Crichton Castle was constructed in the 1300s for the Crichton family and is situated in the rolling countryside of Midlothian. The building is roofless and lies partly in ruin but the castle is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland who are working to prevent further damage to the remaining structure.
Review of Crichton Castle
Tucked away in the Midlothian countryside overlooking the River Tyne stands Chrichton Castle, the 14th-century former home of the Chrichton family and the Earls of Bothwell.
As a tourist attraction it has a couple of features that make it worth visiting including a unique pattern carved into the red sandstone of the interior walls and a large stable block set to one side.
It’s certainly an interesting castle for no other reason than it sits in a very picturesque location, but many visitors will likely choose to visit this small historic site merely as an add-on to a visit to Vogrie Country Park which lies just a couple of miles to the north.
Even so, a journey to Chrichton Castle is definitely worth the effort as it offers a nice walk to it coupled with enough nooks and crannies that kids will be kept occupied for a good hour or so, and there are a few information boards dotted around that they might even learn a few new things about Scotland’s history as well.
Things to do at Crichton Castle
A walk around Chrichton Castle isn’t exactly going to take you all day but it’s definitely unusual enough that it’s worth making the journey for, if only to kill a couple of hours while you’re in this part of Midlothian.
The short walk from the car park at the nearby church will take you across a rather nice landscape of gently rolling hills with Crichton Castle clearly visible up a slight incline, and once at the site entrance you’ve got the option to either walk around the castle or head to the nearby stable building.
Both buildings are really just roofless ruins, although the inside of the castle is quite impressive thanks to the diamond-shaped stonework carved into the facade in the north range in what was once the Earl of Bothwell’s family lodgings.
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There are a few sections of the castle open to visitors to explore including the kitchen and the Great Hall and several original stairways allow access to the upper levels where you can get a good view across Midlothian with the Tyne Water river gently flowing nearby.
The valley below the castle is protected as there are a number of bats roosting in the area and you can often see them swooping about on the hunt for insects at dusk, so if you’ve got an interest in bats it might be an idea to bring a pair of binoculars with you during your visit.
The castle has a small HES shop and the attending guide will be only too happy to give you a rundown of the site’s history, but don’t expect much more than a few souvenirs and packs of shortbread.
Luckily the towns of Gorebridge and Pathhead are just a short distance away so you’ll find plenty of cafés if you’ve got hungry children to feed, and Chrichton is close enough to Vogrie Country Park that you can combine a visit to both attractions quite easily in one afternoon.
My tip for getting the most of the country walks that this area offers is to get yourself an Ordnance Survey map which you can buy direct from their website. Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
The history of Crichton Castle
The castle was built for the Crichton family in the late 1300’s and it served them as their primary seat of power for nearly two hundred years, until their influence declined in the late 15th-century at which time ownership of the castle changed to the hands of the Earls of Bothwell.
While the castle isn’t famous for any particular event it’s still an important historic site due to the impact the Bothwells had on Scotland, particularly the 4th Earl who married Mary Queen of Scots in 1567.
This might go some way to explaining why the 5th Earl created such an impressive stone facade on the family lodgings which overlook the central courtyard, a feature that must have been quite a talking point for visitors to Chrichton Castle nearly 500 years ago.
If you’d like to discover more Scottish fortifications read my Guide to the Best Scottish Castles.
- The location is lovely and it’s great for wildlife spotting, especially bats whose numbers are sadly dwindling in Britain.
- Because the castle is so remote there are never any crowds of tourists. In fact, you’ll probably have the place to yourself.
- It’s an interesting attraction that’s close to Vogrie Country Park.
- It’s so hidden away you might have trouble finding it. Load the area onto your mobile phone Google Maps before leaving home.
- Check out Vogrie Park after visiting the castle if you fancy a nice woodland walk. Vogrie also has a children’s play park, picnic benches and a visitor centre with a café.
- If you’d like to visit another historic attraction similar to this one I recommend Craigmillar Castle located just outside of Edinburgh
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Things to do near Crichton Castle
- Vogrie Park. Gorebridge EH23 4NU. 6-minute drive. A Victorian country estate that includes a café, visitor centre, children’s play park, a miniature railway and woodland paths that follow the Tyne Water. The park includes a large car park, BBQ areas and a manor house.
- Gore Glen Woodland Park. Povert Rd, Gorebridge EH23 4LJ. 13-minute drive. A popular woodland walk around native broadleaved trees with paths that follow the River South Esk and Gore Water.
- Glenkinchie Distillery. Pencaitland, Tranent EH34 5ET. 17-minute drive. The only lowland whisky distillery near Edinburgh. Glenkinchie has been recently renovated and features a large whisky-tasting bar, cocktail-making classes, a large shop and guided tours.
- Dalkeith Country Park. Via King’s Gate, Dalkeith EH22 1ST. 15-minute drive. One of the largest country parks in Midlothian. Dalkeith park centres around Dalkeith House (not accessible to the public). There are lots of paths that run through woodland and open fields. The newly-installed Restoration Yard visitor centre includes shops and cafés. A large children’s play park – Fort Douglas – is located alongside the River South Esk.
- National Mining Museum. Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Dalkeith EH22 4QN. 11-minute drive. A museum dedicated to Scotland’s extensive coal mining heritage. There are lots of original mining artefacts and informative displays of how coal was mined. A guided tour by ex-miners takes visitors on a journey to see what life was like for the men who spent their working lives underground.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- The Bass Rock – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe Bass Rock is absolutely enormous and reaches 107 metres above sea level at its highest point, with most of the sides of this 320 million-year-old volcanic plug standing almost vertical above the pounding waves of the Firth of Forth.
- Seton Collegiate Church – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideSeton Collegiate Church, known locally as Seton Chapel, is a collegiate church south of Port Seton in East Lothian. The church is situated next to the magnificent Seton House – which can be glimpsed through the trees at one end of the site – and the grounds are a total oasis of peace and quiet.
- Hailes Castle – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideLocated a mile and a half from East Linton in East Lothian, Hailes Castle sits in a beautiful riverside setting that’s perfect for an afternoon of exploring followed by a picnic next to the gentle River Tyne that flows behind it.
- North Berwick Law – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideStanding 187m above sea level, North Berwick Law dominates the landscape around the popular town of North Berwick.