Craigmillar Castle.
Craigmillar Castle lies just three miles south east of the centre of Edinburgh. The castle is one of the most perfectly preserved castles in Scotland. Even today, the castle retains the character of a medieval stronghold.

David I granted lands and houses at Craigmillar to Dunfermline Abbey in 12th century, and more was granted in 1253, but there is no evidence of a castle here at that time. The first castle was built by the Preston family after they acquired the Barony in 1374 from John de Capella.

The Prestons built a new castle on the site of an older fortress. In 1477, James III imprisoned his brother John, Earl of Mar, in one its cellars, where he died. When it was besieged by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 (on behalf of Henry VIII), it was surrendered on the condition that is wasn't damaged, but it was burned nonetheless.

The castle is somewhat notorious. Craigmillar was restored for Mary, Queen of Scots, to live here in 1566-67 after the murder of her Italian secretary (and probably lover), Rizzio, by her husband Darnley. During her stay, a band of conspirators (including Argyll, Huntly, Bothwell, Maitland, and Gilbert Balfour plotted to kill Darnley. Mary's room, in the south wing of the keep, is only 7' by 5', but contains two windows and a fireplace. Mary's son, James VI, stayed here as well. Craigmillar was altered to a comfortable residence in 1660 by John Gilmour.

The bailey of Craigmillar is unique in that it survives almost intact and is nearly 300' x 200'. It contains farm buildings, chapel, and gardens. The outer wall encloses a one acre courtyard.

The tower house, which forms the core of the castle, was fortified in the 1420s by a massive enclosure wall. It forms a large courtyards with rounded towers in each corner. The enclosure wall is about 5' thick and 28' tall in some places. Ranges of buildings were erected along the inside of three sections.

Craigmillar has an unusual history. While it always remained in private ownership, it served as a semi-royal residence, used as a sort of adjunct to Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House in nearby Edinburgh. It was particularly useful as a retreat for the royal household when plague hit the city, as it frequently did. The neighbourhood surrounding the castle is often called 'Little France'; Mary's French courtiers often stayed here when she was in residence.
A walled up skeleton was found in one of the vaults in 1813 during restoration work.

It was abandoned in the 18th century and given to the nation by the Gilmour family in 1946.

What makes Craigmillar special is the extent to which its underlying structure survives. The inner courtyard may now be home to two very impressive trees that were certainly not there in the Prestons' time in the castle. But the walls of almost all the structures of the castle survive, together with all the vaulted floors. This means access is possible up to roof level in the tower house and first floor level in large parts of the rest of the building. There is also a complete wall walk around two sides of the curtain wall.