Blackness Castle, West Lothian
~ History ~
1301 ~ King Edward I of England winters in Linlithgow during his attempt to conqueror Scotland. Upon returning to England, he leaves instructions that Linlithgow be heavily fortified. He sees this as the main supply-depot for his assault on Stirling Castle, with the harbour at Blackness critical to his planning.
1430 ~ Sir George Crichton, Admiral of Scotland, acquires Blackness. During this period King James I is in the process of building nearby Linlithgow Palace, on the site of the royal castle that has burnt down.
1440 ~ George's cousin, William, Chancellor of Scotland, arranges a meeting between the King and the powerful Black Douglas Earl.
During the feast the Black Douglas is murdered.
1441 ~ George marries Lady Janet, widow of Lord Borthwick and heiress of lands deep within Black Douglas territory.
1443 ~ The Douglas's respond to this new threat by force, laying siege to George Crichton's Barton Castle, capturing and destroying it.
George builds Blackness Castle by way of compensating for this loss at a key strategic position near to one of Douglases strongest castles at Abercorn.
1452 ~ During the Crown's struggle with the powerful Black Douglases, King James II personally kills the 8th Earl Douglas at Stirling Castle. The Crichton's benefit greatly from this turn of events, awarded with the Earldom of Caithness and Earl of Moray.
1453 ~ William Crichton dies, leaving the ailing George exposed to his enemies. The following year he is 'compelled' to name King James II as his heir, and assigns all his assets, including Blackness Castle, over to the King.
George's disinherited son responds by seizing Blackness Castle and imprisoning his own father within its walls. The King however soon arrives with his fleet and artillery. Within two weeks the Castle is captured.
1481 ~ The castle is burnt and partially destroyed by an English fleet.
1488 ~ King James III stays at the rebuilt Blackness Castle during peace negotiations with his increasingly rebellious nobles in the build up to his defeat and death at the Battle of Sauchieburn.
1491 ~ King James IV hears mass at Blackness Castle.
1512 ~ King James IV returns to Blackness, coming ashore for a short time whilst sailing his latest flagship, the Great Michael, during sea-trials in the Forth.
1542 ~ Cardinal David Beaton of St Andrews is imprisoned at Blackness Castle for holding up the Reformation movement in Scotland. As a reprisal he gives orders from his confinement that all religious services are to be suspended throughout the land until his release is secured. All churches are closed preventing any baptisms, weddings or burials, a drastic situation in a still Catholic Scotland.
King Henry VIII demands Beaton be handed over to him for confinement in an English prison. Even the Protestant Scottish Lords find this too much to allow and so facilitate Beaton's escape from Blackness Castle.
1543 ~ King James IV's illegitimate son, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, rides out from Edinburgh to be at the birth of his child at Blackness Castle.
The castle is in the process of being transformed into an artillery stronghold under the supervision of Sir James Hamilton, the King's Master of Works.
1547 ~ The French use Blackness as their main ammunition depot during their support to the beleaguered Scots against the English threat.
An English Fleet under Lord Clinton is sent by King Henry VIII to raise a siege at Haddington Castle and in doing so capture or burn ten Scottish ships anchored at Blackness, a third of their entire fleet.
1570's ~ During the civil war between supporters of the exiled Mary Queen of Scots and her son King James VI, Blackness is garrisoned for Mary. The garrison however are tricked into surrendering the castle without a shot being fired or any loss of life.
1592 ~ Following the murder of the popular Bonnie Earl of Moray by the Earl of Huntly, in which King James VI is implicated, the King orders Huntly to give himself up to voluntary imprisonment at Blackness Castle until the furore dies down. Following a fudged investigation Huntly is found innocent, pardoned and released.
1651 ~ Following Oliver Cromwell's invasion of Scotland, the castle is bombarded from land and sea. The garrison surrender after 24 hours and the castle is left in ruins.
1660 ~ The castle is repaired following King Charles II restoration. However, its importance is now primarily as a state prison for the next two hundred years.
B roads off A904 and M9
Blackness, 'black point' is a rocky promontory jutting into the Firth of Forth where the river broadens out on its way to the North Sea.
To the west of the castle lies a sheltered cove which provided a natural harbour and port.
Today it is easy to see why the castle was once considered among the strongest in all of Scotland.
When you approach the castle along the shoreline of the Firth of Forth, you can see the castle is far from a ruin and so this proves to be the case as its still in remarkably good condition, with plenty to explore.
We wasn't sure what to expect from our visit to Blackness, but we both agree its a fabulous Castle to explore and well worth the visit. Make sure you take a walk out across the drawbridge along the pier where the view of the castle is at its best.