We are doing the rounds of castles at the moment. You can probably tell that my boys are going through a castle loving phase from our recent castle biscuit post and our last castle visit to Castle Campbell.
So on a rare sunny day last week we decided to venture out to Blackness Castle on the edge of the Firth of Forth. It was a particularly windy day and the kids were having trouble walking into the wind… Fortunately they were mostly protected from the wind once inside the castle. Although we did have to hold onto our hats, just in case!
The castle is also known as ‘the ship that never sailed’ as it really does look like the shape of a ship. Apparently you can get a great perspective of this shape from the Forth or from the air.
Blackness castle was built in the 1400’s for the Crichton family, a rich noble family. Sir George Crichton handed the castle over to the king in 1453, when it then became a royal castle. The castle then went on to be a state prison, a garrison fortress and in more recent history it has been an ammunition depot.
The stem of the castle has a small tower, below is the pit prison and above they would have the cannons to defend the castle. We weren’t able to access the pit prison when we visited due to the stairs being unstable. The view from the gun tower is pretty spectacular. It would be nice to go back on a less windy day and manage to take photos without needing to hold onto my hat! From the top of the castle you can see all the way to the Forth bridges.
From the stem tower you can walk along the deep curtain wall to the stern tower. This is where the keeper would live, who was normally the Sheriff of Linlithgow. As Linlithgow is landlocked, this was the closest port for supplies to be brought in.
The views from the walkways are worth the visit alone. We loved looking out to the Forth and along the shoreline, I’m sure it would be a good vantage point for seeing wildlife too.
The spiral staircase inside the stern tower leads to several different rooms, all of which are rather grand in size, with fireplaces too. My two loved exploring each one and looking up inside the chimney, or down toilets. Although my 5 year old can’t read yet, he does love to inspect the information boards and work out what it says from the pictures.
After all this exploration inside our 5 year old begged to go out onto the pier that they used to unload the ammunition when the castle was a depot. I was a little wary as I knew how much littlest hates getting blown around. But we went off to investigate the crane at the end of the pier anyway.
Back inside the castle walls we visited the central tower which was a ‘prison’ at one point. Although it was a prison, it wasn’t the same as the pit prison in the stem tower. This prison was for those people, normally nobles, who had gotten on the kings bad side. They had a lavish room, fireplace and could even have their servants or spouse with them. They were also allowed to roam several miles from the castle each day, but needed to be back for curfew.
The bailey is rather rocky, but when the castle was in use there would have been a wooden platform and steps for the entrance to the keepers tower. The bailey itself also would have had gravel or some other substrate to flatten out the rocky ground.
We had a fantastic time exploring Blackness castle and will be going back on a less windy day to take in the views at a more leisurely pace. Well, if you can ever have a leisurely time with young kids!
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