Craigmillar Castle: guidebook

1954 (4th impress. 1970)

Craigmillar Castle, to the south-east of Edinburgh, was placed in State Guardianship in 1946. W. Douglas Simpson prepared the official guidebook in 1954. At the heart of the castle is the tower house, constructed after 1374 by Sir Simon Preston of Gorton. Queen Mary used the castle as her residence after the murder of Rizzio in 1566.

The guidebook is divided into description and (a short) history. A plan of the castle, and detail of the floors is provided in the centre pages.

Hermitage Castle: guidebooks

1957 (3rd impress. 1967)

1957 (5th impress. 1974)

Hermitage Castle and the adjacent chapel were placed in State Guardianship in 1930. The ‘blue’ guide was prepared by W. Douglas Simpson. There is a short history indicating that the castle was founded by 1300. It was captured by Sir William Douglas in 1338. There is then a description with a series of black and white photographs, and a ground floor plan.

A short description of Hermitage Chapel, settled by brother William from Kelso. The guide closes with a section on Ballad Lore, and the account of Lord Soulis.

1982 (3rd ed. 1987)

Simpson’s blue guide continued into the period of Historic Scotland. The text is almost identical. The introduction becomes ‘Renouned among Border fortresses’. The history is turned into ‘The strength of Liddesdale’; the seal of William Douglas that served on the cover of the blue guide is inserted in the text.  The description became ‘Grim indeed’. Among the photographs is one from the air derived from the Royal Commission. The plan that appears in the double pages of the blue guide appears inside the back cover, although the scale is reproduced in metres. The section on Ballad Lore is included along with a portrait of Sir Walter Scott with Hermitage Castle in the background.

The section on the chapel includes photographs as well as a plan and restoration made in 1900.

This guide included a family tree of the Douglases (and points to other family castles, namely Threave, Tantallon, and Aberdour) and one of Hepburn (with other castles, Crichton, Hailes, Huntly; Spynie Palace; St Andrews Cathedral). There are portraits of James Hepburn, 4th Early of Bothwell, and his second wife, Mary Queen of Scots. (The portrait of Mary in the HS guide uses the portrait in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.)

Note the different colours used for ‘Hermitage’ and ‘Castle’.


A new Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ was prepared by Chris Tabraham. This starts with a Guided Tour, followed by the History. There is mention of a possible deer park. No plan is included although a drawing of the castle from the air helps to orientate the visitor.

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory © David Gill

Inchmahome Priory stands on a small island in the Lake of Menteith and must be one of my favourite Historic Scotland sites. Mary Queen of Scots resided on the island for a short time in 1547. The priory was placed in state guardianship in 1926.

The priory was founded in 1238. The nave and choir contain Ministry signs explaining the different sections of the church. The choir is the resting place of the onetime Liberal MP R.B. Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936), who was a key supporter of Scottish independence.


Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle © David Gill
Lochleven Castle © David Gill

Lochleven Castle is reached by passenger ferry. The castle dates to the early 14th century. Lochleven was the location of a confrontation between Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox in 1563. She was held prisoner here from June 1567 until her escape in May 1568.

The north curtain wall separates the inner and outer courtyards with a single entrance providing access between the two.

The two cannon date to the period of the Napoleonic Wars and were probably brought to the castle much later to enhance its appearance.

The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland and has retained some of the old Ministry signs.

Guide to Dundrennan Abbey


The Cistercian Abbey at Dundrennan was founded in 1142 probably from Rievaulx Abbey. Dundrennan was where Mary Queen of Scots stayed before sailing for Cumbria.

Historic Scotland’s new Official Souvenir Guide is by Adrian Cox and J.S. Richardson. It traces its origins to Richardson’s original ‘official guide’ of 1934. The new guide follows the new format of Guided Tour followed by History. It also illustrates one of the original Ministry of Works signs in a picture of the sedilia.

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