Sitting on the banks of the Firth of Forth, Blackness Castle is a truly mighty castle with a fascinating history. Sometimes called “The Ship That Never Sailed” because of its distinctive excellent stone ship appearance, this royal Castle is one of the finest historic sites you can visit while in Scotland.
Blackness Castle has served many purposes throughout history, from opulent castle that housed royalty, a powerful military fortress, a prison, and even a filming location for some of Scotland’s best movies and series. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love your visit to Blackness Castle.
This royal Castle is one of the finest historic sites you can enjoy while visiting Scotland – here’s the history of the Castle, how to get there, and the attractions to keep an eye out for.
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History of Blackness Castle
Blackness Castle started as a peaceful, lordly residence for the Crichton family – one of the most powerful families in the 15th century. This initial purpose ended up being far from what the Castle’s history shows, and Blackness Castle is known as a fortress rather than a castle to many.
The Castle started as a north tower with a curtain wall, with an isolated central building in the middle of the courtyard. It was then massively strengthened and reinforced in the 16th century once George Crichton handed ownership over to James II, who transformed the Castle into a state prison and fortress.
After this transformation, Blackness Castle was assailed by battles throughout history, including Oliver Cromwell’s cannons in 1650 – which overpowered the Castle’s defences. Today, you can still see the holes left by the cannon balls within Blackness Castle’s walls, which offers a remarkable look into historic Scotland.
This turbulent history continued into the 1700s when Charles II imprisoned Covenanters here as well as foreign sailors who opposed Britain. Even during the 19th century, as the First World War raged on, Blackness Castle was used as a garrison fortress and ammunition depot, then decommissioned.
Since then, this once mighty artillery fortress was passed over to the State and now stands as a fantastic tourist attraction you can visit while touring Edinburgh and the Lothians.
How to Get There
Blackness Castle is centrally located and can easily be reached from major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Driving from Edinburgh, follow the A90 & A904 until you reach the town of Blackness, from which this famous Castle can be walked. From Glasgow, driving along the M80 and M9 will let you go to Blackness Castle even quicker than from Edinburgh!
Several routes from Glasgow and Edinburgh reach Blackness using public transportation, which is highly recommended if you don’t mind a slightly longer journey. Once you’ve arrived in Blackness, remember that limited parking is available on-site. Book tickets to explore Blackness Castle ahead of time to ensure you receive guarantee entry into the car park.
Ticket prices to enter Blackness Castle are from £6 per adult ticket, and the last entry is at 5:00 PM during summer & 3:30 PM during winter.
Attractions at Blackness Castle
What can you expect to see at this stern tower? Well, there are quite a few fantastic things to do while exploring the length and breadth of this Castle in West Lothian. Here are the ones you should be keeping an eye out for.
Enjoy Breathtaking Views
The most impressive part of Blackness Castle is the breathtaking views of the Firth of Forth and the surrounding area. The north tower grants exceptionally splendid views of the Firth of Forth and is well worth savouring.
The south tower is better for views of Blackness (the town), and taking a wall walk across the west spur is a sublime way to enjoy Blackness Castle. During high tide, the lapping methods of the Firth of Forth make this Castle a stunning attraction to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
Spot Filming Locations
There are likely three types of fans visiting Blackness Castle: history buffs who want to experience an integral part of Scottish history, Outlander fans or Outlaw King fans, and Mary, Queen of Scots fans, or both.
Blackness Castle has graced the silver screen, portraying other notable Scottish locations, including the infamous Fort William (then home of Black Jack Randall), Doune Castle, and visiting Linlithgow Palace. Walking along the courtyard or the walls, you’ll come across a film location or two where you can watch some of your favourite moments on Netflix or TV.
Cycle Through Blackness
One of the best ways to enjoy Blackness Castle and the town of Blackness is to take a cycling tour around it. E-bikes are available at Union Square, which is the perfect transportation to take you around the town. There’s a route that takes you between Blackness Castle and the Firth of Forth and offers the best views of Blackness Castle.
You can see why the Castle is called ‘The ship that never sailed from this viewpoint, and the Castle does look like a ship that has run aground. The central tower eerily resemble a ship’s stem tower and main sails, elevating the experience even more.
Picnic at ‘The Ship That Never Sailed’
Just outside the main entrance to Blackness Castle is a lovely lawn that serves as a picturesque location for a picnic lunch. You’ll be able to see views of Blackness Village in the distance, with the shadow of Blackness Castles shielding you from the worst of the heavy sun that Lothian summers can offer.
Blackness has served fantastic food hubs to pick up some proper Scottish food at restaurants like The Lobster Pot.
Check Out Blackness Castle’s Gift Shop
If you’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting Blackness Castle, consider purchasing something from the Castle’s gift shop. Proceeds from the shop go to Historic Environment Scotland, the organisation that manages Blackness Castle.
You can purchase a range of t-shirts, mugs, and other Blackness Castle paraphernalia to commemorate your trip – they also make for excellent souvenirs!