The St Clairs, an ancient Scottish family, have held the Rosslyn estate at Roslin since the 14th century. Roslin Glen (Roslin is the spelling used for its village) is a mysterious and inspiring place to visit. Here, enchanting and peaceful woodlands conceal castle ruins, an enigmatic chapel and battle-wounded ghostly apparitions…
I like to familiarise myself with an area on a self-guided walk. I follow the enchanting river through the glen during an idyllic four-mile trek. I head out from the Roslin Glen Country car park, follow the North Esk river and pass beneath the walls of Rosslyn Castle – the original home of the St Clair family.
Most of the castle was built around 1450 by the Prince of Orkney, who enjoyed a very regal life, even dining off gold and silver. Striking crumbling ruins remain after the castle’s many battles, though the east range has been restored and is habitable once more. Its dramatic history matches the castle’s dramatic location – the two-storey dwelling unexpectedly drops five floors on the opposite side.
A ghost is said to ride the grounds here – a Black Knight on horseback, who has been seen by visitors on various occasions – fabled to be a warrior killed in the Battle of Rosslyn in 1303. If you hear a dog barking but it doesn’t sound quite real, it could be the phantom hound whose eerie howl is heard in the woods around the castle on
The main path through woodland, still following the North Esk, is one of my favourite stretches of the walk. Sir Walter Scott once wrote of it, “A morning of leisure can scarcely be anywhere more delightfully spent than in the woods of Rosslyn”. I couldn’t agree more. The woods and river provide ample opportunity for spotting woodpeckers, dippers on the riverbank and bats flittering about at dusk.
Further along the trail is Hawthorden Castle – a privately owned castle on a secluded crag that’s used as a peaceful retreat for writers. Of course, you couldn’t walk here without taking a highly recommended detour to see the Chapel of St Matthew, which has links to Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail.
It’s little wonder that the elaborately carved chapel is a honeypot for visitors today. The chapel demonstrates the splendour of 15th-century stonemasonry, and it makes me gasp every time I see its mysterious figures and intricate symbols.
It’s believed that the Cup of Christ lies in a secret subterranean vault hidden beneath the building. This suggestion of sanctified history ensures the chapel’s enduring popularity, and it has become an even bigger tourist destination since its starring role in Dan Brown’s novel and subsequent film The Da Vinci Code.
The path leads you back to Rosslyn Castle. So if you fancy being chased by an old knight on horseback or a ghostly pooch, you can stay at the castle, booked through the Landmark Trust. It’s been restored to its former glory by the present Earl of Rosslyn and boasts a garden, wood-panelled walls, molded ceilings and an open fire. History, ghosts, knights and the Holy Grail – what more could you ask for? Apart from a good night’s sleep that is.
HOW TO GET THERE
There is a frequent bus service (service 15) from Edinburgh to Roslin, or take the A701 from the A7 heading south and follow the B7006 to Roslin. From Rosslyn Chapel you can walk to the Castle.
FIND OUT MORE
Go Scotland Tours
Offering a Rosslyn Chapel, Scottish Borders and Glenkinchie Distillery Tour, from Edinburgh to the chapel, castle and glen.
Adults £31, concs and over-5s £29.
27 Main Street, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9LA
0131 440 2033
An understated coffee shop with great sandwiches, coffee and cakes.
The Landmark Trust offers self-catering accommodation with a roaring open fire on the site of Rosslyn Castle itself.