Location: Edinburgh, Lowlands Scotland
kind of castle: L-plan tower house
today: open to the public as a museum via guided tours, grounds open to the public (free)
public transport: bus stops close by, regular buses from the city centre
scheduled monument: yes
managed by: City of Edinburgh council
entrance fee (subject to change): £ 8 (tours) Grounds are free
opening times: grounds – April to September 8am – 7.30pm; October to March 8am – 4.30pm; castle – several tours: Highlights tours 1.30pm & 3.00pm or family tours at 11am
Mimis Bakehouse next to the castle entrance is open every day between 9am and 4pm
directions: Lauriston Castle – Google Maps
Lauriston Castle is definitely one of the less famous sights in and around Edinburgh, nevertheless the castle is full of history of its own and the gardens are very pleasant to walk in, offering amazing views over the Firth of Forth, just a short bus ride from the city centre the castle dates back to about 1590, most likely by Archibald Napier the 7th Laird of Merchiston.
The stone castle was in use between the 16th and 21st century and by that way longer than many of the castles you can find in Scotland today, the long span of habitancy is for sure one of the reasons you can still see the well-preserved castle today.
What we can see today when looking at the building are the 16th century tower house which was extended during the 19th century with the grounds or gardens these days mostly being used as some kind of a local public park.
With the grounds being included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, it is no wonder that the Lord Provost uses the gardens for his annual Garden Party since becoming property of the City of Edinburgh council.
Throughout the years there have been different buildings on the sight, including a castle which dated back far into the medieval times before it was destroyed during the raids on Edinburgh in 1544. Around 1590, the little parts being left, were rebuilt to a tower house by Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston. In 1622 the castle passed into the hands of Alexander Napier, who later adopted the title of ‘Lord Laurieston’ before dying in 1629.
About 1683, after having been lived in by Napiers widow and children, the tower house was purchased by a goldsmith from Edinburgh, William Law. Soon after it was inherited by his son John Law and was kept in the family for about 140 years up until 1823, when it was bought by Thomas Allan, a banker. The changes were noted by Sir Water Scott as well and described as great additions to the original building, praising the building in his journal.
It was mentioned banker who commissioned William Burn to extend the house, bringing it in the shape we can see today. Along the people living at Lauriston Castle over the following years, was Thomas Macknight Crawfurd of Cartsburn and Lauriston Castle, 8th Baron of Cartsburn, occupying the castle between 1871 and 1902.
But it wasn’t until the next owner, William Robert Reid, that the castle got modern plumbing and electricity installed in 1902. Around the same time the house got its first collection of fine furniture and artwork. When the Reids left their home to Scotland, since they were childless, under the condition that it should be preserved unchanged.
Ever since the death of Mrs Reid in 1926, the castle was administered by the City of Edinburgh. This condition was kept without questioning up until 2013, when it was suggested that Lauriston Castle should be renovated and turned into an official residence for the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and even then, it wasn’t the original deal that kept from actually going ahead with the idea, but the costs and a few other reasons. Luckily, since otherwise a bit of history and culture would have been lost maybe forever.
Lauriston Castle is a very nice example of a four-storey tower house, being converted into more of a country manor by adding a Jacobean range with an Edwardian interior, still intact and open to the public to visit.
The place on the grounds of Lauriston Castle, I spend the most time at were the gardens for sure, not just because I had missed the tours for that day (because I started the day by visiting Inchcolm Abbey & Island – A scottish World ), but also because the wide gardens are just amazing to get lost in and just let your mind wander about. Offering a lot of different styled parts inside the gardens the most recent is the Japanese garden.
Make sure to not miss out on some amazing views over the Firth of Forth and on to Fife on the other side.
And last but not least we get to my favourite part, the ghosts part, although in the case of Lauriston Castle it is less of one specific ghost but more of ghostly footsteps which can be heard at times, so it is safe to say that Lauriston Castle just as many others is reputedly haunted.
Definitely worth a visit, but do not forget to plan in enough time to enjoy the grounds as much as possible.
Stay responsible and save while enjoying all that Scotland has to offer.