Spontaneity can result in some of the best adventures.  When Hannah mentioned that she was making the six mile round trip walk to Craigmillar Castle, I invited myself along.  Adventures ensued.

It started out as a cloudy morning that threatened a misty rain, but regardless, Hannah and I met up at a coffee shop and set forth at the incredibly early hour of 10:00.

No, really, it’s early.  The sun rises at about 9:00, so really, I was awake at dawn.

We walked through parts of Edinburgh that I had never been, which is always a joy.

Chocolate… so much chocolate…

Long streets of distinctive, interesting shops, most of them decorated in some way for Christmas, makes a walk through the city so much more enjoyable.

Hannah liked one of the posters in the window of this corner store.  It reminds one of the writing of Wodehouse.

Incidentally, it is also kind of Oscar Wilde-ish.  We watched ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ later that afternoon.

Gates to secret places…

We both admitted to enjoying wandering old graveyards.  The sombre, silent atmosphere, the old stones with old names, and the stories that seem to creep about the grounds make them strangely fascinating.

This one was beautiful, but also extremely tragic.  Many stones were pulled down, probably by vandals, and the whole place felt decrepit and broken.

What made it even sadder was a man who passed by and told us, his voice breaking, that he couldn’t find the grave of the loved one he was searching for.

On we went.  Over the river and through the woods, a’castling we go!

No snow in Edinburgh, but the distant hills are covered in it.

We had planned on following the road further up and around until we reached the entrance to the castle, but then we saw this little arch beckoning us into a castle park.

Really, could we have said no?

I don’t think so.

Passing through that archway was like passing into another world.  We left the zipping cars and bustling streets behind and found ourselves in the quiet, remote woods.

What will we find over the crest of the hill?

More hills!

Do you see it?  Do you see it?

In case you weren’t sure, I was quite happy when we spotted the castle.

The sky started to clear up about when we arrived at the castle and it proceeded to get brighter and bluer the closer we came.

I take that as a sign.

We made it!  The green, green grass inspired much frolicking.

The gates, well, they wouldn’t have made them like this if they weren’t meant for a little climbing.

Insert pure joy!

Entering the castle.  Wait, what’s that inside the castle?

Yep, that would be a tree.

And trees are made for climbing too, right?

Unfortunately, the tree was very slick and my boots were not made for climbing.

But I am a determined person when it comes to the important things in life.

Hannah attempted, but swiftly came to the sensible conclusion that scrambling up a slick tree that birds had pooped upon was not really the greatest fun that could be had.

Into the first of the many doors, we went.  Therein, we found the place where naughty people were kept.

I demonstrate here what their expressions were probably like while they resided here.

The fabulous thing about Craigmiller Castle, besides the fact that it was built in the 15th century, is that it is a fun castle to explore.  There are several doors to enter through and multiple stair cases, passages, halls, and rooms. We had trouble figuring out where we’d been and where to go next.  It was a fun castle.

Winding stairs!  They would be no fun to fall down, I think.

The Lord’s Hall is quite impressive and the massive fire place still has an open chimney.  This would be an amazing place for a party.

Or possibly some dancing.

Yes, I know, I am swan like.

My mother should never have pulled me out of ballet.  I have an untapped talent.

The Prestons, and later the Gilmours, had some wonderful views from their windows. 

Teeny tiny Royal Mile!  I actually didn’t quite do it right.  The castle is slightly to the left of my thumb.  But my thumb touches about where my flat is, so that’s okay.

There was an interesting plaque in one place that mentioned that Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here on at least a couple of occasions, possibly more.  She came here to recover from depression at one point, and spent her time lying in bed repeating the line ‘I could wish that I were dead.’

It was also at Craigmillar that her supporters signed the Craigmillar Bond, agreeing to kill Mary’s husband Lord Darnley, which was successfully accomplished in 1567.

Above the door is a worn away unicorn.  They were carved here and there on the walls, almost at random.

Hmmm… stairs leading up to a window….

The view from the window.

And me sitting comfortably on the stairs.  I had been standing on a small ledge to look out the window, but that was a bit dangerous, it seemed, so I retreated.

I look like I’m composing a sonnet to my new castle.

As usual, I had plans to claim this castle and add it to my collection.  Unfortunately, the flag that I always kept with me in my camera bag mysteriously vanished somewhere between me leaving my flat (at which point I checked and confirmed it was there) and us arriving at the castle.

I was quite distraught, but was still determined to lay a claim on the castle, even if it was a less official kind of claim.

Hugging, we decided establishes a good bond with the castle.  And that’s worth something.  I will come back with a flag later.

From the main grounds, we passed through a doorway in a wall (always an exciting, hopeful experience for me, though without the desired results as yet) into another field of green, green grass.

And as before, the green, green grass inspired frolicking…

So much color!  I love when the grey of the castle is so starkly contrasted with bright blue and deep green.

There was a strange depression in a field.  Hannah commented that it was vaguely P-shaped.  Like it used to be a pool.  P for pool?  Not likely!

But then we found a sign that explained that it did indeed used to be a pool and it was truly P-shaped.  Only, it was theorized that the P stood for Preston, the original family that owned the castle.  I guess if you own a castle, why not have a pool shaped like the first letter of your family name?

Around the other side was another small grassy field with a little, gated area that looked like it used to be a chapel.  Inside, however, we saw the grave markers of the Gilmour family that owned the castle after the Prestons.

We finally bade the castle a fond farewell and headed back out toward home.

And here we see the impressive ‘Mains of Craigmillar’.  This is the extent of the village.

Down the road, away from the castle, we chose to take the road much, much less traveled to get back home again.

Hannah is following a trail much in the way of Aragorn.  You can’t see the trail, but she can.  It’s the kind that only Rangers use.

Impressive tree is impressive.

The benefit of taking back roads through the woods is you might find yourself in an enchanted forest.

The ivy was so green and covered the ground and trees all around.  I wanted to bury myself in the greenness.

Strange tree is strange.

It looks like it is made up of a myriad of little trees all woven together.

‘Which way?’
‘That way!’
‘No, seriously, I think it’s that way.’

Wait a second… didn’t we just leave the castle behind?  Oh dear…

The crows mocked us.

Why am I standing in this spot, grinning maniacally?

It’s because I’m standing on a crossroads and it’s just about sunset.

It was a special moment, even if I didn’t suddenly cross into an alternate world (though I appreciate Hannah pretending that I did).

Crossroads + Castle + Me =

I didn’t stop grinning for hours.

Which path to take?

The left?

Or the right?

The woods and fields were beautiful, but we were taken unawares (you can see Hannah skidding to a halt here) by a Dark Forest.  It was likened to Fangorn by Hannah.   Our adventure was fraught with dangers.

On we went for quite some time, but while I was spinning in joyous circles and wielding my camera (still too dazzled with the delight of castles, crossroads, and general beauty to actually pay attention to mundane things like direction and where home is), Hannah figured out which way we needed to go and got us back on the road. Aragorn would have been proud.

We found our way back to the Royal Mile (with only a slight detour into a fabulous used bookstore) and relaxed in front of The Secret of Kells (with its own magical forests) and The Importance of Being Earnest.  Seven miles of walking, but worth every single step.