Is it Roslin or Rosslyn? I’m not sure; the nearby village is Roslin, and the Chapel almost 100% Rosslyn, but the Castle can’t seem to make up its mind how it wants to be spelt.
In any event, Rosslyn Castle is often overlooked by those making a pilgrimage to the more infamous Chapel; which, when you think about it, is a curious reversal of fortunes. Unlike the Chapel, the Castle is not a tourist site, open to the public. But if you follow the path south of the Chapel between the graveyards, you’ll see the remains of the medieval fortifications at the end, and they are worth the short walk. The ruins loom at you from across a stone bridge spanning Roslin Glen, far below - which is also an alternative approach. It is an unexpected dramatic, and possibly romantic, sight. Once across the bridge – which replaced the medieval wooden drawbridge – your journey comes to an end: unless you are staying the night; because you can – if you book it.
A castle was built here probably around the early 14th century, near the site of the Battle of Roslin where the Scots defeated the English in 1303. It was, of course, the home of the St Clairs, barons of Rosslyn since the 11th century. The castle was largely destroyed in a seige of 1544 during the ‘rough wooing’, in which Henry VIII of England attempted to control his northern neighbour by forcing the infant Princess Mary (later Queen of Scots) to marry his son, Edward. The attempt came to nothing – but Mary did apparently stay at the castle in a more peaceful moment in 1563, when she was an adult. The largely rebuilt Castle was completely battered by Cromwell’s artillery under the command of General Monck in 1650, after which only the east range of the living quarters remained habitable. This was restored in the 1980s and you can now have a holiday there. Visit the website of the LandmarkTrust, which cares for the property.
Before you do, I should add that, perhaps inevitably, Roslin Castle has its own share of mysteries. Given its 800-year, often violent, history - and its neighbour - you’d expect no less, would you? It seems a peaceful spot now, but the Castle's enigmas allegedly include a sleeping lady who knows where treasure is hidden, ghosts of a black knight, a dog - and a curious story about the removal of ancient documents from their hiding place, to be lost forever or kept secretly in the Vatican. Which brings me neatly to the film, the Da Vinci Code; scenes near the end of the movie, where Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tautou) discovers her heritage - assisted by the intrepid Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) - were shot outside the Castle.