Roslin Castle

Roslin Castle (sometimes written as Rosslyn) is a partially ruined castle located near the village of Roslin in Midlothian, Scotland, United Kingdom.

It is located about 15 km south of Edinburgh, north of North Esk, just a few hundred meters from Rosslyn Chapel.

The site was fortified in the 14th century by the Sinclair family, counts of the Orkneys, although the current ruins date back somewhat later.

The castle was rebuilt after being destroyed in 1544 during the Rough Wooing.

This structure, built on the cliffs of Roslin Glen, has remained partially habitable since then.

Access to the castle is given by a raised bridge that replaced a previous drawbridge.

The castle was restored in the 1980s and now serves as holiday residence.


The first castle was built in the 1330s by Henry Sinclair, Count of the Orkneys.

The Sinclair, or St. Clair (also formerly written as Sanctclare), was a family of Norman origin, with possessions in Lothian from 1162.

The fortress was built on a rocky promontory near the place where the Battle of Roslin was fought, where the in the late 14th or early 15th century, the son of Henry I, Henry II of the Orkneys, built a new tower of the rectangular homage, with the rounded southwest corner.

A drawbridge over an artificial pit, and giving access to a covered passageway (pend) in the small shooting gallery on the north side.

The castle was affected by a fire in 1452.

During the Middle Ages, it was a scriptorium, of which five “St. Clair” manuscripts, prior to 1488, are preserved in the National Library of Scotland.

These manuscripts include the manuscript Rosslyn- Hay, which is believed to be the oldest surviving text in the Scottish language.

Legend has it that during the fire the Count was dismayed by the valuable manuscripts that housed the castle, but they were saved by the fact that his chaplain threw them out of the window into a safe place.

The castle was seriously damaged by the count Of Hertford, who set fire to it in 1544 during the Rough Wooing War.

The tribute tower was destroyed almost in its entirety, although one can still be seen one of the walls in ruins that has been conserved.

The castle was rebuilt at the end of the 16th century. On the skirt of the rock a new five-storey building was erected on the east side and the guardhouse was rebuilt, this time with a stone bridge.

The upper side of the east side was renovated in 1622 with Renaissance details and sculptures on the door and in the window frames.

In 1650 it was again attacked, this time by the artillery of the commander of Oliver Cromwell in Scotland, George Monk.

It was again damaged by a multitude of reformers during the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

It collapsed in the eighteenth century, although part of the eastern part has always remained habitable, being restored by architects Simpson and Brown between 1982 and 1988.

The present owner, the Earl of Rosslyn, a descendant of the Sinclair, rents the castle as a place of Holidays through Landmark Trust.

It is categorized as Scheduled Ancient Monument and in the Listed Building of the United Kingdom is categorized as Category A.


The castle stands on a steep slope on a curve that describes the North Esk River, which protects it on three sides.

A breach was opened on the north side of the rocky promontory with the aim of building a moat to offer greater protection to the castle.

Access from Roslin takes place through this moat, thanks to a steep bridge and the house of the guard that is in ruins.


The remains of the entrance and the north zone comprise only fragments of walls and a side of the entrance arch, and on it the remains of a gazebo.

Along the west side of the castle, the fifteenth-century wall of considerable height remains.

This section of the wall has six openings at the base, one of which served as a potern.

On the outside, the six openings are divided by rounded buttresses.

Old sketches show gates on each of these buttresses, with a corridor on a wall that connected them.

To the south of this wall is the wall that remains of the tower of the homage.

The mound on which it is is formed by the rubble coming from the other three walls.

The ruins indicate that the tower had to be about 12 or 16 meters high, with walls of 2.9 m thick, and that ended in a boulder.

East Side

The eastern part, which was restored, measures between 31 and 10 meters in height and ends with a sloping roof and a stepped pinion.

The building is accessed by a richly sculpted entrance dating from 1622, showing the initial SWS of Sir William Sinclair and leading to the third floor.

The three lower floors are excavated in the rock and each one has four vaulted rooms, with a fifth room in the southeast tower.

These lower levels were used as rooms intended for service, with the main rooms being on the upper two floors.

The kitchen was on the lower floor, with a bakery above.

The south side has loopholes and on the east side there are several holes produced by projectile impacts.

The five floors are connected by a stair-and-platt staircase, added in the early seventeenth century to replace a toll ladder in the southwest.

The rooms on the upper floors feature impressive panels and decorated ceilings.

The main lobby, located on the south side of the block, has been divided but still has a large home with the initials WS and JE, by William Sinclair and his wife Jean Edmonstone, engraved and dating back to 1597.

The castle in popular culture

Walter Scott celebrated the picturesque landscape of Roslin Glen, on which the castle sits, in his poems.

Also, Richard Hewitt of Cumberland wrote a ballad called Roslin Castle in the eighteenth century.