The story of Craigmillar Castle starts in 1374 when King Robert II granted to Sir Simon Preston the right to the lands of Craigmillar. The Prestons were an important local family and several of the family were at times sheriffs of Edinburgh. In exchange for the lands, the Prestons had to provide an archer for the king’s army whenever he needed one.
The first part of the castle to be built was the sturdy tower house in the centre. The Prestons also had a more comfortable residence in the centre of Edinburgh, where the City Chambers stand today. In the 16th century the castle became closely associated with Mary Queen of Scots. In 1544 the castle came under attack and was partly destroyed by English troops when they invaded Scotland to force the Scots to marry off the infant Mary to the heir to the English throne.
In 1566 Mary came to the castle, ill and depressed shortly after the murder of Riccio at Holyrood. Sir Simon Preston was one of Mary’s most loyal supporters, and as lord provost of the City had rallied 4-500 armed men to protect her after Riccio’s murder. While Mary was staying at the castle, a group of advisers met there to discuss how they would kill her husband, Lord Darnley.
This pact became known as the Craigmillar Bond. The link with the Stewart royal family continued undamaged, however, with Mary’s son, James VI visiting in 1589. By this time the castle had been rebuilt and expanded to include the inner and outer walls and the chambers of the east wing.
In 1660 the Prestons sold the estate to Sir John Gilmour, head of another influential Edinburgh family. He then rebuilt and updated the castle extensively to make it a more comfortable place to live. However, during the eighteenth century the Gilmours moved to Inch House in Gilmerton, and Craigmillar began to fall into ruin. In 1946, Sir John Little Gilmour handed the castle over to the care of the state.
1374 Robert II grants the land of Craigmillar to Sir Simon Preston
1400s Construction of tower house begins; then inner curtain wall built
1479 James III’s younger brother kept at Craigmillar on suspicion of witchcraft plot against the King Early
1500s Outer walls, gardens and fish pond constructed
1544 Craigmillar Castle damaged and captured during the English invasion
1550s Rebuilding and expansion of castle
1566 Mary Queen of Scots stays at Craigmillar after murder of Riccio
1660 Craigmillar sold to Sir John Gilmour; west wing built
1687 Chapel built
1700s Gilmour family moves to Inch House in Gilmerton; Craigmillar castle falls into ruin
1946 Castle placed in care of the state