| Scotland’s Historic Greens |
Did you know that the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, and its surrounding Lothian region, is one of the very best places in Europe to be captivated by castles? Visitors to this area will find an abundance of riches in these majestic structures, as well as the heritage, history and culture that attends them. Most of these magnificent structures participate in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, the leading sustainable tourism certification scheme in the UK. And there are easy ways to visit them by foot, pedal or public bus. Why not spend a weekend castle hopping in this beautiful city? You can book hotels in Edinburgh for reasonable prices, particularly if you decide to travel in the less busy periods.
This, of course, is the famous edifice that dominates the Edinburgh skyline. One of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, Edinburgh Castle sits atop Castle Rock at the top of the Royal Mile. It plays an important part in many events during the year, including Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) and the Edinburgh Tattoo (the August festival of martial music, ceremony, entertainment, and theater). Here’s where you’ll see the Royal Palace, the Crown Room (home to the Scottish crown jewels) and the Stone of Destiny, where Scottish monarchs of yore were crowned. Tip: listen for the One O’clock Gun that has fired daily at the castle since 1861. Getting there: Walk. You can’t miss it. From the east end of Princes Street, head up Waverley Bridge, The Mound, Mound Place, Ramsay Lane to arrive at the castle esplanade.
Built circa 1590, Lauriston Castle can be found just northwest of the city center, and overlooks the Firth of Forth. Explore the castle grounds and the beautiful Edwardian finish it possesses, or just enjoy a stroll in the surrounding woodland and landscaped estate, including the award-winning Japanese-inspired garden. Getting there: Take a bus to Davidson’s Mains or Silverknowes Terminus; either is about a 10-minute walk to the castle.
A retreat used by Mary, Queen of Scots, Craigmillar Castle has been lovingly preserved and restored. Built around 1400, Craigmillar lies approximately three miles north of Edinburgh city center and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from its barracks. Getting there: take a city bus (instructions are on the castle’s website) or bike it—it’s on the National Cycle Network, which covers more than 1,500 miles of Scotland.
Just south of Edinburgh, the ruins of Crichton Castle offer its visitors splendid isolation overlooking the River Tyne, a stunning 16th-century courtyard façade and a 14th-century towerhouse, one of the oldest in Scotland. Getting there: From Waterloo Place in Edinburgh take the Munros of Edinburgh bus (#29 Jedburgh) to Pathhead Main Street; then it’s a half hour walk to the castle. Bike it on the National Cycle Network.
Built by the Crichton family in the 16th century, Blackness Castle was likely used as a prison and, due to its jutting stance above the Firth of Forth, is often called “the ship that never sailed.” Getting there: From Linlithgow train station, walk 5 minutes to Linlithgow Cross on the High Street, and take a #49 bus to Blackness; from there it’s a 6-minute stroll. Or bike it—it’s also on the National Cycle Network.
The home of one of the most powerful barons in Scotland, Tantallon Castle perches above the sea in East Lothian. A popular site for those interested in the paranormal, Tantallon is reported to be home to a ghost who is said to have been caught on camera in 2008—see for yourself. Getting there: Take buses (details are on the website) or ride a bike using the National Cycle Network.
Whether you fancy exploring castles for their history or their ghosts, Edinburgh can’t be beat for its variety of absolutely incredible medieval monuments.—Catherine M., blogger