drew Cromwell's wrath and artillery fire upon himself. Fortunately for posterity, he capitulated on honourable terms in time to spare his castle from serious damage, and so it remains today one of the finest castellated houses in Scotland.

Martin Coventry (1995): One of the most impressive castles in Scotland, Borthwick Castle is a magnificent U-plan keep of five storeys with projecting wings of seven and eight storeys, separated by a deep narrow recess. The walls are massively thick, but there are no gunloops. A corbelled-out machiolated parapet has open rounds, and the castle is roofed with stone flags. It stands in a courtyard, formerly with a curtain wall and strong round towers at the corners, only one of which remains. The main entrance, on the first floor, is reached by a bridge from the curtain wall. A guardroom opens off one side of the entrance. The basement is vaulted, and has its own entrance, a turnpike stair leading to the first floor through the guardroom. The vaulted hall is on the first floor of the main block, and has a minstrels gallery, reached by a small stair. There is a massive fireplace, and the windows are deeply recessed because of the thickness of the walls. The kitchen, on the same floor, has a huge wide fireplace. There are three further storeys above the hall, one of the chambers having an oratory with piscina and aumbry. The wings contain private chambers, reached by stairs in the thickness of the walls. The property was held by the Borthwicks. One of the family had accompanied the heart of Robert the Bruce to Granada in Spain on crusade along with the Black Douglas and other Scottish nobles. Although the crusade was a disaster for the Scots, and many were slain, Borthwick distinguished himself by killing a Moorishbh chief and sticking his severed head on a pike.

The castle was built by Sir William Borthwick in 1430 on the site of an earlier stronghold. The tomb of Borthwick is in nearby Borthwick Church - which is open to the public. The 4th Lord Borthwick was slain at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and Mary, Queen of Scots, visited the castle in 1567 after their marriage and were besieged here, Mary only escaping disguised as a man. Cromwell besieged the castle, but it only took a few cannon balls to get the castle to surrender - the damage done to the parapet never being repaired. The Borthwick family abandoned the castle in the 17th century, and the castle became derelict, although it was restored in 1890. During World War II, Registrar records were stored here, along with paintings from the National Gallery. The castle was leased as a conference centre, but is now a hotel.

Crichton Castle

Crichton Castle


Location OS Map 66 – NT 380 612

Lothians: About 2 miles east of Gorebridge, on minor road and footpath west of B6367, about 0.5 miles south-west of Crichton village.

Martin Coventry (1995): A complex, large and interesting building, Crichton Castle consists of ranges of buildings from the 14th to 16th centuries, enclosing a small courtyard. The oldest part is a 14th century keep, formerly of three storeys. The basement was vaulted, and had a pitprison. A stair led up the hall and entrance on the first floor, and another turnpike stair led to the floors above. The castle had a small courtyard. In the 15th century a new gatehouse of three storeys was added, then further ranges enclosing the courtyard. Another block was added in the 16th century, Italian Renaissance in style, with an arcaded, diamond- faced facade. Outside the castle are the roofless stables. The castle was a property of the Crichtons, and probably first built about 1370. Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, entertained the young Earl of Douglas and his brother before having them murdered at the 'Black Dinner' in Edinburgh Castle in 1440. John Forrester slighted the castle in retaliation. Crichton, however, founded the nearby Collegiate Church wherein priests were to pray for his salvation - he needed all the help he could get. The Crichtons were forfeited for treason in 1488, and the property later passed to Patrick Hepburn, Lord Hailes, who was made Earl of Bothwell. One of the family was James Hepburn, 4th Earl, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1559 the castle was besieged and captured by the Earl of Arran and, after the Earl of Bothwell was forfeited, given to Francis Stewart, who added the Renaissance range. Mary, Queen of Scots, attended a wedding here in 1562. Francis Stewart was such a wild and unruly fellow that in 1595 he was also forfeited and he had to flee abroad. Crichton passed through many families, and became a romantic ruin. Turner painted the castle, and Walter Scott included it in 'Marmion'.

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel


Location: (Same as Rosslyn Castle above)

The world wide impact of the Da Vinci Code made Rosslyn Chapel a must. Located on the outskirts of the village of Roslin in Midlothian, a few miles south of Edinburgh, the chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair. His name is derived from Saint-Clair-sur-Elle in Normandy. William de Sancto Claro, whose father had come over with William the Conqueror in 1066, came to Scotland with his wife. There were, however, other members of the St. Clair family who came north also. They became established near Edinburgh and were granted the barony of Rosslyn. Sir William de St Clair's heir, Henry St Clair, Earl of Roslin, is reputed to have reached North America 100 years before Columbus.

Henry supported Robert the Bruce and fought at the Battle of Bannockburn. The king granted him lands in the Pentlands, south of Edinburgh. Sir Henry died in Spain with Sir James Douglas as they took the heart of Robert the Bruce on a crusade. Henry de St Clair's son surrendered the Orkney earldom (and the title of Prince of Orkney) and was created Earl of Caithness in 1445 by King James II. It was around this time that the spelling "Sinclair" came into use, usually pronounced in Scotland as "Sinkler".

The chapel took 40 years to build and was originally planned to be part of an even larger building. Sir William drew the design of the chapel and the ornate carvings on timber boards which the masons then copied. It is the amazingly intricate carvings, both inside and out, which make Rosslyn so unique. They have been compared to delicate lace and icing on a cake. The magnificent barrel roof is made up of carved stones (patterns of daisies, stars and roses etc). Throughout the chapel, all the columns and tombs are intricately carved. One carving looks like North American corn and is said to confirm that Sir William crossed the Atlantic prior to Christopher Columbus.

Rosslyn Chapel has long been associated with the Knights Templar, an ancient order going back to the days of the Crusades. In the 12th century the grand master of the order was married to Katherine St Clair and two of the grand masters in the 13th and 14th centuries were members of the St Clair family. When the order was persecuted by the Pope in the early 14th century, some of the Knights escaped to Scotland (where Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated and did not proscribe the order). A number of the carvings at Rosslyn have Templar or Masonic connections and a sealed vault in the Chapel is said to contain religious relics. Over the years, many fanciful theories have been suggested about what might be in the sealed vaults - ranging from the Holy Grail to the Ark of the Covenant, even the "true" Stone of Destiny. A book, which was written in 1774 for the Masons, gives a detailed account of a secret entrance to the tombs and claims that they contain the remains of ten of the Barons of Rosslyn and some of their armour.

After the Reformation in the 16th century the considerable carvings and embellishments were regarded as "idolatrous" and the monks who looked after it were forced to resign as church buildings and land were taken (often violently) into secular hands. The chapel ceased to be a place of worship.

Renovation work in the 1950s appears to have done more harm than good and in 1997 a steel structure was erected round the chapel to allow remedial work to be done and that is still in place and unfortunately prevents the visitor from seeing the exterior of the chapel. The structure although it was temporarily removed for the filming of 'The Da Vinci Code'.


Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 1 – South East Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland (1995)

Added: 28 Jun 2006 Updated: 18 Apr 2022
Related articles (11)
  Member Comments

? You are not currently signed in. Please sign in below.Comment Rules

Add your comment

We'd love to hear your views. If you are a Scottish Castles Association member, please sign in below and share them with us.

(required field)
Please verify that you are not a robot.
Comments found: (0)

Presently, there are no comments posted for this record!

back to topTop

Our corporate members...

Visit our Skills and Trades Section