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Scotland’s History: Roslin Castle

Roslin Castle

Roslin Castle

Just a few hundred yards to the south of Rosslyn Chapel, connected via a pathway and some 9 miles south of Edinburgh, lies the remains of Roslin Castle, above the North Esk river.

In the 14th century, Henry Sinclair the 1st Earl of Orkney, sought protection for his land, leading to the construction of Roslin Castle.

The first stone was laid in 1304, and a square keep was built in the south-east corner of the site, and this was followed up in 1390 with a tower at the south-west corner.  Defences were improved by the construction of a gatehouse and drawbridge.

In 1452, the castle was destroyed by fire and rebuilt, at which time a curtain wall was built on the west-side of the site, as protection from military ordnance.

Roslin Castle - Curtain Wall

Curtain Wall

Located at the bottom of the curtain wall are six arched niches which correspond with seven buttresses on the other side of the wall.  One niche contained a gate, whilst the other’s being windows.

In 1544, the Earl of Hertford destroyed parts of the castle during the period of the “War of the Rough Wooing.”  The south-west corner tower was all but destroyed, leaving a solitary wall plus a few sections.

In the latter part of the 16th century, the ruinous Roslin Castle, was given a new lease of life, when it was rebuilt.  The new castle consisted of five floors, with its eastern side built into the eastern cliff face.   Three lower floors were carved from rock, and each featured vaulted ceilings.

It is believed completion was in 1597, for in the main hall stands a carved fireplace bearing an inscription; WS and JE along with the date 1597.  WS would be William Sinclair and JE would be Jean Edmonstone his wife.

Roslin Castle - Fortified

The gatehouse was rebuilt and the drawbridge replaced with a stone bridge supported by a stone arch across the ditch.

In the year 1622, the eastern upper floors were treated to a Renaissance styled makeover.

The year 1650 was a bad period for the life of the castle as General Monck’s artillery fired barrage after barrage at it, during Cromwell’s campaign of Scotland.

Then in 1688, the “Glorious Revolution” turned its attention to Roslin Castle, as mobs laid siege to it.

By the 18th century, the castle had joined the ranks of another Scottish Castle ruin, remnants of past battles, saying that, it was still inhabited.

In 1789, James Erskine inherited the estates of Rosslyn and Dysart which included Roslin Castle, from his cousin; James Peterson St.Clair, and went on to adopt the surname of St.Clair-Erskine.  In 1805, inherited the title of Earl of Rosslyn.

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