Blackness Castle – A Stony Ship Ashore (History & Travel Tips)

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Blackness Castle is an eye-catching stone castle from the medieval period located in Blackness, Scotland. It was constructed in the 1500s by Sir George Crichton and draws a large number of visitors every year. 

Discover the castle’s unique medieval build with its interior spiral stairs, perimeter walls, courtyard, and breathtaking river view. The castle is packed with intriguing features, extensive historical information, and many films and television settings. If you enjoy historical dramas, you will recognize this magnificent castle from Outlander. You can see all the TV scenes unfold right before your eyes.

This castle’s location allows you to enjoy a stunning sunset while looking across the river. The stonework and the dramatic Scottish sky make the visit worthwhile. 

The castle has been featured on popular television series such as Outlander, Hamlet (1990), and Ivanhoe.

The spectacular Blackness Castle on the shore of the Firth of Forth river.
The spectacular Blackness Castle on the shore of the Firth of Forth river. james denham, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Construction of the Castle (15TH Century)

The castle was constructed in the 1440s by Sir George Crichton on the same site as an older fort. Blackness Castle served as the primary port for the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, one of the Scottish monarchy’s principal palaces. 

In 1453, the castle and the Crichton estates were given to James II of Scotland, and ever since then, the castle has belonged to the Scottish crown. Cardinal Beaton and the 6th Earl of Angus were among the inmates housed there when it was used as a state jail.

James Hamilton’s Renovation on the Castle (16th Century)

James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault, acquired the castle via negotiations during the Scottish Reformation crisis. Easter Day, April 15, 1560, saw the arrival of two English commanders, Dethick and Wood, who took control. The castle underwent a few minor renovations during this time. The castle was improved by Sir James Hamilton of Finnart in the middle of the 16th century, turning it into one of Scotland’s most modern artillery defenses of the time. 

The stone structure of the central tower.
The stone structure of the central tower. Jonathan Oldenbuck, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blackness Castle Under a Fierce Attack (17th Century) 

The defenses of the castle were put to the test once again when Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army attacked Blackness as part of his invasion of Scotland in 1650. However, artillery technology had advanced by this point to beyond what Finnart’s defenses could endure. The castle quickly conceded defeat under land and sea bombardment. Later, the ruined castle was left deserted. 

The Castle Functioning as a Prison for Prisoners of War (Late 16th-20th Century)

It wasn’t until 1667 that the castle was fully restored and once again utilized as a jail, this time for a group of Covenanters, religious rebels who resisted the King’s involvement in church matters. 

The castle was one of four Scottish castles that the British Army was responsible for maintaining and garrisoning after Scotland and England’s union in 1707, along with Stirling, Dumbarton, and Edinburgh

Between 1759 through 1815, Blackness was once again used as a prison, this time to house French prisoners of war during a number of wars, notably the Seven Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars. In 1870, Blackness’s function was amended once again when it was designated as Scotland’s main storage for artillery. 

Revised structural plan of Blackness Castle in 20th century.
Revised structural plan of Blackness Castle in 20th century. Jonathan Oldenbuck, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although it was temporarily reoccupied during World War I, the station was decommissioned in 1912, and the castle was turned over to the Office of Works.   Almost all of the 19th-century construction was removed as part of a restoration project between 1926 and 1935, and elements were rebuilt in a medieval style, which may not have accurately reflected the castle’s original characteristics. The castle is now under Historic Environment Scotland’s protection as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The courtyard and north tower of Blackness Castle.
The courtyard and north tower of Blackness Castle. Otter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

This magnificent site of the Blackness Castle is certainly worth a visit, now accessible to the public as a historical landmark. The castle’s interiors are empty, but the ancient barracks outside are home to a small exhibition. Everything is in its original configuration, which makes it much more intriguing since you get to see the original structure of the castle without many alterations. Plaques explaining the history of the castle are placed all around the buildings and pathways. If you are interested in military history, this castle has a lot to offer. 

If you are a movie buff and love photography, this is the place for you. Blackness Castle served as the backdrop for popular works such as Hamlet, Outlander, and Rise of Clans. The ruins, barracks, and the gorgeous view of the Firth of Forth river are stunning to see.

Foreworks at Blackness Castle.
Foreworks at Blackness Castle. Jonathan Oldenbuck, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Blackness Castle Facts

There are a few interesting facts about Blackness Castle. Below is a list of facts that you might find interesting:

  • Blackness Castle was constructed as a fort with the aim to protect the coast from invasion. 
  • It is one of the few castles in Scotland that served as a prison house for a prolonged period. 
  • The castle has been featured on popular television series such as Outlander, Hamlet (1990), and Ivanhoe. 
  • Due to the castle’s unique shape which looks like a ship from a bird’s eye view, and its placement near water, it is nicknamed ‘the ship that never sailed.’
  • Foreign sailors and soldiers captured during wars with France, Spain, and the USA were held at Blackness Castle as prisoners of war.

Visiting Blackness Castle – Tips and Tricks

Blackness Castle can transport you back in time for a historical experience. The originally strategic location of the castle, now allows visitors to experience some of the most beautiful views the country has to offer. If you’re excited to visit this medieval wonder, you can make your journey easy and enjoyable by following the tips provided below:

Blackness Castle’s resemblance to a ship from an aerial view.
Blackness Castle’s resemblance to a ship from an aerial view. by Janke

How to get to Blackness Castle?

If you are traveling from Edinburgh, getting to Blackness Castle is very easy. You can take the bus, taxi or drive there. The bus takes 2 hours and 20 minutes and costs £34 ($40 USD). The taxi takes 26 minutes and costs £51 ($60 USD). If you drive there, it will take you 26 minutes and costs £8.50 ($10 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The ticket prices for the castle vary. For adults between 16-64 years of age, the price is £7.00 ($8 USD). Concession is available for visitors above 65 years of age as well as unemployed individual where the ticket costs only  £5.50 ($6.50 USD).

Ticket for children from age 5-15yrs costs £4.00 ($4.70 USD). Whereas, for family of 1 adult, 2 children, the price is £14.00 ($16.46 USD). 

Blackness castle is open for visit from 1 April to 30 September daily between 10 am and 5 pm. The last entry to the castle is at 4:15 pm. From 1 October to 31 March, the castle opens daily from 10 am to 4 pm, with last entry at 3:15 pm.

Things To Do at Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle offers several opportunities to enjoy yourselves and have fun. Several of these things include:

  • Watching the stunning sunset from the roof of the castle. 
  • Stroll around the area and watch the river flow by. 
  • Get to know its very interesting military history. 
  • Tour around the places that were once prisons. 
  • Take a closer look at the filming locations of some popular television shows.
  • Don’t forget to check out the exhibition in the former barracks of the castle. 
  • Purchase gifts and souvenirs from the gift shop at the castle. 
Barracks located at Blackness Castle.
Barracks located at Blackness Castle. Stanley Howe / Barracks building, Blackness Castle

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It will take you around an hour to tour the castle. However, if you are a lover of nature, you can stay and wait to see the beautiful sunset from the roof of the castle.

Some words of advice and tips: 

Here are some words of advice and tips to make your travel easier:

  • Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Booking online in advance is recommended to guarantee entry.
  • The ground at this castle is quite uneven and can be extremely slippery when it rains.
  • The site is not suitable for wheelchairs because of the bumpy ground. 
  • Note that harsh weather or other circumstances beyond the management’s control may cause the site to close at short notice.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Blackness Castle Areas

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Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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