Crichton Castle – situated in the rolling countryside of Midlothian – was built in the 1300s for the once-powerful Crichton family.
The majority of the structure is roofless and in ruin, but visitors are welcome to explore it on a self-guided tour thanks to the restoration work undertaken by Historic Environment Scotland.
|Opening Hours:||1 April - 30 September: Daily 9.30 am to 5.30 pm (last entry at 5 pm)|
October - March: closed
|Admission Price:||Adult £7|
|Parking:||Free on-site parking|
|Contact:||01875 320 017|
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 worth making time for as it offers a nice walk coupled with enough nooks and crannies to keep children occupied for a good hour or two.
There are also information boards around the site so they might even learn a few things about Scotland’s history at the same time.
1: The location is lovely and it’s great for wildlife spotting, especially bats whose numbers are sadly dwindling in Britain.
2: Because the castle is so remote there are never any crowds of tourists. In fact, you’ll probably have the place to yourself.
3: It’s an interesting site that’s close to another popular outdoor attraction – Dalkeith Country Park.
1: The castle is somewhat hidden away so you might have trouble finding it. Load the area onto Google Maps before leaving home. Postcode EH37 5XA.
2: 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.
3: If you’d like to visit another historic attraction similar to this one I recommend Craigmillar Castle located just outside of Edinburgh
A walk around Chrichton Castle isn’t exactly going to take 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 nice landscape of gently rolling hills with Crichton Castle at the top of 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 ornate with diamond-shaped stonework carved into the facade in the north range in what was once the Earl of Bothwell’s family lodgings.
There are a few sections of the castle open to visitors 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 and the Tyne Water river.
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 castle was built for the Crichton family in the late 1300s and served as their main 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 Bothwell’s 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.
Discover more castles to visit in Scotland with: The Best Castles in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Things to do
Explore the Castle: Spend time discovering the fascinating history of Crichton Castle, built in the 14th century with a unique architectural design that features an Italian-inspired diamond-shaped facade. Take a moment to admire the grandeur of the Great Hall and the strikingly beautiful courtyard.
Photography: The castle, with its rugged charm surrounded by unspoiled fields and woodlands, offers an excellent opportunity for photography enthusiasts. Capture stunning images of the castle, its intricate masonry work, and the panoramic views of the Tyne Water.
Nature Walks: Enjoy a leisurely walk around the castle’s grounds. The surrounding countryside offers an array of wildlife to see and the nearby woodlands are a good place to spot bats hunting for insects at dusk.
Vogrie Park: This expansive park is situated just a few miles from Crichton Castle, meaning both attractions can be visited in a single afternoon. Vogrie Park features a wildlife centre, a cafe, a miniature railway, and miles of scenic footpaths.
Historical Timeline: Crichton Castle, located in Midlothian, traces its origins back to the late 14th century when it was first built by John de Crichton. Over several centuries it saw a series of owners including William Crichton, the infamous Chancellor of Scotland.
Architectural Fusion: The castle exhibits a unique blend of architectural styles, reflecting the diverse influences of its various owners. The castle’s south range, built by Francis Stewart, is particularly noteworthy for its Italian-inspired diamond facade, a rarity in Scottish architecture.
Mary Queen of Scots Connection: The castle has a direct link to Scottish royalty. In 1562, Mary Queen of Scots visited Crichton Castle during her tour of Scotland. The castle was then under the ownership of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, her half-brother.
Intriguing Ownership History: The castle was once owned by the Earl of Bothwell, who was the third husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Bothwell was implicated in the murder of Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley, leading to a tumultuous period in Scottish history.
The Siege of 1484: Crichton Castle was besieged in 1484 by King James III after William, 3rd Lord Crichton, supported a rebellion against the king. William was forced to surrender the castle, but it was returned to the Crichton family in 1488 when James IV ascended the throne.
Crichton Church Connection: The castle is closely linked to the nearby Crichton Collegiate Church. Both structures were built by the Crichton family and share similarities in architectural design.
Movie Fame: Crichton Castle gained fame as a filming location for the 1995 movie ‘Rob Roy,’ starring Liam Neeson.
Things to do nearby
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). 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.
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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to Crichton Castle?
Address: Pathhead, EH37 5XA
Directions map: Google Maps
Who owns Crichton Castle?
Crichton Castle was originally built in the late 14th century by John de Crichton as a tower house for the Crichton family. It is now owned and managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
What is the Crichton tartan?
The Crichton tartan is based on the MacGill tartan which dates from 1745. The colours are taken from the Crichton coat of arms.
What visitor facilities are there at Crichton Castle?
Visit the facilities page for updated information on available facilities.